Two years ago I went to see The Philadelphia Story play on a big screen in Bryant Park. It was July and so hot my brother and I had been spending the day in the penguin exhibit at the zoo, but then we heard about the film— my favorite film— playing outdoors and rushed downtown.
We were too late to get a seat. It was packed like I have never seen any New York open space since the Dalai Lama came to Central Park. We were disconsolately looking for a wall to sit on, when suddenly two unholy fools, two morons, changed their minds and gave up their second-row seats. Hard to describe how happy we were. And then over the loudspeakers came some news: Hepburn had been taken ill in the night — gasps, I mean, real gasps— but it was okay— happy sighs— she was back from the hospital and wished us all well. We roared! And then the film started, and I said all the lines before they came, and my brother asked me to shut up. But I wasn’t the only one at it. When Katharine whispered to Jimmy Stewart, “Put me in your pocket, Mike!” a thousand people whispered with her. That was the best night at the movies I’ve ever had.
Two days ago she died, aged ninety-six. I don’t know why I should be surprised, but I was, and when I found out, I wept, and felt ridiculous for weeping. How can someone you have never met make you cry?
— Zadie Smith [June 2003]