Spencer Bonaventure Tracy (April 5, 1900 June 10, 1967) was an American actor. Respected for his natural style and versatility, Tracy was one of the major stars during The Golden Age of Hollywood. In a screen career that spanned 37 years and featured 75 movies, he was nominated for nine Academy Awards for Best Actor and won two, sharing the record for nominations in this category with Laurence Olivier. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Tracy as one of the top ten Hollywood legends.
Tracy, a notable casanova, famously maintained a relationship with Katharine Hepburn for 26 years, his twin soul inside and outside the film sets, acting together in 9 movies. Tracy never returned to live in the family home and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer moguls were careful to protect their contract big stars from controversy. Tracy wished to conceal his relationship with Hepburn from his wife (and as a devout Catholic, he would never divorce her), so it was hidden from the public. The couple did not live together until the final years of Tracy's life, but the nature of the Tracy-Hepburn partnership was an Open Secret.
Spencer Tracy was often cited by his contemporaries as the one of the best actors in films. Tracy portrays characters with on-screen style, seamless naturalism and subtle inflections, he simply is the man he is playing. In an era when movie stars found their niches and repeated their popular roles with only minor changes, Tracy ranged from sportswriter, convict or patriarch to war hero, fisherman, judge or priest. He could be hilarious in comedy, frightening in anger or tender in love scenes.
Alas, Tracy was also a notorious drunk to the point where the studio had an ambulance on standby on nights out to get him out of sight when he was on a bender. That heavy drinking likely had an effect on affecting his looks making him look older than he actually was. In addition, for all his relationship with Hepburn, Tracy was openly verbally abusive with her with continual insults and criticism of her and her work.
Spencer died in 1967, two weeks after the completion of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Tracy's seemingly effortless approach earned him the respect of his peers, helping him to become one of the most distinguished and venerated actors of his generation. His requiem congregated an unprecedented amount of stars and active pallbearers included George Cukor, Stanley Kramer, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart and John Ford.
- Man's Castle (1933)
- The Power and the Glory (1933)
- The Murder Man (1935)
- Fury (1936)
- Libeled Lady (1936) - Screwball Comedy with William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Jean Harlow
- San Francisco (1936)
- Captains Courageous (1937) - An adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's book of the same name that got him his first Oscar.
- Boys Town (1938) - Second Oscar.
- Test Pilot (1938)
- Boom Town (1940)
- Northwest Passage (1940)
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)
- Woman of the Year (1942) - The first of his nine films with Katherine Hepburn
- A Guy Named Joe (1943)
- Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
- State of the Union (1948)
- Adam's Rib (1949)
- Father of the Bride (1950)
- Bad Day at Black Rock (1954)
- Desk Set (1957)
- The Old Man and the Sea (1958)
- The Last Hurrah (1958)
- Inherit the Wind (1960)
- Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
- Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
Spencer Tracy in fiction
- The Aviator depicts Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (played by Kevin O'Rourke) hooking up on a movie set while she's still in a relationship with Howard Hughes (in reality, she and Hughes had already broken up).
Tropes associated with Spencer Tracy.
- Cool Old Guy: Most of his roles late in his career are aged, positive characters.
- Dueling-Stars Movie: Starred in nine movies with Katharine Hepburn over 25 years.
- Younger Than They Look: A Silver Fox who began to play characters close to retirement age while he was still in his 40s.