When you look at the career of Spencer Tracy, you’ll see an actor who made a huge impact on the American movie industry. He starred in some of the most iconic films of the Golden Age of Hollywood and earned a reputation for being one of the greatest actors of his generation.
Spencer Tracy was born on April 5, 1900, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His father, John, was a truck salesman. Spencer’s mother, Caroline Brown, had an ancestry that traced back to Thomas Stebbins of England. She was a Protestant who converted to Christian Science. As a child, Spencer was placed under the care of Dominican nuns. He became interested in acting at a young age.
Although his father wanted him to be a doctor, Spencer was attracted to the motion picture industry. A film producer named John Ford was also interested in Tracy. The two men went on to make a number of movies together.
In 1923, Spencer and his wife, Louise Treadwell, met in New York. They were married in September that year. After their marriage, they relocated to Milwaukee. Their first son, John Tracy, was born in 1923. When he was nine months old, he became deaf. Louise tried to give him every advantage she could. While he was deaf, she tried to teach him to talk. But after three months, her marriage with Spencer began to break down.
As a teenager, Spencer attended the Marquette Academy in Milwaukee. Later, he transferred to the Rockhurst School in Kansas City. There he met his future classmate, Pat O’Brien. Soon, they were attending plays together.
As a high school student, Tracy was involved in debate team. Eventually, he enlisted in the US Navy. However, he never deployed to sea. During World War I, he was stationed at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia.
He also worked in stock companies. Initially, he made little money. Occasionally, he would take a job as a bellhop or janitor to supplement his income. Ultimately, Tracy decided to become an actor. This was because he found acting more rewarding than his studies.
After leaving the Navy, Tracy returned to Milwaukee. He was successful in campus drama productions. He appeared in a few plays, including one called The Truth. Despite his success, he was discouraged by the lack of pay. In fact, he often reenacted scenes from movies for strangers.
By 1928, Tracy had made his Broadway debut. He was joined by classmate Pat O’Brien in the play R.U.R., a science fiction story by Karel Capek. Although the film did not receive a favorable critical response, Tracy did well. For his performance, he received a $1500 raise.
Before his career took off, Tracy lived in Cincinnati. He was cast in a prison film produced by John Ford. At this point, he had a contract with Fox Film Corporation. During the next five years, Tracy appeared in 25 films. Despite his successes, he was criticized for his behavior.
Afterwards, he was offered a contract with MGM. He also starred in Up the River, a film that featured Humphrey Bogart.
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was a versatile American actor and one of the major stars of the Hollywood Golden Age. He was the first actor to win two consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actor. Throughout his long and prolific career, Tracy was recognized for his natural acting style. In fact, he was a master of the “moment.”
Having been born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tracy had a hard childhood. He attended Ripon College and was then sent to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. During his time there, he developed a passion for acting and began performing in stage productions. After graduating, he took up a position as an altar boy at a Catholic church in San Francisco.
During his time in the Bay Area, Tracy began to reshape the public face of the church in the city. In addition to his role in the church, he also performed in his first play, The Truth.
When Spencer Tracy died in 1967, he was sixty-seven. His name alone was enough to get him noticed at the box office. However, he became increasingly unpredictable due to alcoholism and his constant battle with addiction.
He was married to Louise Treadwell, who was deaf. She also founded a clinic for hearing-impaired children in Los Angeles. This made her the perfect choice to be Tracy’s co-star in the movie. Although her character was only a minor part, it was a powerful performance.
Katharine Hepburn was a great friend of Tracy and appeared in many of his films. Their relationship was a close one. They spent time together traveling the world and having intimate dinners. It was during these times that Katharine realized how much of an impact her acting had on her husband.
The two actresses met on the set of a movie. They became friends and shared international travels. While they didn’t always see each other, they did share a deep and abiding professional relationship. But Katharine’s love for Spencer never faded. As a result, Spencer and Katharine’s friendship is often overlooked.
Despite his many accomplishments, Spencer Tracy was not a very nice person. His alcoholism and constant battle with addiction led him to be hospitalized on a number of occasions. He died of a heart attack in 1967. He was buried in Freeport.
Nevertheless, it is his acting that is the subject of James Curtis’s “Spencer Tracy: A Life in Film,” which is a well-written biography of the Hollywood legend. For readers who are interested in a detailed description of the life and career of the man known as the best actor of his generation, Curtis’s book is a must.
Among his 73 movies, he did the most with a small budget. He was also the only black leading man in Hollywood. He won more fans than critics.