Spencer Tracy
American actor
Spencer Tracy
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was an American actor. Respected for his natural style and versatility, Tracy was one of the major stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. In a screen career that spanned 37 years, he was nominated for nine Academy Awards for Best Actor—a record he holds with Laurence Olivier—of which he won three.
Spencer Tracy's personal information overview.
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NYTimes - over 5 years
8 P.M. (ESPNU) SEC: STORIED Four hourlong documentaries analyze the traditions and rivalries of Southeastern Conference football, starting with this look at Herschel Walker (above, in 1981), who won the Heisman Trophy at the University of Georgia before playing for the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings, the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York
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Supra Cinema - Virginia Law Weekly
Google News - over 5 years
The leads were two-time Best Actor Oscar winners Spencer Tracy and Fredric March, playing the roles of counsel for the defense, Henry Drummond, and assistant to the prosecution, Matthew Harrison Brady, respectively. The actual teacher on trial is
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Talbot Cinema Society announces 9-movie slate for 2011-2012 season - The Star Democrat
Google News - over 5 years
The first of nine movies that teamed Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Two rival reporters fall in love and marry, only to find their relationship strained when he comes to resent her hectic lifestyle. • Dec. 11: "The African Queen," 1951
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Father of the Bride Opens at Imagination Theater 9/9 - Broadway World
Google News - over 5 years
The play, based on the novel by Edward Streeter, was also the basis for the 1950 film with Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. Father of the Bride runs through Sunday, September 25 with shows on Thursdays and Fridays at 7:00 pm and Saturdays and
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Ocean-going adventure in amphitheater - knox.VillageSoup.com
Google News - over 5 years
Spencer Tracy, left, sings to the "leetle feeshes" and young Freddie Bartholomew in the 1937 "Captains Courageous." Camden — As part of the Camden Windjammer Festival, Camden Public Library will present an outdoor screening of the 1937 "Captains
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On the Spectrum: What if Hollywood remade 'Desk Set'? - Lake County Record-Bee
Google News - over 5 years
One of the texts in my online studies for Library and Information Technology reprints a screen image from "Desk Set," a 1957 movie starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In it, Hepburn is the director of a corporate research
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Oklahoma City gallery showcases works by six artists - NewsOK.com
Google News - over 5 years
An intriguing variety of media, materials and styles in the work of “emerging” artists Jesse Whittle, Trish McCain, Luis Saenz, Todd Jenkins, Spencer Tracy and Brittany Rudolf is on view in an exhibit at the Istvan Gallery
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Google News - over 5 years
Either that, or Gabin was France's answer to Spencer Tracy. Never mind the fact that Gabin was a major international star before either Bogart or Tracy achieved Hollywood stardom. In other words, if there was someone emulating someone else,
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THEATER REVIEW | 'THE PRETTY TRAP'; A Mother's Familiar Optimism, Without the Familiar Letdown
NYTimes - over 5 years
The last time most of America saw Katharine Houghton, she was playing the idealistic young white woman announcing her engagement to a noble black doctor (Sidney Poitier) in the 1967 film ''Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,'' with Katharine Hepburn, her real-life aunt, and Spencer Tracy as her parents. Now here she is as Amanda Wingfield, Tennessee
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Heat of the moment - Omaha World-Herald
Google News - over 5 years
Fanning themselves in a stifling courtroom, Spencer Tracy and Fredric March square off in a legal debate over evolution and the Bible. There's so much hot air blowing around, you can feel the gusts yet today. Fine acting elevates a sometimes overblown
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In a puppet state - Sydney Morning Herald
Google News - over 5 years
He has the presence of some of the greatest screen actors, like John Barrymore or Spencer Tracy, and the masculine appeal of a sexy beast like Errol Flynn, but the same kind of filmmaking ambitions that drove Kevin Costner or Sly Stallone, for big,
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At the Lincoln: Tracy, March at their best in 'Inherit the Wind' - Massillon Independent
Google News - over 5 years
Spencer Tracy and Fredric March are up to it. I think each man put his best performance of a lifetime on the screen with this one. Gene Kelly appears as the wise-cracking “modern reporter.” If you loved “To Kill a Mockingbird” you will love this movie,
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Spencer Tracy
  • 1967
    Age 66
    Tracy spent the majority of the next two years at home with Hepburn, living what she described as a quiet life: reading, painting, and listening to music. On June 10, 1967, 17 days after completing Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Tracy awakened at 3:00 am to make himself a cup of tea in his apartment in Beverly Hills, California.
