Welcome to the mansion, Miss Hepburn — need a light?

On this day in 1941: After appearing at Raleigh’s State Theatre in the stage version of “The Philadelphia Story,” Katharine Hepburn attends a cast party at the Executive Mansion hosted by Gov. and Mrs. J. Melville Broughton.

“Miss Hepburn wore a mink coat over tan gabardine slacks and jacket, with white blouse of crepe silk and brown suede shoes with crepe rubber soles,” reports the News & Observer. “Her informal attire and equally informal manner put at ease all her admirers.”

The accompanying photo shows her enjoying a smoke while conversing with the Broughtons.

Hepburn, 33, tells reporters she hasn’t seen enough of North Carolina to form an opinion, “But the beds in the hotel are nice.”


4 thoughts on “Welcome to the mansion, Miss Hepburn — need a light?”

  1. If I recall correctly, Lew, the “Miss Hepburn” picture that you describe is on the front cover of your 1996 book “On This Day in North Carolina.”

  2. You’re right, Jack — here’s the cover


    I met the photographer at a signing in Elizabeth City — can’t recall his name (but it was NOT Hugh Morton)…. In ’41 he had been working for the N&O but (if memory serves) later became an Episcopal priest…. He brought along a fascinating scrapbook that included not only other photos from that evening at the mansion, but also letters that he and Hepburn had exchanged over the years….

  3. Lew, I haven’t had any success in finding out that photographer’s name, but I did run across a couple of interesting items.

    This photo (link below) was likely taken by the same photographer who took the image on your book cover…


    And this account of the visit to the Governor’s Mansion was published in the “Carol Dare Column” of “The State” magazine issue from February 8, 1941.

    “When Katherine Hepburn closed her very creditable performance in a Raleigh theatre and then took herself over to the Governor’s Mansion as the guest of Governor and Mrs. Broughton to receive her congratulations, dressed in slacks, she, without doubt, set a precedent and in my opinion she also showed extremely poor taste and an utter disregard for the fitness of things.

    “Slacks probably have their place in the wardrobe of every actress, but I think that North Carolina’s Executive Mansion is hardly the place to put them on display, no matter how slender and charming the wearer. And I am sure that a lady turning up at the Governor’s house wearing pants caused a furore among the earlier inhabitants who have long since gone before.

    “I should think that even a celebrity who is, of course, allowed more leeway in etiquette than the average person, would have had enough horse sense to know that slacks at the Governor’s Mansion on a lady would not be accepted without a lifting of eyebrows. Some one should tell the actress that in the South the amenities are still observed. Without doubt, however, Miss Hepburn chooses to do the unconventional rather than the proper thing.”

    Finally, there is this quote from Miss Hepburn long after her 1941 visit to Raleigh:

    “Dressing up is a bore. At a certain age, you decorate yourself to attract the opposite sex, and at a certain age, I did that. But I’m past that age.”

  4. Many thanks, Jack — Hepburn definitely impressed the photographer more favorably than she did Carol Dare…..What a time capsule!

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