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Spencer Tracy Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trade Mark (5) | Trivia (54) | Personal Quotes (21) | Salary (3)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 5 April 1900Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Date of Death 10 June 1967Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack following lung congestion)
Birth NameSpencer Bonaventure Tracy
Nicknames Spence
Pops
Height 5' 9½" (1.77 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Spencer Tracy was born four years after his brother Carroll to truck salesman John Edward and Caroline Brown Tracy. He attended Marquette Academy along with Pat O'Brien and the two left school to enlist in the Navy at the start of World War I. He was still at Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia at the end of the war. At Ripon College he did well in the lead of "The Truth" and decided on acting as a career. In New York he roomed with O'Brien while they attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1923 they both got nonspeaking parts as robots in "R.U.R". In stock he supported himself with jobs as bellhop, janitor and salesman. John Ford saw his critically acclaimed performance in the lead role in in The Last Mile (1932) and signed him to Up the River (1930) for Fox. Despite appearing in 16 films there over the next 5 years, Tracy never achieved star status there (during his stint the studio had floundered and was absorbed into Darryl F. Zanuck's 20th Century Pictures). In 1935 he signed with MGM under the aegis of Irving Thalberg and his career flourished. He became the first actor to win back-to-back Oscars for Captains Courageous (1937) and in a project he initially didn't want to star in, Boys Town (1938). He was nominated for San Francisco (1936), Father of the Bride (1950), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), The Old Man and the Sea (1958), Inherit the Wind (1960), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). He had a brief romantic relationship with Loretta Young in the 1930s and a lifelong one with Katharine Hepburn beginning in 1942. His Catholic beliefs precluded ever divorcing his wife Louise, though they lived apart. Tracy suffered from severe alcoholism and diabetes (from the late 1940's), which unfortunately impacted his willingness to accept several tailor-made roles in films that would become big hits. Although his drinking problems were well known, he was inarguably considered one of the best actors in Hollywood among his peers (he had a well deserved reputation for keeping co-stars on their toes for his oddly endearing scene-stealing tricks) and remained in demand. A few weeks after completion of Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), during which he suffered from lung congestion, he died of a heart attack.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Spouse (1)

Louise Treadwell (12 September 1923 - 10 June 1967) (his death) (2 children)

Trade Mark (5)

Often wore a lopsided fedora hat in his films
Blocky shoulders
Plain, everyman looks
Raspy but strong voice
Relatable characters who must change their way of thinking

Trivia (54)