    More Details Hide Details Hepburn described in her autobiography how she followed him to the kitchen: "Just as I was about to give door a push, there was a sound of a cup smashing to the floor—then clump—a loud clump." She entered the room to find Tracy dead from a heart attack. Hepburn recalled, "He looked so happy to be done with living, which for all his accomplishments had been a frightful burden for him." MGM publicist Howard Strickling told the media that Tracy had been alone when he died and was found by his housekeeper. A Requiem Mass was held for Tracy on June 12 at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in East Hollywood. Active pallbearers included George Cukor, Stanley Kramer, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, and John Ford. Out of consideration for Tracy's family, Hepburn did not attend the funeral. Tracy is interred at Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park, near his wife, Louise and son, John. He left his entire estate to his wife, his two children, and his brother. It was worth around $500,000 at the time of his death.
    He completed his last scene on May 24, 1967.
    More Details Hide Details Tracy died 17 days later from a heart attack on June 10. The film was released in December, and although reviews were mixed, Curtis notes that "Tracy's performance was singled out for praise in nearly every instance." Brendan Gill of The New Yorker wrote that Tracy gave "a faultless and, under the circumstances, heartbreaking performance." The movie became Tracy's highest grossing picture. He received a posthumous nomination for Best Actor—his ninth—at the 40th Academy Awards, along with a Golden Globe Award nomination and a BAFTA win for Best Actor.
  • 1965
    Age 64
    Tracy almost died in September 1965: a stay in the hospital following a prostatectomy resulted in his kidneys failing, and he spent the night in a coma.
    More Details Hide Details His recovery was described by his doctor as "a kind of miracle".
    In January 1965, he was diagnosed with hypertensive heart disease and began treatment for a previously ignored diagnosis of diabetes.
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  • 1963
    Age 62
    As he entered his sixties, years of drinking, smoking, taking pills, and being overweight left Tracy in poor health. On July 21, 1963, he was hospitalized after a severe attack of breathlessness.
    More Details Hide Details Doctors found that he was suffering from pulmonary edema, where fluid accumulates in the lungs due to an inability of the heart to pump properly. They also declared his blood pressure as dangerously high. From this point on Tracy remained very weak, and Hepburn moved into his home to provide constant care.
  • 1960
    Age 59
    Tracy did not appear on the screen again until October 1960, with the release of Inherit the Wind, a film based on the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial" which debated the right to teach evolution in schools.
    More Details Hide Details Director Stanley Kramer sought Tracy for the role of lawyer Clarence Darrow from the outset. Starring opposite Tracy was Fredric March, a pairing Variety described as "a stroke of casting genius... Both men are spellbinders in the most laudatory sense of the word." The film garnered Tracy some of the strongest reviews of his career—he was nominated for an Academy Award, BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award for the performance—but it was not a commercial hit. In the volcano disaster movie The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961), Tracy played a priest for the fourth time in his career. His co-star, Frank Sinatra, ceded top-billing to guarantee Tracy for the picture. Continuing his pattern of indecisiveness, Tracy briefly pulled out of the production before recommitting. Critics were unenthusiastic about the film, which was nevertheless Tracy's most successful box office outing since Father of the Bride.
  • 1958
    Age 57
    At the end of 1958, the National Board of Review named Tracy the year's Best Actor.
    More Details Hide Details He nevertheless began to ponder retirement, with Curtis writing that he was "chronically tired, unhappy, ill, and uninterested in work."
