Saturday, September 20, 2008

Favorite Classic Movie Stars - SPENCER TRACY

Spencer Bonadventure Tracy was born on April 5th, 1900 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the second son of John Edward Tracy, an Irish American Catholic truck salesman and Caroline Brown, a Protestant turned Christian Scientist.

Tracy attended six high schools, starting in 1915 in Milwaukee, The Tracy family moved to Kansas City, Missouri two years later where he again went to school. John Tracy's job in Kansas City, did not work out and the family returned to Milwaukee six months after her departure. Spencer once again was enrolled at a Jesuit school, where he met fellow actor Pat O'Brien. The two left school in spring 1917 to enlist in the Navy with the American entry into World War I, but remained in Norfolk Navy Yard, in Norfolk Virginia throughout the war. Afterwards, Tracy continued his education, and ended up finishing his studies at Milwaukee's West Division High School (now, Milwaukee High School of the Arts), in February of 1921.

Tracy attended Ripon College where he appeared in a leading role in a play entitled "The Truth" and decided on acting as a career.

While touring the North East with the Ripon debate team he auditioned for and was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.

Spencer Tracy's first Broadway role was that of a robot in Karel Capeks R.U.R. in 1922, followed by five other plays in the twenties. In 1923 he married actress Louise Treadwell. They had two children, John and Louise (Susie).

For several years he performed in stock in Michigan, Canada and Ohio. Finally in 1930 he appeared in a hit play on Broadway, "The Last Mile". Director John Ford saw him and signed him to do "Up the River" with Humphry Bogart for Fox Film Corporation. Shortly after that he and his family moved to Hollywood where he made twenty five films in five years.

In 1935 he signed with Metro Goldwyn Mayer. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for two years in a row for "Captains Courageous" in 1937 and "Boys Town" in 1938.

He was also 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
"Judgement at Nurenburg - 1961
And posthumously for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" - 1967
Tracy and Lawrence Olivier share the record for the most Academy Award Best Actor nods with nine Oscar nominations.

In 1941 Spencer during filming of "Woman of the Year", he began a relationship with Katherine Hepburn who had just ended a five year relationship with producer Howard Hughes. Her agile mind, sleek elegance and New England brogue complimented Tracy's easy working-class machismo very well. Spencer would never end up getting a divorce from his wife due to his Catholicism, but they did end up separating. His relationship with Hepburn continued, which neither would discuss publicly lasted until his death in 1967. Their relationship was complex and there were often periods when they were estranged.

As he got older Tracy was diagnosed with diabetes, exacerbated by his alcoholism. Seventeen days after filming had ended on his last film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?", with Katherine Hepburn, he died of a heart attack at age sixty seven.

Seventeen years after his death, Katherine Hepburn wrote the following letter to him:
"Living wasn't easy for you, was it? What did you like to do? Sailing - especially in stormy weather. You loved polo, but tennis, golf, swimming - no, not really. Walking - no, that didn't suit you - that was one of those things where you could think at the same time. Of this, of that...of what, Spence, what was it? Was it some specific thing, like being a Catholic and you felt a bad Catholic? You concentrated on all the bad, none of the good which your religion offered. It must've been something very fundamental, very ever-present. And the incredible fact that there you were, really the greatest movie actor - you could do it, and you could do it with that glorious simplicity, that directness. You couldn't enter your own life, but you could be someone else. You were the character in a moment, you hardly had to study - what a relief, you could be someone else for awhile, you weren't you, you were safe. And then back to life's trials: 'Oh, hell, take a drink. Yes. No. Maybe.' And then stop taking those drinks - you were great at that, Spence, you could just stop. How I respected you for that - very unusual. But why the escape hatch? Why was it always open? To get away from the remarkable you. I always meant to ask you. Did you know what it was? Are you having a long rest after all your tossing and turning in life? Are you happy finally?"

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