Katharine Hepburn, the indomitable New Englander whose career spanned seven decades, and Humphrey Bogart, the sad-eyed trenchcoated king of film noir, were named the 20th century's top screen legends in June 1999 by the American Film Institute.
It's hard to argue. What screen actress deserves top honors more than the magnificent Hepburn with her four Oscars, matchless filmography and incandescent screen presence?
As for the wisecracking, usually gun-packing Bogie, Hepburn's cynical co-star in 1951's "The African Queen," he seems beyond category as well.
This AFI list -- voted on by more than 1,500 "film artists, historians, critics and cultural leaders" -- was divided into male and female categories, with the 50 top honorees eligible only if their careers began in 1950 or earlier, or if they were deceased (like actor No. 18, James Dean).
Controversy dogged the AFI's choice of the 100 best movies last year. But for the most part, this year's ballots yielded obvious screen legends, from silent clowns Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton to sound icons John Wayne and Sidney Poitier, from '20s belles Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish to '50s bombshells Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor.
Right behind Hepburn on the actress list were her lifelong dramatic rival Bette Davis, her younger, super-chic namesake Audrey Hepburn and two Swedish legends, Ingrid Bergman and Greta Garbo.
Trailing Bogart were two more old Hepburn co-stars (from 1940's "The Philadelphia Story"), suave Cary Grant and sincere James Stewart.
Behind the top three: still-living rebel Marlon Brando and that supreme dancing man, Fred Astaire. (Astaire rival/buddy Gene Kelly glided in at No. 15.)
As for Hepburn's longtime companion/lover/co-star, that consummate actor Spencer Tracy, he was in the rankings as the No. 9 actor, while Bogie's Baby (and wife), smoky Lauren Bacall, was 20th on the actress list.
There were almost no surprises, unless one counts that only-occasionally American star, Italy's ageless beauty Sophia Loren.
And there were few egregious oversights -- beyond the absence of almost all the star character actors like those crusty Walters, Huston and Brennan, overlooked swashbucklers Doug Fairbanks Sr. and Errol Flynn, comic curmudgeon W.C. Fields and bumblers Laurel & Hardy, British rose Deborah Kerr, hard gal Ida Lupino and child star turned glamor queen Natalie Wood.
But, with Hepburn and Bogie getting the last scene, it didn't really matter.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times