    In 1958, Tracy appeared in The Old Man and the Sea, a project that had been in development for five years.
    More Details Hide Details An adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's novella of the same name, Hemingway's agent, Leland Hayward, had previously written to the author: "Of all Hollywood people, the one that comes the closest to me in quality, in personality and voice, in personal dignity and ability, is Spencer Tracy." Tracy was delighted to be offered the role. He was told to lose some of his 210 pounds before filming began, but failed to do so. Hemingway thus reported that Tracy was a "terrible liability to the picture", and had to be reassured that the star was being carefully photographed to disguise his weight. Appearing alone on screen for the majority of the film, Tracy considered The Old Man and the Sea the toughest part he ever played. In reviewing the performance, Jack Moffitt of the Hollywood Reporter said it was "so intimate and revealing of universal human experience that, to me, it almost transcended acting and became reality." Tracy received Oscar and BAFTA Award nominations for the work.
  • 1955
    Age 54
    In June 1955 he was the last remaining star of the studio's heyday, but with his contract up for renewal—Tracy opted to go independent for the first time in his movie career.
    More Details Hide Details Tracy's first post-MGM appearance was in The Mountain (1956) with Robert Wagner, who played his much younger brother (Wagner had earlier played his son in Broken Lance). The location filming in the French Alps proved a difficult experience, and he threatened to leave the project. His performance earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Actor. Tracy and Hepburn then paired together for the eighth time in the office-based comedy Desk Set (1957). He again had to be convinced to stay with the film which met with a weak response.
    He began production on Tribute to a Bad Man in the summer of 1955, but pulled out when the location shooting in Colorado gave him altitude sickness.
    More Details Hide Details The trouble caused by the picture fractured Tracy's relationship with MGM.
    In 1955 Tracy turned down William Wyler's The Desperate Hours because he refused to take second-billing to Humphrey Bogart.
    More Details Hide Details Instead, Tracy appeared as a one-armed protagonist who faces the hostility of a small town in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), a film directed by John Sturges. For his work, Tracy received a fifth Oscar nomination and was awarded the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival. He had personally been unhappy with the picture, and threatened to leave it during production. This behavior became a regular occurrence for the aging Tracy, who was increasingly lethargic and cynical.
  • 1954
    Age 53
    MGM lent Tracy to Twentieth Century-Fox for the Western film Broken Lance, his only appearance of 1954.
    More Details Hide Details The picture was well received.
  • 1953
    Age 52
    In 1953, Tracy returned to the role of a concerned father in The Actress. "That film... got more acclaim from the critics than any film I ever made in all the years, and we didn't make enough to pay for the ushers in the theatre," recalled producer Lawrence Weingarten.
    More Details Hide Details For his performance in The Actress, Tracy won a Golden Globe Award and received a nomination for the British Academy Film Award (BAFTA).
  • 1952
    Age 51
    Tracy's infidelity apparently continued, however, and Tracy is reported to have had an affair with Gene Tierney during the making of Plymouth Adventure in 1952.
    More Details Hide Details Neither Tracy nor his wife ever pursued a divorce, despite their estrangement. He told Joan Fontaine, "I can get a divorce whenever I want to, but my wife and Kate like things just as they are." Louise, meanwhile, reportedly commented: "I will be Mrs. Spencer Tracy until the day I die." Hepburn did not interfere and never fought for marriage. Tracy was an avowed Catholic, but his cousin, Jane Feely, said that he did not devoutly follow the religion: "he was often not a practical Catholic either. I would call him a spiritual Catholic." Garson Kanin, a friend of Tracy's for 25 years, described him as "a true believer" who respected his religion. At periods in his life, Tracy attended Mass regularly. Tracy did not believe actors should publicize their political views, but in 1940 lent his name to the "Hollywood for Roosevelt" committee and personally identified as a Democrat.
  • 1951
    Age 50
    In 1951, Tracy portrayed a lawyer in The People Against O'Hara.
