|Birth: ||Apr. 5, 1900|
|Death: ||Jun. 10, 1967|
Los Angeles County
Academy Award Winning Actor. His screen career spanned 37 years and he was one of the major stars of Hollywood's Golden Age. He appeared in 75 films and was nominated for nine Academy Awards for Best Actor, a category record he holds with Sir Laurence Olivier and was the first of nine actors to win the award twice, and is one of two actors to receive it consecutively, the other being Tom Hanks. He was also nominated for five British Academy Film Awards, of which he won two, and four Golden Globe Awards, winning once. Additionally, he received the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actor and was once named Best Actor by the National Board of Review. Born Spencer Bonaventure Tracy, his father was a truck salesman from an Irish-catholic background and his mother hailed from a wealthy Presbyterian Midwestern family. He became fascinated with motion pictures at a young age, watching the same ones repeatedly and then re-enacting scenes to his friends and neighbors. A difficult and hyperactive child with poor school attendance, he attended several Jesuit academies in his teenage years, which he claimed took the "badness" out of him and his grades improved. In 1918, before finishing high school, he enlisted in the US Navy and was sent to the Naval Training Station in North Chicago, where he was still a student when World War I came to an end. He achieved the rank of seaman second class, but never went to sea and was discharged in February 1919. He returned to high school and obtained his diploma. Studies at two more institutions plus the additional allowance of "war credits" won him a place at Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin in February 1921, with the intention to study medicine. It was at Ripon where he developed a passion for acting, making his stage debut in June 1921, playing the male lead in "The Truth." He formed an acting company with friends, which they called "The Campus Players" and went on tour. As a member of the college debate team, he excelled in arguing and public speaking. It was during a tour with his debate team that he auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) in New York City, New York and was offered a scholarship. He started classes at AADA in April 1922 and was deemed fit to progress to the senior class, allowing him to join the academy stock company called the Woods Players. He 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. After several failures in several stock companies over the next year, he finally achieved some success by joining forces with the notable stock manager William H. Wright in the spring of 1924. 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 him to the attention of a Broadway producer, who offered him the lead in a new play, "The Sheepman," that previewed in October 1925, but it received poor reviews and closed after its trial run in Connecticut and he returned to the stock circuit. In the fall of 1926 he was offered a role in a new George M. Cohan play called "Yellow." He was nervous about working with Cohan, who was 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 and while reviews were mixed, it ran for 135 performances. His next play was Cohan's "The Baby Cyclone," which opened on Broadway in September 1927 and proved successful. He followed it with "Whispering Friends" and "Conflict" among others. In October 1929 he appeared in the play "Dread" to an excellent reception at its preview but the following day, the New York stock market crashed, funding was lost, and it did not appear on Broadway. In January 1930 he was cast as a serial killer on death row in a new play called "The Last Mile." It opened on Broadway the following month, and his intense performance was met by a standing ovation that lasted 14 curtain calls. The play was a hit with the critics and it ran for 289 performances. In 1930 he made his first venture into films, cast in two Vitaphone short movies, "Taxi Talks" and "The Hard Guy," but had not considered becoming a film actor. One of the talent scouts who saw him in "The Last Mile" was director John Ford, who wanted him for the lead role in his next picture, a prison movie. While Fox Film Corporation was unsure about him saying that he did not photograph well, Ford convinced them that he was right for the role, and "Up the River" (1930) marked his first major film debut along with actor Humphrey Bogart. He went on to appear in his second film "Quick Millions" (1931), and three more films followed that proved unsuccessful at the box office. His next film, "Disorderly Conduct" (1932), made a profit. In mid-1932, after nine pictures, Tracy remained virtually unknown to the public. 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 Brothers for "20,000 Years in Sing Sing" (1932), a prison drama co-starring Bette Davis, and despite good reviews he failed to get his break-our role. He appeared in "The Power and the Glory" (1933) and the film critics began to take notice and his performance as railroad tycoon 'Tom Garner' received strong reviews. In "Shanghai Madness" (1933), he garnered a previously unseen sex appeal and served to advance his standing. However, his next movie, "Man's Castle" (1933) went largely unnoticed. In 1934 he was loaned to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Studios for "The Show Off" and while it proved popular, his subsequent outings continued to be unsuccessful. During his years with Fox, he gained a reputation of being an alcoholic and was soon terminated with them while recovering in the hospital from a two-week drinking binge. In April 1935 MGM offered him a seven-year contract and his contract with Fox was terminated by mutual consent. During his five years with Fox, he made a total of 25 pictures, most of which lost money at the box office. His first film under MGM was "The Murder Man" (1935), which included the feature film debut of actor James Stewart. This was soon followed by "Whipsaw" (1935, with Myrna Loy), and "Riffraff" (1936, with