Spencer Tracy


  1. Paul Muni, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang, 1931.      Considered after James Cagney quit. Spence replaced him the next year for 20,000 Years In Sing Sing. Tracyderived from the Irsish surnameO’Tresant – Gallic for embattled. And so he was. Cool, quiet, ambitious but embattled by his booze (he was a violent drunnk), his born-deaf son, his adultery- inshort, by being a Roman Catholic.
  2. James Dunn, Bad Girl, 1931.    Tracy’s #1 supporter at Fox, producer Winfield R Sheehan was on leave and his deputy, Sol Wurzel, wanted newer (cheaper) actors and pushed Tracy aside for Dunn. (Worse still, Wurzel had Tracy supporting Dunn in his next film, Society Girl!).Sheehan returned. Too late. Tracy was soon rescued by Irving Thalberg at MGM.
  3. Victor McLaglen, Rackety Rax, 1932   .At least Winnie Sheehan managed to cut Tracy loose from the football yarn – Rose Bowl fever, circa ’32 – and loaned out to Warner’s 20,000 Years In Sing Sing.
  4. Preston Foster, The All-American, 1932.    More American football but Tracy wasn’t keen after the highs of Preston Sturges’ script,The Power And The Glory.  Foster was arguably a bigger name, said Tracy biographer James Curtis, “if not quite the same calibre of actor.”
  5. Will Rogers, State Fair, 1932.   Tracy was given Iowa patriarch Abel Frake – and then, instead, Charles Farrell’s role in Face in the Sky.  Of all things a sign painter…  called Joe Buck, Jon Voight’s name 36 years later  in Midnight Cowboy
  6. Richard Arlen, Helldorado,1933.     The passionate affair of Tracy and Loretta Young that started a year earlier during A Man’s Castle had run its course. Therefore, she rejected a Fox offer to co-star with him again: she had no wish to “start the whole thing over again.”Nor did he…; Fourteen films in three yearsatFox and Tracy was getting nowhere, which explains this first recorded example of his famous drunken binges. “Spence disappeared,” producer Jesse L Lasky recalled. “The studio gumshoed all the bars but couldn’t find him.So we had to slap Richard Arlen into the part.”Tracy got a swift holiday tripto Hawaii and The Power and The Glory(a Rosebud-lessforerunnerof Citizen Kane),and his first good reviews. Didn’t stop a whole slew of drunken escapades. “Hell, I used to take two-week lunch hours.”
  7. James Dunn, Stand Up and Cheer! 1933.     Early idea for Jimmy Dugan in the Hollywood musical built on the premise that President Roosevelt (an impersonated voice off) appointed a Secretary of Amusement to find ways to cheer up the depressed US. Film managed that by giving a first starring rôle to a five-year-old called Shirley Temple. Not forgetting Stepin’ Fetchit as… George Bernard Shaw.  

  8. Charles Bickford, The Farmer Takes A Wife, 1935.  
    “They fired me… I got drunk now and then.  But never on a picture, always between,  Tracy told  AP reporter Bob Thomas – in 1952.  “Anyway, they worried.  I was all set for a big, expensive picture [opposite the top Fox adult star Janet Gaynor] …and [they] asked… if I was going to behave. I told them: ‘If you’re worried about me, why  don’t you let me go?’ That’s all they needed. I wasn’t a box-office star…  I was out of the studio the same day.”  One of several versions about Tracy’s escape from Fox – while his agent Leo Morrison was deal-making with MGM and before Tracy’s chief Fox supporter, Winfield Sheehan, could prevent it, a Metro contract was signed on April 2, 1935; by August he was in Riffraff with Jean Harlow!  In rapid order, Tracy was a box-office star. For the rest of his life. 

  9. Edward Arnold, Come And Get It, 1936.    Producer Samuel Goldwyn on the phone to his hated enemy, LB Mayer: “Louis, we’re in trouble. You’ve gotSpencer Tracy and I needhim.”Mayer’s response can most politely condensed as: rigid manure.
  10. Henry Fonda, You Only Live Once, 1936.   Tracy had been due to share Fonda’s debut, The Farmer Takes A Wife, the year before. Now Fonda was taking Tracy’s roles! Nor that he was worried, insisting MGM cancel all loan offers for him.  That was  the extent  of his power  following Fury, 1936. This obvious inspiration for Bonnie and Clyde and The Getaway is Lang’s US masterpiece but Fonda and Sylvia Sidney couldn’t stand him. “A creative  artist,”  Fonda agreed, “but it doesn’t occur to him that actors are human beings with hearts and instincts.”
  11. Preston Foster, The Plough and the Stars, 1936.      Director John Ford felt Tracy had reneged on their deal (and they did notwork together again for 22 years) but it was MGM ordering… no more loan outs!MGM steered him well – into the first successive Best Actor Oscars in 1937-38, for Captains Courageous and Boys’ Town. Hollywood legejnd insists the second award was mistakenly inscribed for…  Dick Tracy!

