Spencer Tracy

Spencer Tracy

A Biography

Book - 2011
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Random House, Inc.
“The best goddamned actor I’ve ever seen!”—George M. Cohan

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

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 ofBoys Town, Clarence Darrow of Inherit the Wind, or the crippled war veteran inBad Day at Black Rock, Tracy was forever seen as a pillar of strength.

In his several comedy roles opposite Katharine Hepburn (Woman of the Year andAdam’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 inSan 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, madeWoman 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 forInherit 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 bethe actor’s actor.

Baker & Taylor
A major portrait of the revered screen actor known for his performances in such films as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Inherit the Wind is written with the cooperation of his daughter and draws on personal records to cover such topics as his family life, his battle with alcoholism and his long-time affair with Katharine Hepburn. 60,000 first printing.

Baker
& Taylor

A major portrait of the revered screen actor, written with the cooperation of his daughter, draws on personal records to cover his family life, his battle with alcoholism, and his long-time affair with Katharine Hepburn.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, c2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780307262899
Branch Call Number: BIO Tracy CUR
Characteristics: xix, 1001 p. :,ill., ports. ;,25 cm.

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steve1961 Mar 03, 2015

You probably need to be a pretty big Spencer Tracy fan to commit to this book, but if you are a fan, it's well worth the time. Author James Curtis takes the time to write the kind of biography that covers every aspect of his subject's life and career. The fact that Curtis covers every single movie Tracy appeared in (from the actor's initial involvement, through the production itself, then on to how the film was received by critics and the public) is what makes this a cut above the standard bio. As a general movie fan, I LOVE that kind of stuff. The book is very accessibly written and never feels "gossipy", trite or dry. Highly recommended.

willy56 Aug 15, 2013

At over 900 pages, this is a commitment to read. You had better be a huge Spenser Tracy fan or very interested in every detail of his life to take this one on.
The author, James Curtis, spent 6 years researching and writing this tome and made sure every word he wrote was well represented in the finished volume.
I do not need to read about every event in Tracy's early life to understand how it shaped him as a man and an actor. Curtis, on the other hand, feels that you must.
I enjoy Spenser Tracy movies but not reading this slow moving, dry and over-researched book.

c
carolannbagan
Aug 29, 2012

a great actor but a boring book.

songbirdofGod Feb 22, 2012

Superb, meticulously researched autobiography on one of the greatest actors of all time. His complex and individualistic personality, compounded with his life long problem with alcohol, problematic marriage,womanizing and Catholic guilt ridden demons are all presented in fascinating detail. The piece de resistance, of course, is the meeting of his soul mate Katharine Hepburn, her refusal to be his concubine and insistence on maintaining her individuality, expressing her distaste of his numerous affairs with Hollywood actresses by distancing herself from Tracy, yet the denouement, her solicitous care of Tracy in his final years, and her love and devotion never more evident than with him at his death, incredibly moving. This book is very long, over 900 pages, but well worth reading every word. Some reviewers on amazon have called it "dry", but not at all, in my opinion. It is a magnificent and penultimate tribute to one of our greatest actors.

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