    More Details Hide Details The next year he re-teamed with Hepburn for the sports comedy Pat and Mike (1952), the second feature written expressly for the pair by Kanin and Gordon. Pat and Mike became one of the duo's most popular and critically acclaimed films. Tracy followed it with Plymouth Adventure (1952), a historical drama set abroad the Mayflower, co-starring Gene Tierney. It met with a poor response and posted a loss of $1.8 million.
  • 1946
    Age 45
    Tracy was absent from screens in 1946, the first year since his motion picture debut that there was no Spencer Tracy release.
    More Details Hide Details His next film was The Sea of Grass (1947) a drama set in the American Old West with Hepburn. Similarly to Keeper of the Flame and Without Love, a lukewarm response from critics did not stop it from being a financial success both at home and abroad. He followed it later that year with Cass Timberlane, in which he played a judge. It was a commercial success, but Curtis notes that co-star Lana Turner overshadowed Tracy in most of the reviews. A fifth film with Hepburn came in 1948, Frank Capra's political drama State of the Union. Tracy played a presidential candidate in the movie, which was warmly received. He then appeared in Edward, My Son (1949) with Deborah Kerr. Tracy disliked the role, and told director George Cukor, "It's rather disconcerting to me to find how easily I play a heel." Upon its release, The New Yorker wrote of the "hopeless miscasting of Mr. Tracy". The film became Tracy's biggest money-loser at MGM.
  • 1945
    Age 44
    In 1945, Tracy returned to the stage for the first time in 15 years.
    More Details Hide Details He had been through a dark patch personally—culminating with a stay in hospital—and Hepburn felt that a play would help restore his focus. Tracy told a journalist in April, "I'm coming back to Broadway to see if I can still act." The play was The Rugged Path by Robert E. Sherwood. It first previewed in Providence on September 28, to a sold out crowd and tepid response. It was a difficult production; director Garson Kanin later wrote: "In the ten days prior to the New York opening all the important relationships had deteriorated. Spencer was tense and unbending, could not, or would not, take direction". Tracy considered leaving the show before it even opened on Broadway, and lasted there just six weeks before announcing his intention to close the show. It closed on January 19, 1946, after 81 performances. Tracy later explained to a friend: "I couldn't say those goddamn lines over and over and over again every night... At least every day is a new day for me in films... But this thing—every day, every day, over and over again."
  • 1944
    Age 43
    On the strength of these three releases, the annual Quigley poll revealed Tracy was MGM's biggest money-making star of 1944.
    More Details Hide Details His only film the following year was Without Love (1945), a third film with Hepburn that performed well at the box office despite muted enthusiasm from critics.
  • 1942
    Age 41
    Tracy was set to star in a film version of The Yearling for 1942, but on-set difficulties and bad weather forced the production to close.
    More Details Hide Details With the end of that project, he became available for the new Katharine Hepburn movie, Woman of the Year (1942). Hepburn greatly admired Tracy, calling him "the best movie actor there was". She had wanted him for her comeback vehicle, The Philadelphia Story (1940). Hepburn was delighted that Tracy was available for Woman of the Year, saying "I was just damned grateful he was willing to work with me." The romantic comedy performed well at the box office and received strong reviews. William Boehnel wrote in the New York World-Telegram, "To begin with, it has Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in the leading roles. This in itself would be enough to make any film memorable. But when you get Tracy and Hepburn turning in brilliant performances to boot, you've got something to cheer about." Woman of the Year was followed by an adaptation of John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat (1942) which met with a tepid response. MGM did not hesitate to repeat the teaming of Tracy and Hepburn and cast them in the dark mystery Keeper of the Flame (1942). Despite a weak critical reception the film was a popular success, outgrossing its predecessor and confirming the strength of the partnership.
  • 1941
    Age 40
    While making Woman of the Year in September 1941, Tracy began what was to become a lifelong relationship with Katharine Hepburn.