  12. Clark Gable, Parnell, 1936.    
    Tracy was perfect for the 1880s Irish politico Charles Stewart Parnell – so MGM gave it to Gable in a classic casting error. And one that Tracy never let Gable forget – “Remember Parnell?” became a long-running joke between the pals. Such as Tracy’s 1939 cable: GONE WITH THE WIND MAY BE THIS YEAR’S GREATEST PICTURE BUT I STILL REMEMBER PARNELL. Longtime on-off lovers Crawford and Clark Gable made seven movies in as many years. This was not one of them. Crawford advised Gable to copy her and quit this “boring, pretentious” script. He stayed and Myrna Loy joined him (becoming King and Queen of Hollywood in Ed Sullivan’s poll). Crawford wuz right. “Leave it to Tracy.” The biopic flopped so badly that Gable nearly rejected GWTW because it was another costume drama. 

  13. Barton MacLane, You Only Live Once, 1937.   Almost a guest role – of Sylvia Sidney’s boss, Public Defender Stephen Whitney – while Sidney and Henry Fonda grab directyor Fritz Lang’s spotlight as  the doomed Joe and Eddie, based – loosely – upon Bonnie and Clyde.

  14. Warren William, Arséne Lupin Returns, 1937.   Tracy was an early idea for the ex-FBI agent turned sleuth – and Lupin‘s rival for the heart of wealthy Virginia Bruce.

  15. Cary Grant, Suzy, 1937.      MGM loaned Grant from Paramount as third bananato Jean Harlow (sans panties)and Franchot Tone – because the role was just not important enough for the Metro Machos: Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, William Powell, Robert Taylor, Tracy, Robert Young.
  16. Robert Morley, Marie Antoinette,1938.    This was MGM production chief (and #1 Tracy supporter) Irving Thalberg’s pet project – for his wife, Norma Shearer.  Before his tragically early death in1936, Thalberg had Tracy test for King Louis XVI.   Norma liked it; Tracy didn’t.  Charles Laughton and Peter Lorre were also seen for what became Morley’s screen debut.
  17. George Brent, The Shining Hour, 1938.    Apparently one movie with Joan Crawford (Mannequin, 1937) was enough, even though MGM had raised his salary to $1,000 a week. Katharine Hepburn always believed “Tracy could play anything. Axe murderer. Child molester. Gangster. A woman in drag in The Mae West Story…”
  18. Robert Taylor, Three Comrades, 1938.   Tracy was top comrade (not yet a dirty word in Hollywood) opposite Luise Rainer.  They later became Taylor and Margaret Sullavan. The film marked F Scott Fitzgerald’s sole screeenwriter credit. 
  19. Walter  Pidgeon, Too Hot To Handle, 1938.    In December ’37, the rival newsreel cameramen were Clark Gable and Tracy. To cash in on Test Pilot  –  also with Myrna Loy.   Instead, they became Gable and Pidgeon. Some 21 years later in London, Jayne Mansfield sang a song called  “Too Hot To Handle” in a sassy dress called Too Hot To Handle in a film called Too Hot To Handle. (It wasn’t).  

  20. Victor McLaglen, Gunga Din, 1938  
    “He has virtually signed in blood that he will play second lead to me,” Cary Grant told Katharine Hepburn excitedly.  But Tracy had always said he didn’t go see RKO films much less make ’em.  The always nervous Grant persuaded producer Pando Berman to let him swop roles with Douglas Fairbanks Jnr and play Cutter. OK, said Berman, And the ex-Archibald Leach renamed him Archibald Cutter. In 1936, Berman, who had first attempted the tale  with Ronald Colman (or Robert Donat) and Spencer Tracy. In 1937,now  wanted Ray Milland and Franchot Tone. Tracy had always said he didn’t go see RKO films,  much less make ’em. George Stevens directed the epic Kipling poem; one of his uncredited editors, John Sturges, re-hashed it as Sergeants Three Western with the Sinatra Clan in 1962… and the  Cannon Films’ Go Go Boys – Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus – sought Sean Connery, Michael Caine and Roger Moore for a re-make.  Good idea. Bad script. No film.

