Spencer Tracy


Spencer Bonaventure Tracy (April 5, 1900 – June 10, 1967) was an American actor, known for his natural performing style and versatility. One of the major stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Tracy won two Academy Awards for Best Actor from nine nominations, sharing the record for nominations in the category with Laurence Olivier. 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 the 9th greatest male star of Classic Hollywood Cinema.

Tracy first discovered his talent for acting while attending Ripon College, and he 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 John Ford‘s Up the River starring (also featuring Humphrey Bogart), he was signed to a contract with Fox Film Corporation. His five years with Fox featured one acting tour de force after another that were usually ignored at the box office, and he remained largely unknown to audiences after 25 films, almost all of them starring Tracy as the leading man. None of them were hits although his performance in The Power and the Glory (1933), with Colleen Moore, Ralph Morgan, snd Helen Vinson – was praised at the time. Other notable films around this time include Irving Cummings’ The Mad Game (1933), with Claire Trevor, Ralph Morgan, and J. Carrol Naish

In 1935, Tracy joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, then Hollywood’s most prestigious studio. His career flourished from Fritz Lang‘s Fury (1936) onwards, and in 1937 and 1938 he won consecutive Oscars for Victor Fleming‘s Captains Courageous (1937), with Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, and Melvyn Douglas; and Norman Taurog’s Boys Town (1938), with Mickey Rooney, Henry Hull, Leslie Fenton, and Gene Reynolds. He made three box-office successes supporting Clark Gable, the studio’s most prominent leading man so that by the early 1940s, Tracy was one of the studio’s top stars. In 1942, he appeared with Katharine Hepburn in Woman of the Year, beginning another partnership leading to 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 severe alcoholism and guilt over his son’s deafness. Tracy became estranged from his wife in the 1930s, but the couple 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, on such films as Inherit the Wind (1960), with Frederic March, Gene Kelly, Dick York, Harry Morgan, Donna Anderson, Claude Akins, Noah Beery Jr., Florence Eldridge, and Jimmy Boyd; Judgement at Nuremberg (1961), with Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Werner Klemperer, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, William Shatner, and Montgomery Clift; and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), with Edie Adams, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Dorothy Provine, Mickey Rooney, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, and Jonathan Winters. It was for Kramer that he made his last film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), with Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Houghton – completed just 17 days before he died.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • Taxi Talks (1930) – directed by Roy Mack – short
  • The Strong Arm (1930) – directed by Edmund Joseph – uncredited/unconfirmed – short
  • The Hard Guy (1930) – directed by Arthur Hurley – short
  • Up the River (1930) – directed by John Ford
  • Quick Millions (1931) – directed by Rowland Brown
  • Six Cylinder Love (1931) – directed by Thornton Freeland
  • Goldie (1931) – directed by Benjamin Stoloff
  • She Wanted a Millionaire (1932) – directed by John G. Blystone
  • Sky Devils (1932) – directed by Edward Sutherland & Busby Berkeley
  • Disorderly Conduct (1932) – directed by John W. Considine Jr.
  • Young America (1932) – directed by Frank Borzage
  • Society Girl (1932) – directed by Sidney Lanfield
  • The Painted Woman (1932) – directed by John G. Blystone
  • Me and My Gal (1932) – directed by Raoul Walsh
  • 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932) – directed by Michael Curtiz
  • Face in the Sky (1933) – directed by Harry Lachman
  • Shanghai Madness (1933) – directed by John G. Blystone
  • The Power and the Glory (1933) – directed by William K. Howard
  • The Mad Game (1933) – directed by
  • Irving Cummings
  • Man’s Castle (1933) – directed by Frank Borzage
  • The Show-Off (1934) – directed by Harry Beaumont
  • Looking for Trouble (1934) – directed by William A. Wellman
  • Bottoms Up (1934) – directed by David Butler
  • Now I’ll Tell (1934) – directed by Edwin J. Burke
  • Marie Galante (1934) – directed by Henry King
  • It’s a Small World (1935) – directed by Irving Cummings
  • The Murder Man (1935) – directed by Tim Whelan
  • Dante’s Inferno (1935) – directed by Harry Lachman
  • Whipsaw (1935) – directed by Sam Wood
  • Riffraff (1936) – directed by J. Walter Ruben
  • Fury (1936) – directed by Fritz Lang
  • San Francisco (1936) – directed by W.S. Van Dyke & D.W. Griffith (uncredited)
  • Libeled Lady (1936) – directed by Jack Conway
  • They Gave Him a Gun (1937) – directed by W.S. Van Dyke
  • Captains Courageous (1937) – directed by Victor Fleming
  • Big City (1937) – directed by Frank Borzage
  • Mannequin (1937) – directed by Frank Borzage
  • Test Pilot (1938) – directed by Victor Fleming
  • Boys Town (1938) – directed by Norman Taurog
  • Stanley and Livingstone (1939) – directed by Henry King & Otto Brower
  • I Take This Woman (1940) – directed by W. S. Van Dyke
  • Young Tom Edison (1940) – directed by Norman Taurog – uncredited
  • Northwest Passage (1940) – directed by King Vidor
  • Edison, the Man (1940) – directed by Clarence Brown
  • Boom Town (1940) – directed by Jack Conway
  • Men of Boys Town (1941) – directed by Norman Taurog
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) – directed by Victor Fleming
  • Woman of the Year (1942) – directed by George Stevens
  • Tortilla Flat (1942) – directed by Victor Fleming
  • Keeper of the Flame (1942) – directed by George Cukor
  • A Guy Named Joe (1943) – directed by Victor Fleming
  • The Seventh Cross (1944) – directed by Fred Zinnermann
  • Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) – directed by Mervyn LeRoy
  • Without Love (1945) – directed by Harold S. Bucquet
  • Sea of Grass (1947) – directed by Elia Kazan
  • Cass Timberlane (1947) – directed by George Sidney
  • State of the Union (1948) – directed by Frank Capra
  • Edward, My Son (1949) – directed by George Cukor
  • Adam’s Rib (1949) – directed by George Cukor
  • Malaya (1949) – directed by Richard Thorpe
  • Father of the Bride (1950) – directed by Vincente Minnelli
  • Father’s Little Dividend (1951) – directed by Vincente Minnelli
  • The People Against O’Hara (1951) – directed by John Sturges
  • Pat and Mike (1952) – directed by George Cukor
  • Plymouth Adventure (1952) – directed by Clarence Brown
  • The Actress (1953) – directed by George Cukor
  • Broken Lance (1954) – directed by Edward Dmytryk
  • Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) – directed by John Sturges
  • The Mountain (1956) – directed by Edward Dmytryk
  • Desk Set (1957) – directed by Walter Lang
  • The Old Man and the Sea (1958) – by John Sturges (replaced Fred Zinnemann)
  • The Last Hurrah (1958) – directed by John Ford
  • Inherit the Wind (1960) – directed by Stanley Kramer
  • The Devil at 4 O’Clock (1961) – directed by Mervyn LeRoy
  • Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) – directed by Stanley Kramer
  • How the West Was Won (1962) – directed by John Ford, Henry Hathaway, & George Marshall
  • It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) – directed by Stanley Kramer
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) – directed by Stanley Kramer