Over a decade after her death, Katharine Hepburn still holds the record for number of Best Actress Oscar wins. She is in fact the only person ever to have won four Academy Awards in the acting category.

A Connecticut native and Bryn Mawr graduate, when Kate arrived in Hollywood in the early '30s, the studio brass was both amazed and mystified by her. She was not your typical starlet: highly cultivated, an athletic but boyish figure, and a striking face that was all angles. Her unique quality and outsize talent led to quick stardom, a brief fall from grace, and a triumphant return for good in a career that spanned six decades. (For all the details, scroll down and click the link on our prior Hepburn piece).

So — why do we come back to Kate? Partly it's that striking face with the angles I mentioned previously. It projects all the strength, intelligence, willfulness and vitality audiences so loved in her. Another reason is more personal:  I confess I'd never gotten around to screening an early entry of hers called "Alice Adams" (1935), directed by George Stevens.

Shame on me. A month or so ago, I finally did, and was captivated. Here, Kate plays an insecure young woman in an American town, ostracized by society because her family is poor, who desperately yearns for the love of a popular, affluent fellow (Fred MacMurray) who seems out of reach. The tenderness in her performance reminded me just what power and range she had as an actress, even early on. Then I remembered those four Oscar wins.

But back to that face...here are some rare pictures that capture Katharine Hepburn's special radiance.


Young Kate as ingenue. There was always something about her.



Making a big impression in "Morning Glory" (1932),  her film debut.



A hypnotizing gaze in an early publicity photo.



In her second film, "Christopher Strong" (1933), playing an Amelia Earhart-type character. You believed it.



Striking a pose. Help the lady up!


Showing a warmer, more approachable side.


A color publicity shot for an early misfire, "Mary Of Scotland" (1936).


Trying a screwball comedy (and a leopard) on for size in "Bringing Up Baby" (1938). Flop then, classic now.


From the zany jailhouse scene, in "Baby" again, with co-star Cary Grant. They made four movies together.


Fiery, formidable, fascinating.



Lighting a wary James Stewart's smoke in "The Philadelphia Story" (1940).


Whatever you say, Miss Hepburn.


Concentrating on set. Intensely committed to her craft, she always had to get it just right. But of course!


Looking gloriously aloof and absent. Just what is she thinking about?


Unlike some other female stars of the day, Kate's looks mellowed beautifully over time.



More:  How Katharine Hepburn Almost Lost Her Film Career