Spencer Tracy

A Biography
Spencer Tracy: A Biography. Knopf. Oct. 2011. 1056p. ISBN 9780307262899. $39.95; eISBN 9780307595225.
Having profiled W.C. Fields and Preston Sturges, Curtis here turns to quintessential actor Spencer Tracy. From Tracy's 73 films to his Catholic faith, battles with alcohol, and longtime affair with Katharine Hepburn, it's all here—or had better be, given the astonishing 1000-plus pages. Tracy's daughter gave Curtis unparalleled access to the actor's journals and papers. For all film nuts; with a 60,000-copy first printing.
Among his peers, Spencer Tracy (1900–67) was hailed as an actor's actor. Though he usually projected an outward air of confidence, he was plagued by periods of self-doubt, shyness, and insecurity; Catholic guilt; and drinking binges that affected his health and personal relationships. This exhaustive biography covers the full range of Tracy's life and career, from his Broadway triumph in the prison drama The Last Mile to his moving performance opposite his longtime love Katharine Hepburn in the 1967 drama Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (he died two weeks after completing it). Curtis (W.C. Fields) also covers Tracy's difficult, often long-distance marriage to Louise Treadwell; his role in parenting his deaf son, John; flings with Loretta Young and Gene Tierney; and, of course, his sometimes difficult but fruitful personal and professional relationship with Hepburn.
VERDICT Written with the cooperation of Tracy's daughter and Katharine Hepburn's niece, this massive book is likely to be the definitive portrait of a deeply flawed person but a consummate actor whose ability to master multiple film genres made him one of the most popular stars of his time. Recommended for all film historians. [Three-city tour; see Prepub Alert, 4/4/11.]—Stephen Rees, formerly with Levittown Lib., PA
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