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Lesser-Known Spencer Tracy Roles: 5 Films From Star You Probably Haven't Seen Yet

By    |   Thursday, 26 Mar 2015 09:26 PM

Spencer Tracy had a three-decade movie-star career in which he accumulated nine Academy Award nominations, two Oscar wins, and countless colleagues who believe him to be one of the greatest actors of all time, but there are also plenty of lesser-known Tracy performances that you might not have seen yet.

From 1930 to 1967, Tracy made more than 70 films during his career. Even for the biggest Tracy fan, there's bound to be a movie or two that has gone unwatched.

Here are five films that might have slipped under the radar.

1. "Up The River" (1930)

This was Tracy's movie debut after several years of acting on the stage and, although he was an unknown in the national conscience, he performed well enough for Fox Films Production to give him a long-term contract after seeing this movie.

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This film also featured Tracy together with Humphrey Bogart for the first and only time of their careers, but one reason why this movie isn't considered a Tracy classic is that it was remade with different actors only eight years after the original.

2. "The Power and the Glory" (1933)

Up until this 1933 film, Tracy had most been cast mostly in comedies that didn't fare well at the box office, but he received strong reviews for his role as a railroad tycoon. The New York Times called his performance "flawless."

One reason why this film might have been overlooked by subsequent generations is because the film negative of the movie was destroyed in a fire, and it was thought lost for decades.

Eventually, other prints of the film were discovered.

3. "The Murder Man" (1935)

After a mostly uneventful five years at Fox, this was Tracy's first film for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and it also gave us the film debut of Jimmy Stewart (the 6-foot-3 Stewart was cast in this movie as "Shorty").

Turner Classic Movies labels the production a B-movie, and although it's not remembered as a classic for either actor, Tracy managed to give his co-star some advice.

"I told him to forget the camera was there," Tracy said. "That was all he needed. In his very first scene he showed he had all the good things."

4. "Test Pilot" (1938)

The first time Tracy was nominated for an Oscar was due to his performance in "San Francisco," in which he co-starred with Clark Gable. They were reunited in this Best Picture nominated film, but the relationship between Tracy and Gable was an interesting one.

"They had a healthy rivalry on the set. Gable, who never considered himself a great actor, was in awe of Tracy … and Tracy basically thought he should be. [Tracy] knew that the film was designed as a 'Gable picture,' and it ate at him," wrote TCM.

5. "Cass Timberlane" (1947)

Although Tracy had established a real on-screen rapport with Katharine Hepburn, MGM put Tracy and Lana Turner together for this 1947 film. At least one reviewer believed that Turner overshadowed Tracy, and according to biographer James Curtis, one critic said Turner made Tracy "look wooden by comparison." During the course of Tracy's career, that almost never happened.

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Spencer Tracy had a three-decade movie-star career in which he accumulated nine Academy Award nominations, two Oscar wins, and countless colleagues who believe he's one of the greatest actors of all time, but there are also plenty of lesser-known Tracy performances that you might not have seen yet.
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Thursday, 26 Mar 2015 09:26 PM
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