Spencer Tracy had a three-decade run of starring in commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies, but during the early and later portions of his career, he often shined in roles other than the leading man.
He was a superstar because of his strong acting ability, even when he wasn't the main character or when he was co-starring with other equally well-known actors, Tracy still managed to shine.
Here are five examples of Tracy doing exactly that.
1. Saint Louis in "Up the River"
Tracy wasn't the only one making his film debut in this 1930 feature. His co-star was doing the same. That man's name was Humphrey Bogart, and the two future icons played convicts in the film.
2. Father Tim Mullin in "San Francisco"
After an unsteady five years under contract with Fox Film Productions, Tracy moved to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and one year later, he played a supporting role in "San Francisco," a big-budget movie featuring Clark Gable.
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Tracy was only on the screen for about 15 minutes, but he was such a force that he managed to earn his first Academy Award nomination for his role as Father Mullin.
3. Warren Haggerty in "Libeled Lady"
Tracy wasn't necessarily known for his comedy acting chops, but he performed well in this 1936 picture, though his billing was below that of his well-known co-stars Jean Harlow, William Powell, and Myrna Loy. It was nominated as Best Picture for the Academy Awards.
4. Captain T.G. Culpepper in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"
The 1963 film featured a huge ensamble cast with such stars as Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Ethel Merman, and Jonathan Winters, among many others, but Tracy had a well-regarded performance as Captain T.G. Culpepper.
By this time in his life, Tracy was already in ill health and only could work a few hours a day, but he told director Stanley Kramer after filming was complete that it was the most fun he'd ever had on a movie set, according to Turner Classic Movies
5. Matt Drayton in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"
Seventeen days after shooting his final scene in this 1967 film, Tracy died at the age of 67. Even though critics gave the movie – which starred Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn – mixed reviews, nearly all the words describing Tracy's performance were warm and positive. He also garnered the ninth Academy Award nomination of his career.
In The New York Times review, Bosley Crowther wrote
: "Mr. Tracy and Miss Hepburn are superior — he the crusty, sardonic old boy who speaks from a store of flinty wisdom but whose heart overflows with tender love; and she the seemingly airy patrician whose eyes often well with compassionate tears."
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