  21. George Brent, Dark Victory, 1939.    Top Warners writer Casey Robinson tried to protect his three year nurturing of his script by trying to persuade production chief Hal Wallis to arrange a loan-out. “I don’t need to tell you what the combination of Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy would do at the box-office.” Tracy refused: “It’s a tearjerker, strictly for the ladies.” Davis made it with Brent, her off-sreen lover. Pandro Berman had aimed to produce it at RKO with Tracy and Katharine Hepburn… three years before they began their legendary myth with Woman of the Year, 1942
  22. Pat  O’Brien,  Knute Rockne – All American (UK: A Modern Hero), 1939.  “Win one for The Gipper”  is one of the lines in US cinema. And, good grief, Ronnie Reagan made it happen! Trying to rev up a fast imploding career as everyone’s best pal, Reagan suggested that Jack Warner should film the story of Knute,  the legendary Notre Dame football coach. “And I could play George Gipp.” You’re too small.  Reagan promptly produced an old photo of him playing college football – he was actually bigger than The Gipper. Bye bye Robert Cummings, William Holden, Dennis Morgan, John Wayne  and Robert Young.  Oh and Tracy and   James Cagney were ruled out by Notre Dame University for the biopic of its football coach.  So,  their  pal got his dream role.
  23. Melvyn Douglas, Ninotchka, 1939.  “Garbo Laughs!” Grant was MGM’s first choice for  Leon.  In fact, shooting began without Garbo having found a leading man.   And she combed through  Cary, Robert Montgomery, William Powell and Spencer  Tracy before agreeing to Douglas. Two years later, he was second choice for her trite finale, Two-Faced Woman, 1940. (Her laughter was dubbed by another actress revealed the Hollywood Reporter in 1980).
  24. Cary Grant, The Philadelphia Story, 1940.      Katharine Hepburn owned it all! The rights to her stage hit (thanks to Howard Hughes), a demanded $100,000 pay cheque from MGM and – well, the sole stumbling block was Tracy and Clark Gable refusing to be news photographer Macauley Cooper and hero, Dexter. Tracy preferred Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  And, therefore, he turned down Katharine Hepburn a second time.He would make up for it. She got Tracy next time for Woman of the Year, 1941. For life. Alleged bisexuals, they had a long and bizarre companionship more than affair for 25 years and nine movies.   Joseph Cotten had played the role on Broadway with Kate and, Hollywood legends insist, she promised him the film – in her bed.  Likewise Van Heflin for the role that went to Jimmy Stewart – her next lover.
  25. Robert Sterling, Somewhere I’ll Find You, 1941.  Tracy and Gable made three films together. And that’s all you get! Sterling became Clark Gable’s rival war correspondent in a reworking of Gable/Pidgeon’s rival newsreel cameramen in 1938’s Too Hot To Handle. Gable was in utter awe of Tracy’s talent, while Tracy mocked his old pal unmercilessly. “Can’t act, doesn’t care and everybody loves him better than any actor that was ever born.”
  26. Burgess Meredith, The Forgotten Village, 1941.     John Steinebck asked Tracy to narrate his documentary of village elders versus modern medicine when cholera struck the Mexican village of Santiago. Tracy agreed. “He has a great heart,” said Steinbeck. Then, MGM told Tracy to forget it and concentrate on Jekyll and Hyde. Steinbeck threatened Metro every which way and the studio shut him up byadapting his Tortilla Flat… for Tracy.
  27. Ronald Colman, Random Harvest, 1942.      MGM originally bought James Hilton’s novel for Spence.
  28. Gary Cooper, The Pride of the Yankees, 1942.    Producer Samuel Goldwyn won the battle to make a biopic of baseball great Lou Gehrig – who died at 40 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), after a moving farewell to his fans:  “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” His widow, Eleanor, wanted Cooper or Spencer Tracy to play Lou. Also on the mound were Eddie Albert, Brian Donlevy, Cary Grant. Plus two other real sports heroes: ex-New York Yankee pitcher Hoyt and middle-weight champion boxer Billy Soose. Gehrig appeared as himself in Rawhide, 1937, his film despite being listed by producer Sol Lesser to head his Tarzan series. Until seeing Lou’s legs. “More functional than decorative.”
  29. Fred McMurray, Double Indemnity, 1943.   Director Billy Wilder’s first thoughts for the murdering adulterer Walter  Neff:  Tracy,  James Cagney, Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd, Fredric March, Gregory Peck, George Raft. They all fled. 
  30. Brian Donlevy, An American Romance, 1943.         For the finale of his “war, wheat, and steel” trilogy (after The Big Parade and Our Daily Bread), director King Vidor thought he had an understanding with MGM that Tracy and Ingrid Bergman would co-star. Metro did not agree and he was kissed off with Donlevy (oh joy!) and Ann Richards.  OK, it was was King’s story but he was King by name, not by majesty.

