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Who is Spencer Tracy?

Spencer Tracy was a tour-de-force of classic Hollywood, captivating audiences with his powerful performances across a career spanning 37 years. A two-time Oscar winner, Tracy's naturalistic acting style and everyman charisma made him a beloved figure in American cinema. Discover how his legacy continues to influence actors today and why his work remains a benchmark of excellence. What will you uncover about Tracy's storied life?
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Spencer Tracy (1900-1967) was a well known Hollywood actor who starred in a large number of popular films from the 1930s to the 1960s. Spencer Tracy is remembered as a courteous and gentle leading man, who was also active in animal welfare causes and children's charities. Spencer Tracy is consistently mentioned as one of the best actors of all time, and his versatile and compelling performances still stand out in the films he made.

Like many actors during the 1930s, Spencer Tracy made his start on Broadway, where he had a career as a well respected actor, appearing in a variety of productions before taking screen tests for several studios. He was at first rejected, but in 1930, John Ford insisted on casting Spencer Tracy in Up the River. After this first film, Tracy signed a contract with Fox Pictures and moved to Hollywood, making an astounding total of 20 films between 1930 and 1934.

After being rejected by Hollywood initially, actor Spencer Tracy went on to become a major film star.
After being rejected by Hollywood initially, actor Spencer Tracy went on to become a major film star.

Spencer Tracy was married to Louise Treadwell, with whom he had two children. He also had two affairs, one with Loretta Young in the 1930s and another with Katharine Hepburn, which began while the two were filming Woman of the Year in 1942. This affair lasted until Tracy's death in 1967, although he remained married to Louise Treadwell because his Catholic faith prohibited divorce.

Spencer Tracy is an Oscar winner.
Spencer Tracy is an Oscar winner.

Spencer Tracy filmed a dizzying number of films, winning back to back Oscars for his work on Captains Courageous (1937) and Boys Town (1938). Despite his initial rejection by Hollywood, Spencer Tracy went on to become a major box office draw. He often criticized his looks, feeling that he lacked the matinee idol features that many leading men of his day had, but this was clearly not an obstacle to his stellar film career.

In addition to being a superb actor, Spencer Tracy was an extremely talented painter, though most of his work is in private collections. He worked primarily in oils and painted in a very realistic, yet nostalgic style. Many of his paintings provided glimpses into the backstage of many Broadway productions, with young actresses in lacy costumes, shadowy sets, and rooms bustling with actors and actresses preparing to go on stage.

Spencer Tracy was secretly diagnosed with diabetes in the late 1940s, and it is likely complications of this disease that led to his death only nine weeks after Guess Who's Coming to Dinner finished filming in 1967. Tracy suffered from increasing ill health in the 1960s, making fewer films than during his 1930s heyday, and his death was a great loss to Hollywood.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon111111

I am curious to what your source is for your assertions about Tracy's paintings. I was under the impression that he was pretty much a duffer in that area. Could you discuss this more? Who has his paintings?

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    • After being rejected by Hollywood initially, actor Spencer Tracy went on to become a major film star.
      By: Perseomedusa
      After being rejected by Hollywood initially, actor Spencer Tracy went on to become a major film star.
    • Spencer Tracy is an Oscar winner.
      By: Danilo Rizzuti
      Spencer Tracy is an Oscar winner.