Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was an American theatrical and film actor, who appeared in 74 films from 1930 to 1967. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Tracy 9th among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time. He was nominated for nine Academy Awards for Best Actor in all, winning two.
Tracy was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the second son of John Edward Tracy, an Irish American Catholic truck salesman, and Caroline Brown, a Protestant turned Christian Scientist. He was raised a Roman Catholic. Tracy’s paternal grandparents, John Tracy and Mary Guhin, were born in Ireland. His mother’s ancestry dates back to Thomas Stebbins, who immigrated from England in the late 1630s. Tracy attended six high schools, starting with Wauwatosa East High School in 1915 and St. John’s Cathedral School for boys in Milwaukee the following year. The Tracy family then moved to Kansas City, where Spencer was enrolled at St. Mary’s College, Kansas, a boarding school in St. Marys, Kansas 30 miles west of Topeka, Kansas, then transferred to Rockhurst, a Jesuit academy in Kansas City, Missouri. John Tracy’s job in Kansas City did not work out, and the family returned to Milwaukee six months after their departure. Spencer was enrolled at Marquette Academy, another Jesuit school, where he met fellow actor Pat O’Brien. The two young men left school in spring 1917 to enlist in the Navy after the American entry into World War I, but Tracy remained in Norfolk Navy Yard, Virginia, throughout the war. Afterwards, Tracy continued his high school education at Marquette Academy then transferred to Northwestern Military and Naval Academy near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He finished his last few credits needed to graduate at Milwaukee’s West Division High School in February 1921.
Afterward he attended Ripon College where he appeared in a leading role in a play entitled The Truth, and decided on acting as a career. Tracy received an honorary degree from Ripon College in 1940. While touring the Northeast with the Ripon debate team, he auditioned for and was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. His first Broadway role was as a robot in Karel ?apek’s R.U.R., followed by five other Broadway plays in the 1920s. In 1923 he married actress Louise Treadwell. They had two children, John and Louise. Tracy performed in stock in Michigan, Canada, and Ohio for several years. Finally in 1930 he appeared in a hit play on Broadway, The Last Mile. Director John Ford saw Tracy in The Last Mile and signed Tracy for Up the River with Humphrey Bogart for Fox Film Corporation. Shortly after that Tracy and his family moved to Hollywood: 25 films in the next five years featured him.