  31. Walter Pidgeon, Madame Curie, 1943.   ‘Twas the biopic season… and as usual, MGM was thinking big.  Greta Garbo and Spencer Tracy (or Irene Dunne and Robert Donat) as the radium and polonium researchers,  Marie and Pierre Curie.  Until the family read Aldous Huxley’s scenario. He told the New York Times in 1940, that daughter Eve Curie found his version of her book too glamorous – casting Garbo as Maman was taking the shine off Papa, whoever played him. Garbo always  felt Marie Curie was too intellectual for her. She did Two-Faced Woman, instead. It flopped.  She quit MGM. And Metro went with  Greer  Garson and Walter Pidgeon, making it a  a a massive hit with with crass such advertising as… “Mr & Mrs Miniver Together Again in Another Screen Hit!”    He ! The Minivers discover radium! 
  32. Gregory Peck, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944. Avoiding offers from Wallace Beery, Bryan Morgan and  King Vidor caused  a sudden lull in the zipalong Tracy career. There was more…  He was horrified   when Mrs Will Rogers wished  him to play her husband. And,  after his  Father Flanagan stint in the two Boys’ Town movies, he had little interest in the keys of  AJ Cronin’s perfect (all too perfect) hero, Father Francis Chisholm. Contenders included Tracy, Dana Andrews, Joseph Cotten,  Maurice Evans, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Dean Jagger, Gene Kelly, Franchot Tone, Orson Welles… plus the most unlikely Catholic missionaries of all: Alan Ladd and Edward G Robinson!  Auteur Joseph L Mankiewicz secured Peck in July 1943 for his second film  – and first Oscar nomination. 
  33. Donald Crisp, National Velvet, 1944.   Metro chieftain LB Mayer bought Edith Bagnold’s book for Shirley Temple  – and  Spence. But it was Judy Garland he was (too?) keen on.   Gable warned him off the 15-year-old.  Tracy finally became  Liz’s Pop in Father of the Bride, 1949, and Father’s Little Dividend, 1950.
  34. John Hodiak, A Bell from Adano, 1944.    Fox house-star Andrews and bigger A stars – Tracy, James Cagney, Gary Cooper – jockeyed to be Major Joppolo (in reality, Lieutenant Colonel Frank E Toscani) running a WWII-torn Italian town requiring a new town bell. In John Hersey’s book, Joppolo supplied a modest ship’s bell. In Hollywood, it was a full blown carillon. Rather like the difference between Hodiak and Tracy.
  35. Clark Gable, Adventure, 1945.    Gable was back from  the war (Hitler had put a price his head !) and Tracy was shoved aside to help The King regain his throne. The poster screamed: Gable’s Back, and Garson’s Got Him!  “Well,” said Greer Garson,  “as long as they didn’t say:  Garson’s back, and who wants her!”
  36. Cornel Wilde,  A Song To Remember, 1945.    Columbia chieftain Harry Cohn dropped the (Frank Capra) project when Marlene Dietrich’s star dimmed.  Spence, her ex-lover, had been due as Chopin opposite her George Sand.  Charles Vidor re-made his own movie as Song Without End 1960. And it seemed like it.
  37. Robert Montgomery, They Were Expendable, 1945.       The great John Ford had first been offered the script in 1943, when he was shooting the real war: December 7th, We Sail At Midnight, Victory in Burma.  This was his first film home from WWII and was, of course, about WWII – in the Philippines.  However, beforeUS Navy Commander (and future Admiral) Ford took over, both Sidney Franklin and Mervyn LeRoy had been tapped for make the movie with Tracy as Robert Montgomery’s US Navy buddy.   However, Pappy Ford kept something special for Spence –The Last Hurrah, aka the longest death scene in Hollywood hiistory, 1958.
  38. Robert Walker, The Beginning or the End, 1946.      A-Bomb fever hits Hollywood..! Rival studios MGM, Paramount and 20th Century-Fox scrambled to be first with an atomic drama. Metro won by merging its idea with Hal Wallis’ Top Sercretat Paramount and having such stars as Clark Gable, Van Johnson and Spencer Tracy “being groomed for roles.” Not enough, it seemed…as they never appeared. Other actors played Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and the Hiroshima bomber, Colonel Paul Tibbetts Jr.
  39. Gregory Peck, The Yearling, 1946.    Shooting started in April 1941 with both Spencer Tracy and director Victor Fleming worn out from just finishing Jekyll and Hyde. Everything went wrong… including swarming mosquitoes. Tracy’sson changed and the second choice had an impenetrable Georgia accent. An overweight Tracy knew he was wrong for the part. “Looks like I ATE the boy!” Fleming complained: “How can I make a picture whose essence is that people loveeach other, when no one in the cast loves anyone…” Then, the US entered WWII and the project was was cancelled, a $500,000 loss. (So, MGM was “panting for a new property for Spence. I could have asked a fortune,” recalled Katharine Hepburn, having just bought Woman of the Year… first of their nine). Tracy later tested with Roddy McDowell as his son, but after four years, the film was totally re-cast – if still using some ’41 location footage.
  40. Walter Pidgeon, The Red Danube, 1947.      At the start of the year the selected stars were Tracy, Irene Dunne, Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter, Cyd Charisse. By the time the title had changed four more times (from Vespers in Vienna) and George Sidney started shooting the anit-Communist thriller, they had become: Pidgeon (as UK Colonel ‘Hookey’ Nicobar, no less), Ethel Barrymore, Peter Lawford, Angela Lansbury and Janet Leigh.

  41. Richard Conte, Big Jack, 1948.    According to the local paper – the LA Times – Tracy was set for the grave-robbing doctor rescued from the gallows by the titular outlaw. (He had an injured leg, you see). Conte was a surprise substitute in the black comedy Western that proved to be Wallace Beery’s finale  – he died three days after the 1949 premiere, after   19 years as MGM. 
  42. Broderick Crawford, All The King’s Men, 1949. After rumours about Humphrey Bogart and apoplectic anger from John Wayne (“You can take this script and shove it up Robert Rossen’s derrière,” he told his agent), Columbia boss Harry Cohn wanted Tracy as Willie Stark, based on Huey Long, Louisiana’s controversial, 1928-1932 governor-cum-dictator, in Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. “No, no, ”said Rossen, “the audience might like Tracy too much.” Rossen held out for the lesser known Crawford.   And the winner is…!
  43. Walter Pidgeon, The Red Danube, 1949.   Change of  the one-armed Colonel  Michael “Hooky” Nicobar  in Vienna in  the aftermath of   WWII.  Now, the Russians were the enemy,  ruthless and duplicitous, in the repatriation of displaced Soviet subjects  in Vienna. Such as Janet Leigh’s  Volksdeutsche  ballerina. Tracy rememberedf “Hooky.” Now you know why his  Bad Day at Black Rock hero was one-armed. 
  44. Kirk Douglas, The Glass Menagerie, 1949. Earlier in the 40s, director George Cukor planned the first screen version of the Tennessee Williams classic, with bis pal, Katharine Hepburn, as the shy, crippled daughter of Broadway queen Laurette Taylor as a typically Williams’ fading Southern belle mother, Amanda.  And, (naturally) Spencer Tracy as The Gentleman Caller. Never happened.  Until director Irving Rapper’s take  – hated by Tennessee. He preferred  Hepburn – not as Laura, but Amanda  – in the  better 1973 TVersion directed by  the UK’s  Anthony Harvey, after making The  Lion in Winter with Kate in  1967:  Kate was in awe of Taylor. ”She  was so brilliant I would  swoon… She and Spencer were the most gifted actors I ever saw.”  Kirk much preferred the 1986 version with Joanne Woodward as Amanda and James Naughton  – directed by  Paul Newman.
  45. David Brian, Intruder in the Dust, 1949.    Tracy had always been writer Harper Lee’s choice for Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. And this, ironically, was almost an early draft for that book: white lawyer defends black murder suspect.
  46. Clark Gable, Across The Wide Missouri, 1950.  Gable and Tracy – so different and yet so alike.  MGM had first optioned Bernard DeVoto’s novel for Tracy.