    More Details Hide Details The actress became devoted to him, and their relationship lasted until his death 26 years later. Tracy never returned to live in the family home, although he visited regularly. The MGM moguls were careful to protect their contract big stars from controversy, and Tracy wished to conceal his relationship with Hepburn from his wife, so it was hidden from the public. The couple did not live together until the final years of Tracy's life, when they shared a cottage on George Cukor's estate in Beverly Hills. In Hollywood, however, the intimate nature of the Tracy-Hepburn partnership was an open secret. Angela Lansbury, who worked with the pair on State of the Union, later said: "We all knew, but nobody ever said anything. In those days it wasn't discussed." Tracy was not someone to express his emotions, but friend Betsy Drake believed he "was utterly dependent upon Hepburn."
    In 1941, Tracy returned to the role of Father Flanagan in Men of Boys Town.
    More Details Hide Details It was followed later that year by Tracy's only venture into the horror genre, an adaptation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, co-starring Ingrid Bergman and Lana Turner. Tracy was unhappy with the film, disliking the heavy make-up he needed to portray Hyde. Critical response to the film was mixed. Theodore Strauss of The New York Times wrote that "Mr. Tracy's portrait of Hyde is not so much evil incarnate as it is the ham rampant." The film was popular with audiences, however, taking in more than $2 million at the box office.
    Tracy signed a new contract with MGM in April 1941, which paid $5,000 a week and limited him to three pictures a year (Tracy had previously expressed a need to reduce his workload).
    More Details Hide Details The contract also stated for the first time that his billing was to be "that of a star". Contrary to popular belief, the contract did not include a clause that he receive top billing, but from this point onward, every film Tracy appeared in featured his name in pole position.
  • 1940
    Age 39
    MGM capitalized on Tracy's popularity, casting him in four movies for 1940.
    More Details Hide Details I Take This Woman with Hedy Lamarr was a critical and commercial failure, but the historical drama Northwest Passage—Tracy's first film in Technicolor—proved popular. He then portrayed Thomas Edison in Edison, the Man. Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribune was not charmed by the story, but wrote that Tracy, "by sheer persuasion of his acting", made the film worthy. Boom Town was the third and final Gable-Tracy picture, also featuring Claudette Colbert and Hedy Lamarr, making it one of the most anticipated films of the year. The film opened to the biggest crowd since Gone With the Wind.
  • 1939
    Age 38
    Tracy was absent from screens for almost a year before returning to Twentieth Century-Fox on loan and appearing as Henry M. Stanley in Stanley and Livingstone, his only film of 1939.
    More Details Hide Details Curtis maintains that Tracy's non-visibility did little to affect his standing with the public or exhibitors. In October of that year, a Fortune magazine survey to find the nation's favorite movie actor listed Tracy in first place.
  • 1938
    Age 37
    Tracy was listed as the fifth biggest money-making star of 1938.
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    Tracy was reunited with Gable and Loy for 1938's Test Pilot.
    More Details Hide Details The film was another commercial and critical success, permanently cementing the notion of Gable and Tracy as a team. Based on the positive response he had received in San Francisco, MGM again cast Tracy as a priest in Boys Town (1938). Portraying Edward J. Flanagan, a Catholic priest and founder of Boys Town, was a role Tracy took seriously: "I'm so anxious to do a good job as Father Flanagan that it worries me, keeps me awake at night." Tracy received strong reviews for his performance, and the movie grossed $4 million worldwide. For the second year running, Tracy received an Academy Award for Best Actor. He was humble about the recognition, saying in his acceptance speech: "I honestly do not feel that I can accept this award... I can accept it only as it was meant to be for a great man—Father Flanagan". He immediately sent the Academy Award statuette to Flanagan.
  • 1937
    Age 36
    Tracy frequently engaged in extramarital affairs, including with co-stars Joan Crawford in 1937 and Ingrid Bergman in 1941.
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    A 1937 poll of 20 million people to find the "King and Queen of Hollywood" ranked Tracy sixth among males.
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    Tracy appeared in four movies in 1937.
