Divorced. Ludlow Ogden Smith, Manhattan insurance broker; by Katharine Hepburn, cinemactress; in Merida, Mexico. Her next husband, it was reported, would be Leland Hayward, her manager, now being sued for divorce by Lola Gibbs Hayward in Juarez, Mexico.
Katharine Hepburn didn’t visit Yucatán to visit the Mayan ruins with Lady Edwina Mountbatten, although that excursion was part of her itinerary. She came here in 1934 to divorce her husband of eight years, Ludlow “Luddy” Ogden Smith.
It was a friendly divorce by all accounts. The two had wed before Hepburn’s career had taken off and the two were living separate lives by now. Still, the matter was considered a delicate one, to be handled with discretion.
Accompanied by her friend Laura Harding, Ms. Hepburn had arrived on the S.S. Orizaba and registered at the Hotel Itza in Mérida. Attempting in vain to avoid attention, she registered as Harding’s maid, under the name Katharine Smith. In Progreso, she “got a fresh coat of tan,” according to the newspapers, and engaged an attorney, Francisco Arevedo Gillermo, to file suit.
Foreshadowing TMZ and Us Magazine, celebrity-hungry reporters tracked her down. After visiting Chichen Itza, Uxmal and a large hemp estate at Mukuyche, she told The Associated Press that she was enjoying her trip.
“I was surprised and favorably impressed with the culture and civilization of both ancient and modern Yucatán,” she said.
When she left Mérida, she took a plane to Havana, and then flew back to New York. She scrubbed her initial plans to sail home on the S.S. Morrow Castle and took a plane instead. That proved smart. Later that year, the luxury liner burned at sea, killing 137 passengers and crew members, on the very route that Hepburn had originally planned to take.
So whatever became of the Hotel Itza? There is an establishment by that name by the airport. Is that it? Which is the Katharine Hepburn suite?