  47. Errol Flynn, Kim, 1950.    
    Fourth time lucky for MGM’s desire to film the Rudyard Kipling classic 1900 adventure  about Kimball O”Hara, the orphaned  son of a British soldier  in the 1886 India under British rule. Kim posed as a Hindi beggar boy to help the UK Secret Service spy on Russian agitators.  Irving Thalberg won the rights for MGM in 1934 and a year later, the ex-Little Lord Fauntelroy, Freddie Bartholomew was  selected opposite  Lionel Barrymore as his Indian mentor, Mahbub Ali the Red Beard, in 1935.  The project was shelved for another Kipling tale, Captains Courageous, with Spencer Tracy and young Freddie – announced as Kim again in 1937, opposite Robert Taylor as Red Beard.  After various delays Mickey Rooney (like who else) was the  1942 hero  in a typically Metro all-stars  line-up of John Carradine, Laird Cregar, Cedric Hardwicke, Basil Rathbone, George Sanders, Akim Tamiroff and Conrad Veidt  WWII killed that as the script was too pro-British Empire and anti-Russia. Finally, MGM’s Boy With Green Hair, Dean Stockwell,  was Kim opposite  (a way too old and hardly Indian)  Errol Flynn. He quit King Solomon’s Mines to be Red Beard, because he didn’t fancy living  in a tent in Africa, while he had a hotel in Lucknow…  where Stockwell was doubled by a local  kid.

  48. Robert Newton, Soldiers Three, 1951.      Rudyard Kipling’s soldiers, originally set at MGM for Wallace Beery, Clark Gable and Spence, became the cheaper Cyril Cusack, Stewart Granger and Newton.
  49. Michael Rennie, The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951.    How could the world be worried about an alien visitor incarnated by lovable old Spencer Tracy? Like the leading lady, Patricia Neal, Spence had no idea that the little movie would turn into agreat sf classic.  She assumed it was another one of the then-current, trashy flying saucer films, and she found it difficult to keep a straight face while saying her lines to Rennie’s Klaatu. Or, “Klaatu barada nikto.”  (George Lucas named two his Star Wars  alien bounty hunters, Klaatu and Barada Nikto).
  50. Will Rogers Jr, The Story of Will Rogers, 1952.      Eight years earlier, Betty Rogers suggested Tracy to play her husband. Spence was horrified by the idea. Betty bided her time until her son grew up and Jr played Sr – and again the following year in The Eddie Cantor Story.

  51. Paul Douglas, When In Rome, 1952.    When Clark Gable and Tracy passed, Douglas was a (very) poor third…
  52. John Wayne, The High and the Mighty, 1953.        MGM refused – well charged $500,000 when it had only charged $250,000 for him to headline Broken Lance at Fox. William Wellman said he and Tracy had lunch and he agreed to be the older pilot, and then reneged. As if Tracy could ever work with Wild Bill Wellman,. They had come close to blows years before when Wellman made cracks about Tracy’s then lover, Loretta Young. Producer John Wayne also tried Gary Cooper and Henry Fonda before saying: “Aw hell, I’ll do it myself.” Superbly. A calm pro playing a calm pro – and cutting five of his close-ups in the editing of this Stagecoach in the sky. .Everyone else, especially the ladies, were working for Oscars.
  53. Richard Burton, The Robe, 1952. Five toppermost stars were discussed for the centurion hero, Marcellus Gallio… totally regardless of age. From Tracy at 52 to Gregory Peck at 26. Plus Gary Cooper, 51 ; Laurence Olivier, 45 ; Robert Taylor, 41.   Burton was… 25. (Taylor had taken over an earlier toga epic, Quo Vadis, when Peck had eye trouble in 1950).
  54. James Cagney, Love Me or Leave Me, 1954.  Jimmy accepted what Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy  and Richard Widmark refused –  second billing to  Doris Day as the 30s’ shady  chanteuse Ruth Etting.  Cagney even suggested Doris for the role, far from all her future virgins. Her best work, she thought. Her fans, not so much. Doris lost an Oscar but won Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.
  55. Frederic March, The Desperate Hours, 1954.     William Wyler wanted Humphrey Bogart as the escaped con holding Tracy’s family hostage. They hadn’t worked together in more than 20 years and called themselves the top two actors in town ((#1 being whoever was talking). Spence was supposed to be miffed about Bogie having top billing. Truth is, he didn’t like the drama and he switched to more solo honours in Bad Day At Black Rock. His replacement was the man who made Bogie cry every time he saw the 1936 A Star Is Born… and Bogart, of course, was a Tracy fan. “He never overacts or is hammy.  He makes you believe he is what he is playing.”
  56. Fredric March, The Bridges At Toko-Ri, 1954. In the Paramount frame for  William Holden’s boss,  Rear Admiral George Tarrant, were: Tracy, Walter Abel, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Pidgeon… even director Wild Bill Wellman. 
  57. William Powell, Mr Roberts, 1954.     “It so happened that Spence couldn’t make it,”recalled James Cagney. “We went 2,800 miles into the Pacific to shoot it at Midwey Island. Bill Powell and I would lie on the beach in the sun, doing nothing, wig-wag, get on the ship and jump up and down for five minutes. Goodbye!  And back to the beach. Everybody else doing all the work, see?”
  58. Desi Arnaz, Forever Darling, 1955.   No, no, Tracy was not about to replace The #1 TV Husband of the #1 TV Wife… Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y De Acha III and Lucille Ball simply dusted off the plot many years after first,  The Thin Mancouple  of Loy and William Powell, then Tracy and Hepburn (like who else?),  passed on being  the splitting couple  saved  by an angel – a fun part for James Mason   Didn’t work: the Arnazs were divorced five years later.  (Powell-Loy made 14 films ensemble, five more than Tracy-Hepburn). 
  59. Kirk Douglas, Lust For Life, 1955.   Before Kirk Douglas got interested,  Irving Stone’s biography of the painter Vincent Van Goh  (Van Go, saidHollywood!) had been set for Tracy in 1946, Yul Brynner in 1953 and Jack Palance  in 1954.