Sometimes people confuse Spencer Tracy and James Whitmore. The two sometimes look as if they could have been brothers.
Ranked #64 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
Born at 1:57am-CST
Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, California, USA, in the Garden of Everlasting Peace, on the right just after entering.
His Best Actor Oscar for Boys Town (1938) is inscribed with the name "Dick Tracy."
Attended Ripon College in Ripon, Wisconsin but did not graduate.
Attended no fewer than six high schools: Wauwatosa (WI) High School; St. John's Cathedral School (Milwaukee); St. Mary's (near Topeka, Kansas); Rockhurst High School (Kansas City, Mo.) ; Marquette Academy (Milwaukee); WWI service; Northwestern Military and Naval Academy (Lake Geneva, WI); and West Division High School (Milwaukee), from which he graduated in 1921.
In 1956/57 when his longtime friend Humphrey Bogart was dying of cancer, Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were two of the only people who visited Bogie (and wife Lauren Bacall) at their home on an almost daily basis. They would sit together at Bogie's bedside for half an hour or so every evening in the months and weeks leading up to his death. After Bogie's death, Bacall requested that Tracy deliver the eulogy at the funeral. He apologetically declined, saying it would simply be too difficult for him. He felt he would be too emotional and wouldn't be able to do it. Bacall understood and director John Huston delivered the eulogy instead.
Tracy was offered the role of The Penguin in the TV series Batman (1966) before Burgess Meredith. He said he would only accept the role if he was allowed to kill Batman.
Died only 17 days after filming of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) had been completed.
Made nine films with Katharine Hepburn, the first of which was Woman of the Year (1942). The last was Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
He was voted the 15th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Had two children from his marriage to Louise Treadwell: Son, John Ten Broeck Tracy (born 26 June 1924, died 15 June 2007) and daughter, Louise Treadwell 'Susie' Tracy (born July 1 1932).
Son John was born deaf; as a result, his wife, Louise, became an activist for deaf education, establishing the John Tracy Clinic at USC.
He is often mentioned alongside Laurence Olivier and Marlon Brando as the greatest movie actor of all time. Unlike the other two, however, Tracy was not already successful and well-known as a stage actor before getting into films.
His father was of Irish descent and his mother was descended from the earliest English settlers in America.
Katharine Hepburn, his frequent screen partner and longtime flame, never watched Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) because it was his last film and watching it with him gone was too painful for her.
He was voted the 19th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
Named the #9 Greatest Actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends List by The American Film Institute
When he needed a break, he would often come back to Milwaukee and frequent the local watering holes. However, finding him proved to be an almost impossible challenge for Katharine Hepburn, because there are so many bars in Milwaukee.
His performance as Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind (1960) is ranked #67 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
Has three films on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time. They are: Captains Courageous (1937) at #94, Boys Town (1938) at #81 and _Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)_ at #35.
In 1935, MGM bought Tracy's contact from 20th Century-Fox, as Louis B. Mayer respected his talent and thought he would be a good second lead, particularly in support of the studio's #1 male star, Clark Gable. Tracy had never developed into a star in his five years at Fox (which was merged with Darryl F. Zanuck's 20th Century Pictures), and Fox had cooled on him. After four years of playing second-fiddle to Gable (and inevitably losing the girl to the man they called "The King" of Hollywood), Tracy came into his own as a star in MGM vehicles such as Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938), for both of which he won back-to-back Best Actor Oscars. Though he remained friends with Gable, the two never co-starred together after 1940.
Didn't like to rehearse and would read through a scene only once, five days before shooting. He also never liked to shoot a scene more than once, and in most cases he didn't have to.
Tracy's political views are disputed. Some sources state that he was an arch conservative during the 1930s, but his views moderated after he met Katharine Hepburn. Others say that he was always a moderate Democrat. He often said he believed actors had no place in politics.
Advertised Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Was supposed to star in Ten North Frederick (1958), but had to withdraw due to poor health and was replaced by Gary Cooper.
His father, John Tracy, worked as a clerk at a railroad office.
Longtime companion Katharine Hepburn did not attend his funeral out of respect to his family.
He won an Oscar for playing Father Edward Flanagan in Boys Town (1938), making him the first actor to win the Award for playing a real person who was still alive at the evening of the Award ceremony. As of 2011, thirteen more actors joined him: Gary Cooper for playing Alvin C. York in Sergeant York (1941), Patty Duke for playing Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962), Jason Robards for playing Benjamin Bradlee in All the President's Men (1976), Robert De Niro for playing Jake La Motta in Raging Bull (1980), Sissy Spacek for playing Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), Jeremy Irons for playing Claus Von Bullow in Reversal of Fortune (1990) (1990); Susan Sarandon for playing Sister Helen Prejean in Dead Man Walking (1995), Geoffrey Rush for playing David Helfgott in Shine (1996), Julia Roberts for playing Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich (2000), Jim Broadbent for playing John Bayley in Iris (2001), Helen Mirren for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen (2006) and most recently 'Christian Bale' for playing Dicky Eklund and Melissa Leo for playing Alice Ward in The Fighter (2010).
His son, John Tracy, died June 15, 2007, at his son's home in Acton, Calif. He was 82. Cause of death, following a long illness, was unknown. His sister, Louise Treadwell "Susie" Tracy, announced his death.
Turned down Cary Grant's role in The Philadelphia Story (1940) because he was eager to make Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941).
He was sought for Fredric March's role in The Desperate Hours (1955) opposite Humphrey Bogart, but would not take second billing.
He is featured as a character in the mystery novel, "Dead at the Box Office" by John Dandola, which is set during the World Premiere of Edison, the Man (1940).
Attended the Democratic National Convention in 1944.
Warner Bros. bought the rights to the book "Mute Witness" about a Boston detective who ate a lot of ice cream and never solved a case with Tracy in mind to star. Upon Tracy's death, a chase scene was added to the script, the location changed to San Francisco, and the character - Detective Frank Bullitt - changed to be played by Steve McQueen.
Received a posthumous Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967). His widow Louise attended the ceremony in the event that he would win. However, the award went instead to Rod Steiger for In the Heat of the Night (1967).
As of 2009, he is only one of six performers who won a Golden Globe Award as Best Lead Actor/Actress in a Motion Picture Drama without being nominated for an Oscar for that same role (for The Actress (1953)). The others are Anthony Franciosa in Career (1959), Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago (1965), Shirley MacLaine in Madame Sousatzka (1988), Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (1998) and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road (2008).
He was supposed to appear in Cheyenne Autumn (1964) and The Cincinnati Kid (1965), but suffered a severe heart attack in 1963. Edward G. Robinson replaced him in both movies.
Has a street named after him in Iowa City, Iowa.
Was seriously ill with emphysema as well as diabetes when he made his final film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
He was making a cup of coffee on the morning of 10 June 1967 when he suffered a sudden heart attack. Katharine Hepburn found him dead on the kitchen floor.
He has a grandson, Joseph Spencer Tracy.
Turned down the role of the judge in Anatomy of a Murder (1959), Edward Arnold's role in Come and Get It (1936), Michael Rennie's role in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Desi Arnaz's role in Forever, Darling (1956), William Powell's role in Mister Roberts (1955), Donald Crisp's role in National Velvet (1944), Melvyn Douglas's role in Ninotchka (1939), and Gregory Peck's role in The Yearling (1946).
Cousin of Gabrielle Christian.
He appears in four of the American Film Institute's 100 Funniest Movies: Adam's Rib (1949) at #22, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) at #40, Father of the Bride (1950) at #83 and Woman of the Year (1942) at #90.
Was announced as co star with Paul Newman and Robert Mitchum in the Jerry Wald production of The Enemy Within, based on the book by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, which at 1962/63 was in preparation for Twentieth Century Fox.
Twice earned Best Actor Oscar nominations for playing "foreign" fishermen: as Manuel in Captains Courageous (1937) for which he did win his first Oscar, and then as The Old Man in The Old Man and the Sea (1958), almost 20 years later.
Is one of 8 actors who have received an Oscar nomination for their performance as a priest. The others, in chronological order, are: Charles Bickford for The Song of Bernadette (1943); Bing Crosby for Going My Way (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary's (1945); Barry Fitzgerald for Going My Way (1944); Gregory Peck for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944); Karl Malden for On the Waterfront (1954); Jason Miller for The Exorcist (1973); and Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt (2008). Tracy, Crosby and Fitzgerald all won Oscars for their performances.
Director Vincente Minelli quoted the actor as saying, " it was a badge of honor for an actor to be a drunk.".
Katharine Hepburn on Tracy: "He's like an old oak tree, or the summer, or the wind. He belongs to an era when men were men.".
Harold Clurman on Tracy: " He was the universal American: honest, calm, considerate, free of all phoniness. There was in him no petty motive or concealed malice. He was a man.".
He came to Hollywood's attention after eight years on stage with his performance as Killer Mears in "The Last Mile." His subsequent screen tests were not a big success, but after John Ford saw him twice in the role, Fox allowed him to hire the actor for his debut feature film, "Up the River.".
One of the few truly famous actors who lived well into the age of television, but never made an appearance acting on a television program.