    More Details Hide Details They Gave Him a Gun went largely unnoticed, but Captains Courageous was one of the major film events of the year. Tracy played a Portuguese fisherman in the adventure movie, based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling. He was uncomfortable feigning a foreign accent, and resented having his hair curled, but the role was a hit with audiences and Tracy won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Captains Courageous was followed by Big City with Luise Rainer and Mannequin with Joan Crawford, the latter of which took good billings at the box office. With two years of hit movies and industry recognition, Tracy became a star in the United States.
    His career flourished with a series of hit films, and in 1937 and 1938 he won consecutive Oscars for Captains Courageous and Boys Town.
    More Details Hide Details By the 1940s, Tracy was one of the studio's top stars. In 1942 he appeared with Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year, beginning a popular partnership that produced nine movies over 25 years. Tracy left MGM in 1955 and continued to work regularly as a freelance star, despite an increasing weariness as he aged. His personal life was troubled, with a lifelong struggle against alcoholism and guilt over his son's deafness. Tracy became estranged from his wife in the 1930s, but never divorced, conducting a long-term relationship with Katharine Hepburn in private. Towards the end of his life, Tracy worked almost exclusively for director Stanley Kramer.
  • 1935
    Age 34
    Biographer James Curtis writes: "Tracy was scarcely a blip on the box office barometer in 1935, a critics' darling and little more".
    More Details Hide Details He was, however, well known for being a troublemaker. Producer Irving G. Thalberg was nevertheless enthusiastic about working with the actor, telling journalist Louella Parsons: "Spencer Tracy will become one of MGM's most valuable stars." Curtis notes that the studio managed Tracy with care, a welcome change from the ineptitude he had known at Fox, which was like "a shot of adrenaline" for the actor. His first film under the new contract was the quickly produced The Murder Man (1935), which included the feature film debut of James Stewart. Thalberg then began a strategy of pairing Tracy with the studio's top actresses: Whipsaw (1935) co-starred Myrna Loy and was a commercial success. Riffraff (1936) put Tracy opposite Jean Harlow. Both films were, however, designed and promoted to showcase their leading ladies, thus continuing Tracy's reputation as a secondary star.
    They were in need of a new male star, and contacted Tracy on April 2, 1935, offering him a seven-year deal.
    More Details Hide Details That afternoon, the contract between Tracy and Fox was terminated "by mutual consent". Tracy made a total of 25 pictures in the five years he was with Fox Film Corporation, most of which lost money at the box office. In the 1930s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was the most respected movie production studio in Hollywood. When Tracy arrived there, his own reputation was not strong.
  • 1934
    Age 33
    Tracy drank heavily during his years with Fox, and gained a reputation as an alcoholic. He failed to report for filming on Marie Galante in June 1934, and was found in his hotel room, virtually unconscious after a two-week binge.
    More Details Hide Details Tracy was removed from the Fox payroll while he recovered in a hospital, and then sued for $125,000 for delaying the production. He completed only two more pictures with the studio. The details on how Tracy's relationship with Fox ended are unclear: later in life Tracy maintained that he was fired for his drunken behavior, but the Fox records do not support such an account. He was still under contract with the studio when MGM expressed their interest in the actor.
  • 1933
    Age 32
    From September 1933 to June 1934, Tracy had a public affair with Loretta Young, his co-star in Man's Castle.
    More Details Hide Details He reconciled with Louise in 1935. There was never again an official separation between Tracy and his wife, but the marriage continued to be troubled. Tracy increasingly lived in hotels and by the 1940s, the two were effectively living separate lives.
    Tracy left the family home in 1933, and he and Louise openly discussed the separation with the media, maintaining that they were still friends and had not taken divorce action.
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  • 1932
    Age 31
    In mid-1932, after nine pictures, Tracy remained virtually unknown to the public.