  60. James Cagney, Tribute To A Bad Man, 1956.
    And he quickly lost interest and his health in the high altitude  of Colorado. (Ironically, his next film  as… The Mountain in Chamonix and a  Paramount studios set). When Grace Kelly cooled, Tracy began to question the Western. All the more so as finding he replacement proved so difficult (Jennifer Jones, Dorothy McGuire, Irene Papas, Eva Marie Saint, Marjorie Steele).  With Katharine Hepburn away touring Australia in three Shakespeare plays, Spence fell into every available bottle, disappeared for a week and was promptly (a) fired and (b) totally junked by MGM.  ”Finished at Metro,” wrote Tracy in his notebook, June 25, 1955. “The end of 20 years. Feel I did my best for last pic” – Bad Day At Black Rock, 1954.  “My career is finished. I’ll never work again.” Not. Quite. True!  Kate never left him alone again and he made ten more films in the  next dozen yearsThe Old Man and the Sea, The Last Hurrah, Inherit The Wind, Judgment At Nuremberg, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, etc. And why? As Cagney, a huge fan of his old friend, put it:  “I’m easy to imitate, but you never saw anyone imitate Spence Tracy.  You can’t mimic reserve and control.”

  61. Pietro Germi, Il ferroviere, Italy, 1956    .The Italian maestro wanted Tracy for the railroad engineer in his melodrama. Producer Dino De Laurentiis disagreed – “too expensive!” – and Germi took on the role, himself,in his tenth film.
  62. Alec Guinness, The Bridge on the River Kwai, 1956. Looking for his Nicholson, Sam sussed out: Ronald Colman, Noel Coward, Charles Laughton, James Mason, Ray Milland, Laurence Olivier, Eric Portman, Anthony Quayle, Ralph Richardson.  Plus Tracy, who bluntly told Sam  that the mad Colonel had  to be an Englishman. “I’m not English,” he underlined, having learned that the hard way… on Edward, My Son, in 1948. “I can’t imagine anyone wanting to watch a stiff-upper-lip British colonel for two and a half hours,” said Guinness. So, Spiegel took him to dinner. “He was very persuasive.” (Of course, he was. In the 50s/60s,  to “Spiegel” was  LA parlance meaning: to cajole, manipulate or con. That’s how producer Spiegel won his deals, casts, women – and Guinness. “I started out maintaining that I wouldn’t play the role and by the end of the evening, we were discussing what kind of wig I would wear.”
  63. Raymond Massey, The Naked and the Dead, 1957.  Change of General Cummings from Tracy (and Lloyd Nolan) to Massey when finallly, Raoul Walsh  picked  up the 300-page script, utimately dropped by Charles Laughton after the flop of his now-classic Night of the Hunter.  The Naked reviews were way better for the novel.  For Variety, the film was a disappointment. “It catches neither the spirit nor the intent of the original yarn,…  and becomes just another war picture.”
  64. Joel McCrea, Trooper Hook, 1957.  MGM bought the story for Tracy but never got around to making it with him. McCrea asked for his often partner, Barbara  Stanwyck – just as she’d asked for him on Interns Can’t Take Money, 20 years before.  “We’re both sincere, we weren’t egotistical, we weren’t afraid the other was gonna have the best part.”
  65. Gary Cooper, Ten North Frederick, 1957.     The John O’Hara novel was bought for Spence. But… older married man falling for younger woman and drinking himself to death… far too close to home.  “WOW!” Tracy wrote in his journal. “Not for me!”
  66. Burl Ives, Desire Under The Elms, 1958.    Wouldn’t that have been something – Spence, Sophia Loren and Anthony Perkins, feudin’ and lovin’ on the same Eugene O’Neill farm.
  67. Burt Lancaster, Separate Tables, 1958.      “Either Tracy does it or you can’t have us,”said the Oliviers, originally set to play all four roles. Producer Burt Lancaster agreed. Actor Lancaster demurred.Olivier rang his pal:“Well, old cock, we’ve all been fired.” Tracy laughed: “That’ll teach you to ask for me.” (David Niven won an Oscar for the other role…)
  68. John Gregson,The Captain’s Table, 1958.      Hollywood had not yet seen Bad Day At Black Rock and figured Tracy was finished. So this is the sort of flotsam coming his way. An offer from the Rank Organisation to be a tramp steamer skipper taking over aa cruise liner and being pursued by the women passengers – a mild UK comedy by the ex-medic Richard Gordon, creator of Dirk Bogarde’s Doctor series. Owch! (Shelley Winters “developed quite a crush” on Gregson when they co-starred in London’s Cash on Delivery in 1954. ”He had black, cruly hair, very serious blue eyes ,a puckish, sad, handsome face and an English footballer’s body.”).   
  69. Dean Martin, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  70. Joseph N Welch, Anatomy of a Murder, 1958.      Spence felt the part “was not important enough” for him (so did Burl Ives). making way for one of producer-director Otto Preminger’s casting coups – a real judge.  “I remembered the McCarthy hearings on TV and how Joe Welch faced up to him when he tried to accuse Welch’s assistant of being a Communist – he became a hero for everyone who saw him saying to McCarthy: Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

