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Spencer Tracy

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Spencer Tracy

Postby movieman1957 » May 10th, 2010, 2:42 pm

It doesn't seem like we talk much about Tracy. He always seemed like he spoke with confidence and authority even in his comedies. Though not particularly handsome he did have a screen presence that held your attention.

Some of my favorites include -

Inherit The Wind.
Father Of The Bride.
Bad Day At Black Rock.
Adam's Rib.

I think he gives a fine performance in "State of The Union." His little dinner time speech in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" is wonderful because it rings so true and heartfelt.

One of the best.
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby MichiganJ » May 10th, 2010, 3:19 pm

To me, Tracy is among the best actors of classic Hollywood. His performances always seem natural.
Some favorites include:
Libeled Lady; Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (I like the psychological approach of his version); his pairings with Hepburn (best scene--the rooftop lunch in Desk Set); his quiet authority in Judgement at Nuremberg; back to the humor in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby kingrat » May 10th, 2010, 5:44 pm

Tracy knows how to act for the camera. A Man's Castle is another fine role, and it's interesting to see him cast against type as a villain in Edward, My Son who shrewdly manipulates his own image. As MichiganJ said, he has quiet authority in Judgment at Nuremberg; the film probably wouldn't work without him.

He does, however, need a strong director to rein him in and keep him from too much mugging and scene-stealing. George Sidney lets him do whatever he wants in Cass Timberlane, so for me Lana Turner actually gives the subtler and stronger performance.

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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby mrsl » May 10th, 2010, 7:31 pm

.
I often mention Tracy when talking about the best actors of our generation. His finest hour was definitely Inherit the Wind, but he has so many excellent credits to his name, it is hard to really choose one. He was great in Captains Courageous, and certainly held his own in Bad Day at Black Rock, but I have to add Boom Town and San Francisco to that list of your movieman 1957, because so often when I'm watching either movie, I find myself drawn to watching Tracy rather than Gable or Claudette Colbert or Jeanette MacDonald. I'm not all that made about his movies with Hepburn, except certain scenes, like the rooftop as mentioned. When he headed West for Northwest Passage and the 2 or 3 other westerns he made, he did exceptional credit to them as well.

To put it the most bluntly, I guess you could say Spencer Tracy never did a bad movie role, there are some I prefer over others, but I've never seen him in anything he couldn't do justice to, including romantic interests, as long as he had the right leading lady, which he did in Cass Timberlane.
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby movieman1957 » May 10th, 2010, 10:07 pm

I think "Northwest Passage" is quite an exciting film. Tracy is good in what seems an unusual casting. Good action.
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby Lzcutter » May 11th, 2010, 12:16 am

I've always liked Spencer Tracy, an actor's actor, as many of his contemporaries and the next generation referred to him as. I especially liked him in his 1930s comedies with Jean Harlow and the other MGM ladies who played opposite him. He had such verve and such a way of with the lines from those movies, Libeled Lady, Riff Raff, and, of course, the series of films he did with Gable.

I like his other films but he seemed very comfortable being a young scamp in his films from the 1930s.
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby jdb1 » May 11th, 2010, 5:21 pm

There has been so much said about Tracy by classic film fans, that maybe we've run out of comments by this time.

I can say that Tracy is one of my very favorite screen actors. I believe completely everything he says on the screen -- he was a consummately natural film performer.

Tracy showed great range and subtlety in his characterizations, and although he professed to be uncomfortable playing less than admirable characters, he did it well and with total conviction. I am always impressed by his Jekyll/Hyde, a part he didn't like. I think the discomfort he felt with Hyde may have been due to the discomfort he felt with that side of his own personality (which apparently came out full force when he was drunk). I like Tracy's Hyde the best of all classic versions -- that man is scary, visceral, and intensely physical. The danger and sexual depravity of the character is very much in evidence -- far moreso, I think, than in the overwrought, showy versionss given to us by Barrymore and March.

The onscreen pairing of Tracy and Hepburn was an inspiration. Their outwardly opposite personalities and styles were fun to watch, and the undercurrent of emotional and physical attraction was always evident.

Very few screen actors can hold my complete attention the way that Spencer Tracy always does.

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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby charliechaplinfan » May 16th, 2010, 2:08 pm

I used to overlook Spencer Tracy when I first got interested in classic film, I don't know why, perhaps I didn't watch the right films but I think mostly it's because he did what he did so effortlessly, he is that person onscreen whereas others are just playing their parts. There are other actors whose performances I always admire, like Montgomery Clift but I know into his performances went an awful lot of effort and perfectionism. I don't know how Spencer Tracy worked, if he had a method but I know that he makes it look easy.

Perhaps that's the reason we haven't dedicated a thread to him until now.

