Spencer Tracy

A Biography

James Curtis,

Spencer Tracy: A Biography
 
 
A rich, vibrant portrait—the most intimate and telling yet of this complex man considered by many to be the actor’s actor.

Spencer Tracy’s image on-screen was that of a self-reliant man whose sense of rectitude toward others was matched by his sense of humor toward himself. Whether he was Father Flanagan of Boys Town, Clarence Darrow of Inherit the Wind, or the crippled war veteran in Bad Day at Black Rock, Tracy was forever seen as a pillar of strength.

His full name was Spencer Bonaventure Tracy. He was called “The Gray Fox” by Frank Sinatra; other actors called him the “The Pope.” 

“The best goddamned actor I’ve ever seen!”—George M. Cohan

In his several comedy roles opposite Katharine Hepburn (Woman of the Year and Adam’s Rib among them) or in Father of the Bride with Elizabeth Taylor, Tracy was the sort of regular American guy one could depend on.

Now James Curtis, acclaimed biographer of Preston Sturges (“Definitive” —Variety), James Whale, and W. C. Fields (“By far the fullest, fairest, and most touching account . . . we have yet had. Or are likely to have” —Richard Schickel, The New York Times Book Review, cover review), gives us the life of one of the most revered screen actors of his generation.

Curtis writes of Tracy’s distinguished career, his deep Catholicism, his devoted relationship to his wife, his drinking that got him into so much trouble, and his twenty-six-year-long bond with his partner on-screen and off, Katharine Hepburn. Drawing on Tracy’s personal papers and writing with the full cooperation of Tracy’s daughter, Curtis tells the rich story of the brilliant but haunted man at the heart of the legend.

We see him from his boyhood in Milwaukee; given over to Dominican nuns (“They drill that religion in you”); his years struggling in regional shows and stock (Tracy had a photographic memory and an instinct for inhabiting a character from within); acting opposite his future wife, Louise Treadwell; marrying and having two children, their son, John, born deaf.

We see Tracy’s success on Broadway, his turning out mostly forgettable programmers with the Fox Film Corporation, and going to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and getting the kinds of roles that had eluded him in the past—a streetwise priest opposite Clark Gable in San Francisco; a screwball comedy, Libeled Lady; Kipling’s classic of the sea, Captains Courageous. Three years after arriving at MGM, Tracy became America’s top male star.

We see how Tracy embarked on a series of affairs with his costars . . . making Northwest Passage and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which brought Ingrid Bergman into his life. By the time the unhappy shoot was over, Tracy, looking to do a comedy, made Woman of the Year. Its unlikely costar: Katharine Hepburn.

We see Hepburn making Tracy her life’s project—protecting and sustaining him in the difficult job of being a top-tier movie star.

And we see Tracy’s wife, Louise, devoting herself to studying how deaf children could be taught to communicate orally with the hearing and speaking world.

Curtis writes that Tracy was ready to retire when producer-director Stanley Kramer recruited him for Inherit the Wind—a collaboration that led to Judgment at Nuremberg, It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and Tracy’s final picture, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner . . .

A rich, vibrant portrait—the most intimate and telling yet of this complex man considered by many to be the actor’s actor.


  • ;
  • ISBN:
  • Edition:
  • Title:
  • Series:
  • Author:
  • Imprint:
  • Language:

In The Press


About The Author


Customer Reviews

Verified Buyer

Read online

If you’re using a PC or Mac you can read this ebook online in a web browser, without downloading anything or installing software.

Download file formats

This ebook is available in file types:

This ebook is available in:

After you've bought this ebook, you can choose to download either the PDF version or the ePub, or both.

DRM Free

The publisher has supplied this book in DRM Free form with digital watermarking.

Required software

You can read this eBook on any device that supports DRM-free EPUB or DRM-free PDF format.

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

The publisher has supplied this book in encrypted form, which means that you need to install free software in order to unlock and read it.

Required software

To read this ebook on a mobile device (phone or tablet) you'll need to install one of these free apps:

To download and read this eBook on a PC or Mac:

  • Adobe Digital Editions (This is a free app specially developed for eBooks. It's not the same as Adobe Reader, which you probably already have on your computer.)

Limits on printing and copying

The publisher has set limits on how much of this ebook you may print or copy. See details.

  • {{ format_drm_information.format_name }} unrestricted {{ format_drm_information.format_name }} {{format_drm_information.page_percent}}% pages every day{{format_drm_information.interval}} days {{ format_drm_information.format_name }} off
Read Aloud
  • {{ read_aloud_information.format_name }} on {{ read_aloud_information.format_name }} off
Subject categories
  •  > 
ISBNs