    More Details Hide Details He considered leaving Fox once his contract was up for renewal, but a rise in his weekly rate to $1,500 convinced him to stay. He continued to appear in unpopular films, with Me and My Gal (1932) setting an all-time low attendance record for the Roxy Theatre in New York City. He was loaned to Warner Bros. for 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932), a prison drama co-starring Bette Davis. Tracy was hopeful that it would be his break-out role, but despite good reviews this failed to materialize. Critics began to notice Tracy with The Power and the Glory (1933). The story of a man's rise to prosperity, written by Preston Sturges, Tracy's performance as railroad tycoon Tom Garner received uniformly strong reviews. William Wilkerson of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: "This sterling performer has finally been given an opportunity to show an ability that has been boxed in by gangster roles... film has introduced Mr. Tracy as one of the screen's best performers". Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times stated: "No more convincing performance has been given on the screen than Spencer Tracy's impersonation of Tom Garner." Shanghai Madness (1933), meanwhile, gave Tracy a previously unseen sex appeal and served to advance his standing. Despite this attention, Tracy's next two movies went largely unnoticed. Man's Castle (1933) with Loretta Young was anticipated to be a hit, but made only a small profit.
  • 1930
    Age 29
    In January 1930, Tracy was approached about a new play called The Last Mile.
    More Details Hide Details Looking to cast the lead role of a murderer on death row, producer Herman Shumlin met with Tracy, and later recounted: "beneath the surface, here was a man of passion, violence, sensitivity and desperation: no ordinary man, and just the man for the part." The Last Mile opened on Broadway in February, where Tracy's performance was met by a standing ovation that lasted 14 curtain calls. The Commonweal described him as "one of our best and most versatile young actors". The play was a hit with critics, and ran for 289 performances. In 1930, Broadway was being heavily scouted for actors to work in the "talkies", the new medium of sound film. Tracy was cast in two Vitaphone short movies (Taxi Talks and The Hard Guy), but he had not considered becoming a film actor: "I had no ambition in that direction and I was perfectly happy on the stage", he later explained in an interview. One of the scouts who saw Tracy in The Last Mile was director John Ford. Ford wanted Tracy for the lead role in his next picture, a prison movie. Production company Fox Film Corporation were unsure about Tracy, saying that he did not photograph well, but Ford convinced them that he was right for the role. Up the River (1930) marked the film debut of both Tracy and Humphrey Bogart. After seeing the rushes, Fox immediately offered Tracy a long-term contract.
  • 1929
    Age 28
    Tracy followed this success with another Cohan play, Whispering Friends, and in 1929 took over from Clark Gable in Conflict, a Broadway drama.
    More Details Hide Details A variety of other roles followed, but it was the lead in Dread, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Owen Davis that gave Tracy high hopes for success. The story of a man's descent into madness, Dread previewed in Brooklyn to an excellent reception, but the very next day—October 29—the New York stock market crashed. Unable to attain funding, Dread did not open on Broadway. Following this disappointment, Tracy considered leaving the theatre and returning to Milwaukee for a more stable life.
  • 1926
    Age 25
    In the fall of 1926, Tracy was offered his third shot at Broadway: a role in a new George M. Cohan play called Yellow.
    More Details Hide Details Tracy swore that if the play failed to be a hit he would leave stock and work in a "regular" business instead. Tracy was nervous about working with Cohan—one of the most important figures in American theatre—but during rehearsals Cohan announced, "Tracy, you're the best goddamned actor I've ever seen!" Yellow opened on September 21; reviews were mixed but it ran for 135 performances. It was the beginning of an important collaboration for Tracy: "I'd have quit the stage completely," he later commented, "if it hadn't been for George M. Cohan." Cohan wrote a part specifically for Tracy in his next play, The Baby Cyclone. It opened on Broadway in September 1927 and proved to be a hit.
  • 1924
    Age 23
    Tracy finally achieved some success by joining forces with the notable stock manager William H. Wright in the spring of 1924.
    More Details Hide Details A stage partnership was formed with the young actress Selena Royle, who had already made her name on Broadway. It proved a popular draw and their productions were favorably received. One of these shows brought Tracy to the attention of a Broadway producer, who offered him the lead in a new play. The Sheepman previewed in October 1925, but it received poor reviews and closed after its trial run in Connecticut. Dejected, Tracy was forced back to Wright and the stock circuit.
