The Best Friend

Fans will read A. Scott Berg's Kate Remembered, published only 13 days after Katharine Hepburn's death on June 29, and find within its pages a woman very much like the actress' on-screen persona: cranky and charming, tough and thoughtful, independent and in love with those who can keep pace with stiff drinks and stronger conversations. There are no shocking revelations to be found in this book; this is not the stuff of tabloid history but rather the memories spilled to a fan over 20 years of chitchat and cocktails and dinners and phone calls and swimming excursions and all the other things friends do when they become comfortable enough to share their stories, and secrets, to pass the time. What began as an Esquire Q&A conducted by a man in his early 30s became a warm and loving collection of tales told by a legend and transcribed by a fan who would go on to become an acclaimed biographer (1978's Max Perkins: Editor of Genius and 1990's Goldwyn: A Biography) and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Lindbergh, published in 1999.

The entertainment journalist in me reads Kate Remembered with equal parts awe and envy; it's a quick and warm read, but also the very kind of book every movie critic wishes he or she could take part in just once in a career. To be given access to an icon who was so much bigger than the big screen is so rare, especially in this age of publicity Nazis and cover-story handlers who treat even tarnished nobodies like burnished somebodies. Interviews with the modern-day movie star, each as disposable as a baby's used diaper, are essentially worthless--a repetitive drone that sellsellsells product but gives no insight into the person. Berg, who worked hard to land his reclusive prey then treated her with respect and affection, was also blessed to fall in love with the only actress "who got through the minefield," in the words of silent-movie star Blanche Sweet, and wanted to talk about what that survival meant. In 50 years' time, will we have an actress whose memories will be so rich or rewarding, or will we make do with Kate Beckinsale's memoirs? Read up; time is doing none of us any favors.

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