NEW YORK - Katharine Hepburn recalls in a new biography-memoir that a drunk Spencer Tracy once hit her and says although she fell for Tracy as if "hit over the head with a cast-iron skillet," she never wanted to marry him.
In "Kate Remembered" by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer A. Scott Berg - who befriended the actress in 1983 when she was 75 - Hepburn also explains why she never became a mother and offers her impressions of various Hollywood stars.
The actress, who won a record four acting Academy Awards, expresses regret about her vow never to attend the Oscars ceremony.
"I think it is very noble for the people who go and lose, and I think that it is very ignoble of me to be unwilling to go and lose," the 12-time Oscar nominee told Berg in the 370-page book.
Hepburn, who died June 29 at 96 at her home in Old Saybrook, Conn., describes a "fiendish night" at the Beverly Hills Hotel as she tried to put Tracy to bed. "He smacked the back of his hand across her face," Berg writes. "She said he was so drunk she believed he neither knew that he'd done it nor that he'd remember. Dignity prevented her from telling him the next day - not hers so much as protecting his. She made her separate peace, privately forgiving him but never forgetting.
"`Did you ever think of walking out,' I asked, our eyes now meeting.
"`What would have been the point?' she asked. `I mean, I loved him. And I wanted to be with him. If I had left, we both would have been miserable.'"
Berg writes that there was one big reason why Tracy and Hepburn never married besides Tracy's Catholicism, his guilt over his son's deafness and his wife's refusal to divorce him:
"I never wanted to marry Spencer Tracy," she told Berg, who goes on to say:
"It has also been suggested that Hepburn was always attracted to men who were, if not married, at least, somehow attached to other women. There's truth to that notion.
"But I think it was more that the men to whom she was drawn were unmarriageable. Living `like a man,' as Kate often asserted - by herself, paying her own bills, and ultimately, answering to nobody - she liked that arrangement and could afford to live that way."
She chose not to have children, explaining: "I would have been a terrible mother, because I'm basically a very selfish human being. Not that that has stopped most people from going off and having children."
Hepburn thought Joel McCrea, who starred in films such as "Foreign Correspondent," "The More the Merrier" and "Sullivan's Travels," was the most underrated actor of his day. And except for Tracy, Berg relates, "Hepburn never spoke of an actor more glowingly than she did of Sir Ralph Richardson. `He was mad as a hatter - until he got into somebody else's character,' she observed" of her co-star in 1962's "Long Day's Journey Into Night."
She was incredulous that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are stars. Hepburn avoided action movies but also found Merchant-Ivory films a bore. She expressed admiration at various points in conversations with Berg for John Travolta, Sally Field, Harrison Ford and Melanie Griffith, but she had "zero tolerance" for Woody Allen films.
"After seeing Julia Roberts in `Mystic Pizza,' she predicted her becoming `the next big movie star,' the first she had `seen in years,'" Berg reports. "Meryl Streep was her least favorite actress on-screen - `Click, click, click,' she said, referring to the wheels inside her head."
Hepburn wrote 1991's "Me: Stories of My Life" and 1987's "The Making of the African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind."
Berg is the author of "Max Perkins: Editor of Genius," for which he won the National Book Award; "Goldwyn: A Biography"; and "Lindbergh," for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.
He doesn't think his latest book, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on Friday, will serve as "the last word" for Hepburn. Instead, he said in a statement, "I'd like to think, in some ways, that it will be `the first word.'"