Spencer Bonaventure Tracy (April 5, 1900 – June 10, 1967) was an American actor, noted for his natural style and versatility. One of the major stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, Tracy was nominated for nine Academy Awards for Best Actor and won two, sharing the record for nominations in that category with Laurence Olivier.
Tracy discovered his talent for acting while attending Ripon College, and later received a scholarship for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He spent seven years in the theatre, working in a succession of stock companies and intermittently on Broadway. Tracy's breakthrough came in 1930, when his lead performance in The Last Mile caught the attention of Hollywood. After a successful film debut in Up the River, Tracy was signed to a contract with Fox Film Corporation. His five years with Fox were unremarkable, and he remained largely unknown to audiences after 25 films. In 1935, Tracy joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Hollywood's most prestigious studio. His career flourished with a series of hit films, and in 1937 and 1938 he won consecutive Oscars for Captains Courageous and Boys Town. By the 1940s, Tracy was one of the studio's top stars. In 1942 he appeared with Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year, beginning a popular partnership that produced nine movies over 25 years.
Tracy left MGM in 1955 and continued to work regularly as a freelance star, despite an increasing weariness as he aged. His personal life was troubled, with a lifelong struggle against alcoholism and guilt over his son's deafness. Tracy became estranged from his wife in the 1930s but never divorced, conducting a long-term relationship with Katharine Hepburn in private. Towards the end of his life, Tracy worked almost exclusively for director Stanley Kramer. It was for Kramer that he made his last film, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), completed 17 days before Tracy's death.
During his career, Tracy appeared in 75 films and developed a reputation among his peers as one of the screen's greatest actors. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Tracy as one of the top ten Hollywood legends.
By Dean Hanley
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