Picks and Pans Review: Me

updated 10/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Katharine Hepburn

When Spencer Tracy died in 1967, he left a widow, and it was not Katharine Hepburn. While Hepburn and Tracy had been a couple onscreen and quietly off for 27 years, she did not go to his funeral because, she writes here, it would have been "too conspicuous." Instead she drove to the funeral home before the service and said goodbye to "the old boy" by helping to heft his casket onto the hearse.

A few days later, with characteristic forthrightness, Hepburn rang up Tracy's widow, Louise. She told Louise, from whom Tracy had become estranged even before falling for Hepburn while they were making Woman of the Year (1942), that maybe the two women could now be friends. Louise said, "I thought you were only a rumor..."

"After nearly 30 years...Some rumor," says Hepburn in this honest, charming and at times moving memoir.

Hepburn, now 84, doesn't tell all here, but she tells enough. Eschewing a ghostwriter, she uses her own no-nonsense, let's-just-get-on-with-it voice and tells her own story at her own speed. Not until page 389, near the close of the book, does she finally get to the subject about which her fans most want to know, her love affair with Tracy. "You may think you've waited a long time," she tells he readers. "But let's face it, so did I. I was thirty-three."

The wait is worth it, and the time spent getting there is not wasted.

Although film historians will be disappointed at finding how little space Hepburn has devoted to discussing the specifics of many of her 43 films, her directors and costars, Hepburn enthusiasts will be pleased to find out about her large and Loving family; about her early experiences onstage and in movies, when her polished looks and "a sort of wild confidence based on nothing but energy and ego" led to her winning an Oscar at age 26 for Morning Glory (1933); and about the husband (businessman Ludlow Ogden Smith) and lovers (agent Leland Hayward and millionaire Howard Hughes) who had preceded Tracy in her affections.

Minor carp: Me has no index and the generous selection of photos could have benefited from more informative captions.

Nonetheless, it's a fun book, and wholly representative of Hepburn's irresistible mix of Connecticut Yankee and canny Hollywood Star. Who else would devote as many chapters to gardening, changing tires and cleaning up after a hurricane as to making films and meeting Presidents? (Knopf, $25)

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