Personal Quotes (21)

[on acting] Come to work on time, know your lines and don't bump into the other actors.
]on drinking] Hell, I used to take two-week lunch hours!
I couldn't be a director because I couldn't put up with the actors. I don't have the patience. Why, I'd probably kill the actors. Not to mention some of the beautiful actresses.
[on being asked why he was always billed above long-time companion Katharine Hepburn in their films together] Because this is a movie, you chowderhead, not a lifeboat!
The kids keep telling me I should try this new "Method Acting" but I'm too old, I'm too tired and I'm too talented to care.
[on why he never left his wife for Katharine Hepburn] I can get a divorce whenever I want to. But my wife and Kate like things just as they are.
This mug of mine is as plain as a barn door. Why should people pay thirty-five cents to look at it?
I'm disappointed in acting as a craft. I want everything to go back to Orson Welles and fake noses and changing your voice. It's become so much about personality.
It is up to us to give ourselves recognition. If we wait for it to come from others, we feel resentful when it doesn't, and when it does, we may well reject it.
Even when my throat is completely tired out from acting, Luckies still get along with it fine.
There were times when my pants were so thin, I could sit on a dime and know if it was heads or tails.
The physical labor actors have to do wouldn't tax an embryo.
Write anything you want about me. Make up something. Hell, I don't care.
Why do actors think they're so God damn important? They're not. Acting is not an important job in the scheme of things. Plumbing is.
Actors have no damn place in politics, period.
[on Jean Harlow] A square shooter if ever there was one.
[on why actors should avoid political activism] Remember who shot [Abraham Lincoln].
[To Ernest Hemingway at dinner in the Stork Club] Sometimes I think life is a terminal illness.
[1962 interview] The only thing an actor has to offer a director and finally an audience is his instinct. That's all.
[on acting] It's never been very demanding. It doesn't require much brainwork. Acting is not the noblest profession in the world, but there are things lower than acting. Not many, mind you - but politicians give you something to look down on from time to time.
[in a 1962 interview] I'm Spencer Tracy with some deference to the character. When a person says he's an actor - he's a personality. The whole idea is to show your personality. There are people who are much better technically, but who cares? Nobody cares.

Salary (3)

Up the River (1930) $1,000 /week
Broken Lance (1954) $165,000 + percentage of profits
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) $300,000

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