Jean Harlow). His 1936 film "Fury" finally proved that he could make a success on his own merit and his stardom began to skyrocket. The film was popular with the public, and went on to make $1.3 million worldwide. He followed it with "San Francisco" (1936, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor), "Libeled Lady" (1936), "They Gave Him a Gun" (1937), "Captains Courageous" (1937, for which he won the Academy Award in the Best Actor category for his role as the Portuguese fisherman 'Manuel Fidello'), "Big City" (1937), "Mannequin" (1937), "Test Pilot" (1938), and "Boys Town" (1938, for which he received an Academy Award again in the Best Actor category for his role as 'Father Edward Flanagan'). In 1939 he was loaned to 20th Century Fox for "Stanley and Livingstone," his only film that year. In 1940 he appeared in four movies, "I Take This Woman," "Northwest Passage" (his first film in Technicolor), "Edison, the Man," and "Boom Town." In 1941 he returned to the role of 'Father Edward Flanagan' in "Men of Boys Town," followed by his only venture into the horror genre, an adaptation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." In 1942 he appeared in "Woman of the Year,' his first of nine films with Katharine Hepburn. This was followed with John Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat" (1942), "Keeper of the Flame" (1942, with Hepburn), war films "A Guy Named Joe" (1943), "The Seventh Cross" (1944), and "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo" (1944), and "Without Love" (1945, with Hepburn). In 1945 he returned briefly to the stage with "The Rugged Path" but it lasted only six weeks before closing. The following year he was absent from films, marking the first year since his motion picture debut that there was no Spencer Tracy release. His next film was "The Sea of Grass" (1947, with Hepburn), followed later that year by "Cass Timberlane." In 1948 he appeared in Frank Capra's political drama "State of the Union," with Hepburn. He then appeared in "Edward, My Son" (1949, with Deborah Kerr) in a role that he disliked, and it became his biggest money-loser at MGM. He finished off the 1940s with "Malaya" (1949) and "Adam's Rib" (1949, with Hepburn). In 1950 he received his first Academy Award nomination in 12 years for his role as 'Stanley Banks' in "Father of the Bride," with Elizabeth Taylor, followed by "Father's Little Dividend" (1951), "The People Against O'Hara" (1951), "Pat and Mike" (1952, with Hepburn), Plymouth Adventure" (1952), and "The Actress" (1953, for which he won a Golden Globe Award and was nominated for the British Academy Film Award (BAFTA)). In 1954 he was loaned to 20th Century Fox for "Broken Lance," his only film appearance that year. In 1955 he starred in "Bad Day at Black Rock," for which he received a fifth Oscar nomination and was awarded the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1956 he opted to go independent for the first time in his film career and appeared in "The Mountain" (1956, for which he earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Actor), "Desk Set" (1957, with Hepburn), Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" (1958, for which he received an Academy Award and BAFTA nomination), and "The Last Hurrah" (1958). He did not appear in another movie again until October 1960, when he partnered with director Stanley Kramer 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. Kramer sought him for the role of lawyer 'Clarence Darrow' from the outset. The film garnered him some of the strongest reviews of his career, including an Academy Award, BAFTA Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for his performance, but it was not a commercial hit. In 1961 he appeared in "The Devil at 4 O'clock" with Frank Sinatra. His other Kramer films include "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961, for which he received an Academy Award nomination), the comedy "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963), and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" (1967, his final film with Hepburn, for which he received a posthumous Academy Award nomination). As he entered his sixties, years of drinking, smoking, taking pills and being overweight left him in poor health. In July 1963, he was hospitalized after a severe attack of breathlessness and doctors discovered that he was suffering from pulmonary edema, where fluid accumulates in the lungs due to an inability of the heart to pump properly, dangerously high blood pressure. Afterwards, he remained very weak, and Hepburn moved into his home to provide constant care. In January 1965 he was diagnosed with hypertensive heart disease, and began treatment for a previously ignored diagnosis of diabetes. He spent the majority of the next two years at home with Hepburn. He died of a heart attack in his home at the age of 67, only 17 days after completing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." He was married to actress Louise Treadwell in 1923 whom he met at the Woods Players stock company in White Plains, New York. They separated in 1933 but were never divorced. He reconciled with her in 1935 and there was never again an official separation, but they continued to live apart. He frequently engaged in extramarital affairs with his co-stars, including Loretta Young (1933 to 1934), Joan Crawford in 1937, and Ingrid Bergman in 1941. In September 1941 he began a relationship with Katharine Hepburn while making "Woman of the Year" that would continue until his death. The film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" was included on the American Film Institute's (AFI) list of the 100 greatest American movies. In 1999 the AFI ranked him as one of the top ten Hollywood legends. (bio by: William Bjornstad)
Cause of death: Heart attack.
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)
Los Angeles County
Plot: Garden of Everlasting Peace, immediately to the right as you enter.
GPS (lat/lon): 34.1226, -118.23508
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 1040