    In January 1924 he played his first leading role with a company in Winnipeg, but the organization soon closed.
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  • 1923
    Age 22
    In November 1923 he landed a small part on Broadway in the comedy A Royal Fandango, starring Ethel Barrymore.
    More Details Hide Details Reviews for the show were poor and it closed after 25 performances; Tracy later said of the failure, "My ego took an awful beating." When he took a position with a struggling company in New Jersey, Tracy was living on an allowance of 35 cents a day.
    Tracy met actress Louise Treadwell while they were both members of the Wood Players in White Plains, New York—the first stock company Tracy joined after graduating. The couple were engaged in May 1923, and married on September 10 of that year between the matinee and evening performances of his show.
    More Details Hide Details Their son, John Ten Broeck Tracy, was born in June 1924. When John was 10 months old, Louise discovered that the boy was deaf. She resisted telling Tracy for three months. Tracy was devastated by the news and felt a lifelong guilt over his son's deafness. He was convinced that John's hearing impairment was a punishment for his own sins. As a result, Tracy had trouble connecting with his son and distanced himself from his family. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a friend of Tracy's, later theorized: "Tracy didn't leave Louise. He left the scene of his guilt." A second child, Louise "Susie" Treadwell Tracy, was born in July 1932. The children were raised in their mother's Episcopalian faith.
  • 1922
    Age 21
    Tracy made his New York debut in October 1922, in a play called The Wedding Guests, and then his Broadway debut three months later playing a wordless robot in R.U.R. He graduated from AADA in March 1923.
    More Details Hide Details Immediately following graduation, Tracy joined a new stock company based in White Plains, New York where he was given periphery roles. Unhappy there, he moved to a company in Cincinnati, but failed to make an impact.
    Tracy left Ripon, and began classes at AADA in April 1922.
    More Details Hide Details He was deemed fit to progress to the senior class, allowing him to join the academy stock company.
  • 1921
    Age 20
    Tracy was a popular student at Ripon, where he served as president of his hall and was involved in a number of college activities. He made his stage debut in June 1921, playing the male lead in The Truth.
    More Details Hide Details Tracy was very well received in this role and he quickly developed a passion for the stage. He formed an acting company with friends, which they called "The Campus Players" and took on tour. As a member of the college debate team, Tracy excelled in arguing and public speaking. It was during a tour with his debate team that Tracy auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City. He was offered a scholarship to attend the school after performing a scene from one of his earlier roles.
    He entered Ripon in February 1921, declaring his intention to major in medicine.
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  • 1919
    Age 18
    He achieved the rank of seaman second class, but never went to sea, and was discharged in February 1919.
    More Details Hide Details John Tracy's desire to see one of his sons gain a college degree drove Tracy back to high school to finish his diploma. Studies at two more institutions, plus the additional allowance of "war credits", won Tracy a place at Ripon College.
  • 1900
    Tracy was born on April 5, 1900, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
    More Details Hide Details He was the second son of Caroline Brown (1874–1942) and John Edward Tracy (1873–1928), a truck salesman. His mother was a Presbyterian from a wealthy Midwestern family, and his father was of Irish Catholic background. His one brother, Carroll, was four years older. Spencer was a difficult and hyperactive child with poor school attendance. Raised as a Catholic, at nine years old he was placed in the care of Dominican nuns in the hope of transforming his behavior. Later in life he remarked, "I never would have gone back to school if there had been any other way of learning to read the subtitles in the movies." He became fascinated with motion pictures, watching the same ones repeatedly and then re-enacting scenes to his friends and neighbors. Tracy attended several Jesuit academies in his teenage years, which he claimed took the "badness" out of him and helped him improve his grades. At Marquette Academy he met future actor Pat O'Brien, and the pair began attending plays together, awakening Tracy's interest in the theatre.
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