The quiet time before Hollywood's fall deluge of films - the week or so when the hypesters aren't trying to tease you off the deep end with Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt - is a fine time to reflect on the kind of movies they used to serve up.

Back in the '30s and '40s, before Benji (or even Lassie), the stars entertained without having to lay themselves down as mullet for mechanical sharks. Katherine Hepburn, not the least among them, delivered her brassy lines decades before Kate Millet and affirmative action, drawing a record 11 Oscar nominations and three Academy Awards - along with the adulation of fans who still traipse off to see the lady every chance they get.

If you count yourself among Kate's followers - or just find it generally more pleasing to sink back and wallow in Clark Gable's surly grin than view a topless Sylvester Stallone - you have come to the right city this weekend.

Tonight, the American Film Institute at Kennedy Center begins unreeling the best of Hepburn in a six-week, 30-film retrospective. Across the way, the Biograph Theater continues to flashback with its Great Ladies of the Silver Screen Series. And if you find pre-Star Wars galactic reruns classic enough, you can take in "2001 Space Odyssey" at the University of Maryland's William L. Hoff Theater.

In the batch of Hepburn classics, you'll find 10 of her 11 Oscar nominees: "Morning Glory" (1933), "Alice Adams" (1935), "The Philadelphia Story" (1940), "Woman of the Year" (1942), "The African Queen" (1951), "Summertime" (1955), "The Rainmaker" (1956), "Long Day's Journey Into Night" (1962), "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967) and the Lion in Winter" (1968). Only her 1959 hit, "Suddenly Last Summer," is missing; it was shown twice in August during the AFI tribute to Montgomery Clift.

The Hepburn series spans the 15-year career of an actress whose myth swells each season with her determination to remain sequestered, out of the spotlight, when she does not appear on screen or stage. Devotees consider her performances the most sacred of times, often breaking into applause mid-movie and reciting her memorable repartee with Spencer Tracy.