My favorites, Woman of the Year with Hepburn, Adam's Rib with Hepburn, Man's Castle with Loretta Young, Libelled Lady with Jean Harlow and JUdgement at Nuremburg with Dietrich. So quite a few favorites there :wink:
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby silentscreen » May 16th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Spencer Tracy is a great actor precisely because he made it look easy. When you have a gift, it always looks effortless. He's my Mom's favorite actor.
"Humor is nothing less than a sense of the fitness of things." Carole Lombard

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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby charliechaplinfan » May 17th, 2010, 6:11 am

Your Mum has good taste :wink:
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby silentscreen » May 17th, 2010, 7:06 pm

I always thought of Spencer Tracy as being older- and then I saw him with Loretta Young in "Man's Castle" and Woo-Woo! While not traditionally handsome, he was masculine and sensual. He didn't make a movie until he was thirty. He was Kate Hepburn's favorite actor too. 8)

He's a real tough guy in "Man's Castle", LOL. Precode Ahead!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39a-93DuRRQ&feature=related[youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M4_XZ3FLHw[/youtube]
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Spencer Tracy

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » July 3rd, 2012, 5:51 pm

I just ran across this wonderful article about Spencer Tracy's son, John, by Mary Claire Kendall at Forbes, and wanted to give this thread a little bump:

Image
Spencer Tracy

On July 6, 2007, when I was interviewing A.C. Lyles, a Hollywood institution, known as “Mr. Paramount,” he suggested I write about someone who was never a star but had an enormous impact on the life of one of Hollywood’s greatest—Spencer Tracy, who died 45 years ago this June 10.

A.C. was referring to John Tracy, son of his good friend “Spence,” whose birthday is today, June 26th.

That day, five Julys ago, A.C. reflected how he had recently given the eulogy at John’s funeral and thought he would make a great subject for one of my next articles.  He was right.  John’s story completes the unfinished portrait of Spencer Tracy.

I share with you the article I wrote in 2007 about this amazing father-son relationship, first published in DbI Review three year later.

A special thanks to A.C. Lyles for setting me on this path, starting a journey that has touched my heart so deeply and is still ongoing, including a recent visit with the family at John Tracy’s ranch.

********************

It is said—our strength is our weakness. In the case of Spencer Tracy and his son John Ten Broeck Tracy, who died in Acton, California on June 15, 2007—five days after the 40th anniversary of his father’s death—nothing could be truer.

“Spence was considered by many to be the greatest actor the screen had ever seen,” his good friend, 82-year Paramount veteran, A.C. Lyles told me.

Yet, the painful emotion he felt upon learning, in 1925, that his baby son, John, was deaf was the hardest of blows. The only thing Spencer Tracy was not good at, he candidly admitted, was “life.”

His son John, on the other hand—dealt a whole series of setbacks, in what, at age 22, he would term “My Complicated Life” in an article he wrote for The Volta Review—was great at life.

If only Spencer Tracy could have read the script, he would have discovered John would soon hear the voice of God a little more loudly; see with the eyes of faith a little more clearly; and grow a big heart, drenched with hope and optimism.

As John’s daughter-in-law Cyndi Tracy said, “He just always had an uncanny ability to accept God’s love and always knew (his suffering) was going to be for a greater good.” It was never “Why me?” or “Poor me.”

God, he felt certain, had a plan.

The Plan’s Unfolding

When Louise Treadwell met Spencer Tracy, her theatrical star was rising. Spencer, four years her junior, was just starting out.

It was early 1923. They were both arriving in Grand Rapids, Michigan to play in the same stock company. As fate would have it, they alighted the train station platform simultaneously.

The attraction between these two polar opposites, descended from, respectively, English blue bloods and working-class Irishmen, was immediate. Six weeks later, in between the matinee and evening shows in Cincinnati, Ohio, they got married. Nine months and two weeks hence, on June 26, 1924, in Spencer’s hometown of Milwaukee, their little bundle of joy arrived.

Turning Point

One day, while John lay napping, the screen door accidentally slammed behind Louise and he kept peacefully slumbering on. She immediately—instinctively—knew he was deaf. The diagnosis came back as nerve damage of unknown origin. Unbeknownst to them, he had what is known as Usher Syndrome, which also causes gradual blindness due to Retinitis Pigmentosa—starting at birth.

The doctors said the Tracy’s best option was to place John in an institution for retarded children at age six. The Tracys would hear none of that and promptly went to work—talking to him, reading him nursery rhymes, playing games with him… loving him.

“Spence,” said Lyles, “was absolutely marvelous with him;” but “gave all credit to (Louise)” for John’s progress.

Early on she “kept repeating the word ‘talk’… a hundred… sometimes three hundred times” in twice or thrice daily “exercises.” One day, said Lyles, when she finished, John, then 3 or 4, leaned his head close to hers and said, “talk”—his very first word.

Tragedy again visited when John contracted polio at age six, leaving him with a withered right leg. That same year, Lyles recounted, Louise “gave up her career to devote herself entirely to her son and studied everything she could get her hands on about (educating deaf children).” No institution existed at the time that worked with parents of deaf children to teach them how to help their children develop a bridge to the speaking, hearing world.

