The first scene shot was the characters' first date, in a bar. Katharine Hepburn was so nervous she spilled her drink, but Spencer Tracy just handed her a handkerchief and kept going. Hepburn proceeded to clean up the spill as they played the scene. When the drink dripped through to the floor, she tried to throw Tracy off by going under the table, but he stayed in character, with the cameras rolling the entire time.
During production, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn began sharing their lunch breaks in his dressing room, a habit they would maintain throughout her MGM years, even when they weren't working together.
In the opening montage, the audience sees two side-by-side ads. One says "Hitler can't win" by Tess Harding and the other says "Yankees can't lose" by Sam Craig. Only Tess was correct; the Yankees made it to the 1942 World Series but lost to the St Louis Cardinals in five games.
Before production finished, it was clear to all at the studio that Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn were romantically involved. Although studio executives would normally have tried to curtail such a relationship for fear of negative public reaction, they kept a hands off approach, partly because of the stars' discretion and partly because they realized that Hepburn was helping to keep Tracy's drinking under control. When he went on a bender, she would often sleep on the floor outside his hotel room door, waiting until things got quiet before she went in to help him sober up so he could report to the set.
Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy started production addressing each other as "Miss Hepburn" and "Mr. Tracy," but within a few days they were on a first-name basis. When frustrated with her behavior, Tracy would also refer to her as "Shorty" or "that woman."
Knowing of Spencer Tracy's reputation as a heavy drinker, Katharine Hepburn served him strong tea between scenes. She also got him to paint, as she did, as an escape from the pressures of Hollywood life.
One major difference between the stars was that Katharine Hepburn loved to rehearse while Spencer Tracy preferred to work more spontaneously and often gave his best performance on the first take. Hepburn had to adjust to his approach to hold her own.
Despite warnings from her friends, who told her that Spencer Tracy would never leave his wife for another woman, Katharine Hepburn fell in love with her co-star. Out of respect for his wife, whose position in Hollywood had helped with her charitable work for the deaf (the Tracy's son, John, was deaf), Spencer, Kate and the press kept the romance out of the papers.
At the time he met Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy was already living apart from his wife, spending most of his time in his suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel, while his wife and children lived on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley.
One benefit of Katharine Hepburn's relationship with Spencer Tracy was that he got her to change her manner of dealing with the press. During her first years in Hollywood, she had developed a reputation for looking down upon the press and not cooperating with interviewers. In fact, MGM publicity head Howard Strickling had to call in personal favors simply to get reporters to meet with her on the set of Woman of the Year. She repaid him by meeting with reporters on time and submitting to their questions with a minimum of fuss.
As Katharine Hepburn's close friend and frequent director, George Cukor was a natural choice to direct, but for her first film with Spencer Tracy, Hepburn wanted Tracy to be as comfortable as possible, so as a quasi-producer, she hired George Stevens, who had directed her in Alice Adams (1935). As Hepburn said, "I just thought he (Tracy) should have a big, manly man on his team - someone who could talk about baseball." Cukor (who was openly gay and known for his friendships with actresses) would later become a good friend of Tracy and would direct both actors in Keeper of the Flame (1943), Adam's Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952).
While the film was still in its first theatrical run, reporters noticed Spencer Tracy slipping into the back seat of a Pittsburgh theatre where Katharine Hepburn's next project, the Philip Barry play "Without Love", was playing during a pre-Broadway tour.
Reportedly, Katharine Hepburn's first words to Spencer Tracy were, "Mr. Tracy, I believe I am too tall for you" (Hepburn was 5'9" and Tracy was 5'10½"). Producer Joseph Mankiewicz said, "Don't worry, honey. He'll soon cut you down to size."
The Broadway musical version opened at the Palace Theater on May 29, 1981, ran for 770 performances starring Lauren Bacall and Harry Guardino and was nominated for the 1981 Tony Awards for the Best Musical, Book and Score.
Spencer Tracy delivers a line he had delivered before in the 1939 film "Stanley and Livingstone", where he played Henry M. Stanley. That line was "Dr. Livingstone I Presume", a line that has been frequently quoted ever since. Henry M. Stanley was sent in by a newspaper to find David Livingstone in 1870. He found Livingstone in 1871 near the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Where he uttered the phrase "Dr. Livingstone I Presume".
Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto (1848 - 1932) was an Italian sociologist and philosopher. He made important contributions to economics, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices.
This film's initial telecast took place in Philadelphia Friday 1 February 1957 on WFIL (Channel 6); it was first aired in New York City 9 September 1957 on WCBS (Channel 2), in San Francisco 11 April 1959 on KGO (Channel 7), and in Los Angeles 2 August 1959 on KTTV (Channel 11).
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The entire final sequence where Tess tried to win Sam back by making him breakfast and thus proving her marriage to Sam worth saving was written and filmed after the original ending tested poorly in preview. Apparently the original final sequence is lost.
The reason for the changed ending is revealed in the book 'A Remarkable Woman: A Biography of Katharine Hepburn' by Anne Edwards. It says, "Joseph L. Mankiewicz and George Stevens were concerned that 'the average American housewife, seated next to her husband, staring for two hours at this paragon of beauty, intelligence, wit, accomplishment, and everything else, (could not) help but wonder if her husband (wasn't) comparing her very unfavorably with this goddess he sees on the screen.' Stevens, who for all his charm was a dedicated male chauvinist, decided with Mankiewicz that Tess Harding had to have her comeuppance." This is why the ending was added showing Tess as incompetent in the kitchen.