  71. Curt Jürgens, The Blue Angel, 1959.      Early “Monroe trouble” had Tracy walking away from Marilyn, top billing, “fabulous part” and $200,000. Fox executive  Lew Schreiber promised to “work it out.”  Said Tracy: “No soap!”
  72. Robert Mitchum, Home From The Hill, 1960.      Passed on fathering  the next generation: Georges Peppard and Hamilton.
  73. Yul Brynner, The Magnificent Seven, 1960.   In an earlier script, the Seven were closer to pension or Wild Bunch age and Tracy was elected to head ’em up as Chris. 
  74. Karl Malden, One-Eyed Jacks, 1961.     Director Stanley Kubrick’s choice butthe star (and producer) Marlon Brando had already offered it to his old pal, althoiugh he adored watching Tracy movies.  “The way he holds back, holds back – then darts in to make his point, darts back. Tracy. Muni, Cary Grant. They know what they’re doing  .You can learn something from them.”  Kubrick said: “Malden always plays losers and Tracy winners. Let’s put two champions in the arena.”  Kubrick quit after telling his boss: “I don’t know what the picture’s about.”  Brando told him. “It’s about the $300,000 that  I’ve already paid Karl Malden.” The next director, with a five hour version, was the only director Brando was professional with.  Himself.  He showed his first cut – 200  minutes –  to his Julius Caesar director Joseph L Mankiewicz and Stanley Kubrick. They both told him:. “Cut the Chinese girl   and you’ll have a wonderful  picture.”  Not what he wanted to hear. 

  75. Ralph Richardson, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, 1962.  
    “You were born to do it,” scenarist Abby Mann told his pal.  “Nah,” Tracy told  Mann, “I’m not going to do it.”   “Why? It’s a great play and you’ll have a fine director, Sidney Lumet.”   Spence said:
    “I’d just like to watch a picture  with Kate – without me.” Hepburn, he added, was the lunatic, “appears at Stratford in Shakespeare…       I don’t believe in that nonsense.  I’m a movie actor.  Mann felt it was all “sad, really sad.”  With the notable exception of RL Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, 1941, Tracy had this thing He about refusing classics (by Hemingway, Steinbeck). He wasn’t even comfortable in Kipling’s Captains Courageou which netted his first Oscar.

  76. Charles Laughton, Advise and Consent, 1962.  Losing Tracy as Senator Seab Cooley for the film of opening  OF  the Washington quintet (of six books!) by ex-New York Times congressional correspondent Allen Drury, producer-director Otto Preminger had another great casting flash…
  77. Kirk Douglas, Two Weeks In Another Town, 1962.    Too close to home again… an alcoholic ex-actor coming out of rehab and picking up dubbing work in Rome. The Metro plan was Tracy – opposite his great mate Clark Gable ashis clone: a director on the skids.
  78. Burt Lancaster, A Child Is Waiting, 1962.    Awaiting the start of The Devil At Four O’Clock and a (never made) Big Deal with Sophia Loren, Tracy became keen on a TV script by the then 28-year-old dramatist (and future Kojak creator) Abby Mann. The subject was the institutionalised care of autisticand retarded children.  Lancaster took over opposite Judy Garland – who joined Tracy’s (and Mann’s) next venture, Judgment At Nuremberg, 1961.
  79. Fredric March, I Sequestrati di Altona/The Condemend of Altona, Italy-France, 1962.      Europe kept calling… Producer Carlo Ponti,director Vittorio De Sica, andSophia Loren offered whatmost critics agreed, provedahopeless mess.
  80. Charles Vanel, L’Ainé des Ferchaux, France, 1962.    Next, realisateur Jean-Pierre Melville, father of the New Wave. An ill Tracy agreed; insurance companies did not. So he lost a French movie with fine pedigree – Melville, Georges Simenon, Jean-Paul Belmondo… The role was almost Howard Hughes.