Silver Lining

John’s travails motivated Spencer to work much harder so he could give his son all the financial help he needed to overcome his disability. The irony is, it is John’s very disability that provided the impetus for Spencer to overcome what his good friend and fellow actor Lynne Overman said was a tendency toward laziness, thereby becoming the acting legend he was.

The father-son bond was stronger than ever and was set for life.

John learned how to lip-read perfectly and to speak, read and write and was fully functioning by age 11, when he began to write his daily journals. Three years later, he started “publishing” his “Newsy News” for friends and family.

When John was 17, Louise first spoke publicly, in her lovely English-accented tones, about raising and educating a deaf child. Her speech at the University of Southern California led her, a year later, in 1942, to found, in a campus bungalow, with Spencer’s money, the John Tracy Clinic.  It became the only such entity worldwide to provide service, free of charge, to parents of infants and preschool children born with hearing losses.

Walt Disney, with whom the family played polo at the Will Rogers Ranch and The Riviera Polo Club, was one of the original board members.

In 1975, poignancy overflowing, Louise was the first recipient of the Father Flanagan Award for her special service to youth; and, around the same time, she helped establish the Boys Town National Research Hospital for Usher Syndrome: Boys Town, saved from bankruptcy and oblivion by Spencer Tracy’s Oscar-winning performance as Father Flanagan, was now rescuing those who suffer John’s same sensory afflictions.

“Our Everyday Blessing”

John was always intent, as his son and fellow artist, Joseph Spencer Tracy, characterized it, on living “each day to the fullest, regardless” of his daily challenges.

“I’m an artist, writer, photographer; I played polo, tennis; swim, water-ski, dance,” he wrote in his journal in 1975.” I got married, had a family. I’m also profoundly deaf, going blind, had polio. What can you do?”

Well, apparently everything!

Endowed with a high IQ and an athlete’s body, he energetically poured himself into life, blissfully unaware of his multiple disabilities until he was in his twenties.

He loved horses, which mirrored his own “gentle” spirit, and the invigorating sense of freedom riding gave him: It reminded him of his “favorite” times of life at the family ranch in Encino (1936-1955), so full of fond memories like the day he started playing polo at age 12. (He had only begun riding three years earlier.) That day, one of the players was injured and Spencer summoned him to ‘come on down!’

Through it all, he had, Cyndi said, a “tremendous sense of humor” and the “charm of an angel.” Fittingly, he did a dead-on impersonation of his father, which no professional comedian has ever achieved.

John graduated from Pasadena City College then attended Chouinard Art Institute, graduating in 1955, the same year his son was born. He subsequently worked at Walt Disney Studios in the props department for nearly five years, until his eyesight started failing. But, he continued doing his watercolor paintings and pen and ink and pencil drawings, as he was able to.  He was declared legally blind in the early eighties and, by 1994, was totally blind.

“The moment you met him,” Cyndi said, “your life was changed. You knew that you were in the company of someone great, who was, at the same time, the most humble person you would ever meet.” Quite simply, he had no idea how positively he impacted others’ lives.

“Pa Pa Johnny,” Cyndi said, “was truly ‘our everyday blessing.’”

John attended Sunday services at All Saints Episcopal Church in Beverly Hills for decades with his mother, who died in 1983. He would also pray nightly in an elaborate ritual that, Cyndi said, revealed his “darling personality.” The family—Joe’s family, sister Susie, the cousins, among others—“was lined up in the same order every night.” But “all his friends and acquaintances were always jockeying for position.”

“He was strong until the end,” said Joe, and “always prayed for other people, didn’t pray for himself”—a lesson in selflessness he communicated to his three grandchildren.

As for actually communicating with words, John could talk, but his deafness combined with his blindness required some special techniques for his family to reply back.

Cyndi described how he loved to converse and remembered with particular warmth those special times, often at the end of a long day, that she would be perched next to him as he would regale her with fascinating stories. She would reply by spelling words on his back. Or, for shorter responses, she would spell words on his hand—a hand that so often held her hand, while tapping her other hand, as he said, “God bless you, Cyndi. Thank you. ”

For, whatever else he was, John Tracy was always profoundly grateful for all life’s blessings.

Originally published in DBI Review, Number 45, January-June 2010. 

 


This article is available online at:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/maryclairek ... -son-john/
 

 
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby MissGoddess » July 3rd, 2012, 6:08 pm

thank you for this, Sue-Sue. I've always wanted to know a little more about this understandably private, sacred side of Tracy's life. I'm so delighted he had a happy child, which is a far, far better---and rarer---blessing than any degree of physical perfection.
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » July 3rd, 2012, 6:11 pm

Thanks, Miss G. I thought this article was so inspiring, and am just now reading Spencer Tracy by James Curtis, 2011.

If you follow the link at the end of the article, you can see photos of father and son. For some reason, I couldn't load them.
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Re: Spencer Tracy

Postby MissGoddess » July 3rd, 2012, 6:23 pm

Thank you, I love the pictures. It looks like his son John maintained the peace in his soul his father seldom seemed to find. I'm very glad to learn Spencer worked hard for his family, not for himself, not for glory or fame.
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