Katharine Hepburn turned 90 today and the city of New York dedicated a garden in front of the United Nations to her. She lived nearby for years.

Anthony Harvey, who directed Hepburn in The Lion in Winter, spoke at the dedication and said he'd talked to her over the weekend by phone. When he brought up her birthday, "She said, 'Don't mention it.' She hates birthdays."

A record four-time Oscar-winner, frail yet active, the smart, stubborn actress continues her lifelong reputation as a loner, living quietly in her family's Connecticut mansion overlooking Long Island Sound. In spite of her well-known tremors and some memory loss, Hepburn is said to be in good health

The vitality of her long, contrary career is remarkable in a time of superstars and supernovas--from her early, androgynous days as a tomboy in Spitfire or a bull-headed aviatrix dressed in silver lamé in Christopher Strong to her remarkable late-career roles in such movies such as Guess Who's Coming To Dinner and On Golden Pond--three Oscars past the age of 60.

Christopher Andersen, who wrote a just-published book An Affair to Remember: The Remarkable Love Story of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, calls her, "The greatest star, the greatest actress, that Hollywood has ever produced."

It's an ironic compliment for a woman who once bought her way out of an RKO contract out of fury for the way she was treated, a woman who, for most of her career, was dubbed "box-office poison."

In his comprehensive Biographical Dictionary of Film, critic David Thomson notes that her high-class elocution set her apart from the commonplace, but that the vanity that lay behind her strengths as a performer also may have been a source of her professional battles. "She had character, wit, intelligence and moral being," Thomson notes, "and those things can seem sexless on camera."

Yet the smart, unsentimental comedy of Bringing Up Baby, Holiday, Philadelphia Story and, later, her affectionate comedies with

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