Friday, April 27th, 2012...9:30 am

You’ve Got Mail: “You say such nice things about me”

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Angus McBean. Portrait of Katharine Hepburn. MS Thr 581Prior to its debut on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre in 1976, the play “A Matter of Gravity,” starring Katharine Hepburn, did a tryout run at Boston’s Colonial Theater. One of the attendees was Boston University Professor, Herbert B. Myron, who sent her a letter about her Boston performance. The Theater Autograph File (MS Thr 467) holds her response to his letter.

Katharine Hepburn, ALS to Herbert Myron, 1976. MS Thr 467

According to Myron’s annotations (in pencil) he told her that her dialog “dragged” in the first act. In her response, she tells him that upon reflection or “après reflexion faite” that she agreed and, who knows, may have even altered her performance for the Broadway debut. I particularly like her dry compliment to Professor Myron stating that, “it gives me confidence to know that someone with some sense likes what I do.”

The review in the Boston Globe by Kevin Kelly on December 23, 1975, praised Hepburn’s performance but scoffed at Enid Bagnold’s writing calling it a “prattling and preposterous play”. Kelly goes on further to say that, “were it not for Miss Hepburn, Miss Bagnold’s play would be unthinkable”. Indeed, having Hepburn in the play was important. So much so that when she asked to be released from her contract nine weeks after the Broadway debut in order to film “Olly Olly Oxen Free” the production had to be shut down. It seems her co-star Christopher Reeve, a relative unknown at the time, did not carry enough gravitas to keep the New York production going. Hepburn did return to do the West coast tour in October 1976. She broke her ankle in LA and missed two performances. When she returned to the stage in a wheelchair she reportedly became enraged when an audience member took a flash photo of her in her weakened state and broke her concentration.

On a side note, we are pleased that this letter resides here since her mother and Arthur Houghton, Houghton Library’s namesake, were first cousins.

This post is part of a weekly feature on the Houghton Library blog, “You’ve Got Mail,” based on letters in Houghton Library. Every Friday this year a Houghton staff member will select a letter from the diverse collections in the Library and put that letter into context. All posts associated with this series may be viewed by clicking on the You’veGotMail tag.

[Thanks to Krista Ferrante, Project Archivist, for contributing this post.]

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