  81. Burt Lancaster, Il gattopardpo (The Leopard), Italy-France, 1962.  
    For Prince Don Fabrizio Salina, the Italian maestro Luchino Visconti wanted Brando, Olivier or Russia’s Ivan The Terrible: Nikolai Cherkasov. Hollywood wanted a Hollywoodian: Anthony Quinn or Spencer Tracy. No, no, growled the Fox suits.  But you can have your choice of Gregpry Peck, Anthony Quinn or Spencer Tracy.  “They wanted a Russian, but he was too old,” Lancaster told critic Roger Ebert. “They wanted Olivier, but he was too busy. When I was suggested, Visconti said, ‘Oh, no! A cowboy!’
    But I had just finished Judgment at Nuremberg, which he saw, and he needed $3 million, which 20th Century-Fox would give them if they used an American star, and so the inevitable occurred. And it turned out to be a wonderful marriage.”  Visconti chose Burt again for Gruppo di famiglia in un interno (Conversation Piece), 1974. “Each time I was  playing Visconti,” said the cowboy.

  82. Saro Urzi, Sedotta e abandonnata (Seduced and Abandoned), Italy-France, 1963.    This time, Germi’s producers – including Franco Cristaldi – were keen on Tracy but not Germi. “He was wrong for the Sicilian patriarch.”  Urzi shared the best actor’s prize at the ’64 Cannes festival.
  83. Frederic March, Seven Days In May, 1963.     He decided against being the unpopular US President – target of General Burt Lancaster’s planned putsch.  In fact,  MrsLouise Tracy thought her husband should retire.  “He should have quit after Mad World, that took a great deal out of him.”
  84. Telly Savalas, The Greatest Story Ever Told,1964.     Woman of the Year was 23 years ago, but Tracy still agreed go play Pontius Pilate for director George Stevens…  before realising Jesus was Swedish, John The Baptist was Moses, John Wayne an awesome centurion at the crucifixion, Judas was a Man From UNCLE and singer Pat Boone was The Angel At The Tomb!  That lot kind of took the gloss off it.
  85. Henry Fonda, The Best Man, 1964.  Director Frank Capra worked on his idea from 1960 until realising all the characters were atheists.“I’dliketoconvertthe whole damn world to atheism,” author Gore Vidal told him. “It’s my vocation.” Not Capra’s.
  86. Edward G Robinson, Cheyenne Autumn, 1964. John Ford asked him tobe Carl Schulz, “the first great liberal of our country… the man who finally settled the Indian question. He tells the story in the narration and finally comes in at the finish… about a week’s work… Thius is not a charity job… but a firm, legitimate offer.” Although excited at prospect of working with Ford again, Tracy was suddenly hospitalised with breathing difficulties.
  87. George C Scott, The Bible: In The Beginning, US-Italy, 1964.     He was 63, and looked 75. Or more. And too busy with It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World(awful awful awful awful)  to be  interested in Dino De Laurentiis’ offer to be Abraham. Unless John Huston could shoot it in his back yard instead of Cinecitta. Rihard Harris who played Cain would be Abraham28 years later in the TV two-parter. Time magazinefamously compared Bibleto being swallowed by a whale. 
  88. Edward G Robinson, The Cincinatti Kid, 1965.     Steve McQueen wrote, begging him to play The Man, the old poker player – even promising his idol top-billing. Tracy replied, October 20, 1964: “Somehow the old man never came to life for me and when you’re my age, you just cannot play someone you don’t comprehend.” Or not after a two-year bout of lung congestion… and a mild heart attack. . Director Sam Peckinpah always maintained that he lost Spence because MGM (which dumped him in 1955) wouldn’t pay his asking price. if Tracy couldn’t co-star, McQueen’s deal allowed his exit – but he  knew an ace role when he saw one.
  89. Rex Harrison, The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1965.    When gentleman director Fred Zinnemann quit, so did his bi-sexual leads: Richard Burton as Michelangelo and Spence as Pope Julius II.

  90. Oskar Werner, Ship of Fools, 1965.

    Kate Hepburn was keen – on condition. Although his ill-health forced him to quit two recent films, she suggested Tracy as the doctor over dinner with Tracy, producer-director Stanley Kramer and scenarist Abby Mann. “An awkward moment,” recalled Mann. Kramer politely said he was going younger.  with the role. “We felt just awful.  It was terribly, terribly sad. Stanley told me he didn’t sleep all that night, just thinking about Spence.” Kramer adored  Tracy.  They had already made two films together: Judgment at Nuremberg, 1960, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, 1962, and would manage one more.  Hepburn didn’t make Fools but Tracy all but co-directed. The all-star Grand Hotel At Sea cast –-Vivien Leighj, Simone Signoret, José Ferrer, Lee Marvin, Oskar Werner, etc, – we astonished to see Tracy popping into  the set, taking a chair…  and working patiently with Vivien Leigh who had difficulty remembering her lines; a repeat of Tracy aiding Montgomery Clift (“Forget the lines, just play it to me”) on Kramer’s Judgment At Nuremberg, 1961. “His compassion for Vivien,” said Kramer, “was a big help to me.” Tracy’s reward was Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, 1967, designed by Kramer as the last hurrah for Spence and Kate. “It’‘s better  to be working,” said Tracy, “ than sitting  at home and vegetating.”  Spencer Bonaventure Tracy died 17 days after the movie wrapped… on June 10, 1967. He was 67.