In Search of ...Katharine Houghton

When actress Katharine Houghton made her much-publicized 1967 screen debut in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," some critics likened her looks and promise to her co-star and illustrious aunt, Katharine Hepburn, who won a best-actress Oscar for her work in the film. (Other critics questioned the casting.) But looks, talent and connections weren't enough to cement Houghton's Hollywood star. She's had small parts in only a smattering of feature films since, most recently "Mr. North" (1987).

Houghton, now 44, thinks her type--smart, strong, independent--went out of fashion in Hollywood. So she found a home on stage--appearing in more than 50 regional productions over 12 years--and did some TV. In 1982, she settled in Manhattan and returned to her first love--writing.

One acts, children's plays, musicals and full-length drama, Houghton has written them all, with nine Off-Broadway and regional productions to her credit. In the early '80s, she penned and starred in "To Heaven in a Swing," a one-woman show based on the writings of Louisa May Alcott. Her one-act comedy, "Buddha," exploring a psychological power struggle between a man and a woman, was included among the "The Best Short Plays of 1988" (Schilton Books). Recently, she's been going through proofs of "M.H.G.," the biography she's written on her mother, historian, author and labor activist Marion Hepburn Grant, due out shortly.

She's also trying her hand at screenwriting, having just finished her second screenplay, a story of troubled love with a strong central woman's role.

"I do like to write about women," she said, contending that the psychology and relationships of women are too rarely explored. "I think women are fascinating."

As for actress Houghton, recent roles include three appearances as a 19th-Century ghost on ABC's "One Life to Live" and a minor part in "Our Town" on Broadway.

She seems to have accepted being "unfashionable." The former Sarah Lawrence College philosophy major feels that artists must be prepared for criticism and rejection because "what is condemned by the critics of today can become the classics of tomorrow."

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