Final Days of American Actor Spencer Tracy

About the final days of United States actor Spencer Tracy, biography and history.

FINAL DAYS

SPENCER TRACY, U.S. actor

Died: Beverly Hills, Calif., June 10, 1967, shortly after 6:00 A.M.

On May 26 Tracy had finished work on what he and everyone else knew would be his last film, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, with Katharine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier. There was much emotion on the set. "We shook hands," Tracy told Garson Kanin, "and [director Stanley Kramer] started to cry and so did I and I figured the hell with it and came home." The film, his 74th but the first in four years of declining health, had exhilarated but also weakened him. Years of hard living and drinking had caught up with him at 67, emphysema and heart disease plagued him, and he was often feeble and breathless. Once the toughest of Hollywood tough guys, he became increasingly cantankerous and difficult as he aged, yet he continued to command enormous respect and affection from the film colony for his talent and intense commitment to his craft. "You only live once," was his favorite saying, "and if you work it right, once is enough." After finishing the film, he retired to his cottage on director George Cukor's estate and rested. Tracy lived by himself; long and amicably separated from his wife, he was closest to Katharine Hepburn, his companion of 26 years and frequent co-star. Cukor reported him as "very, very happy, and very, very tired"; most friends stayed away, knowing he needed rest. A few hours before he died, he told Kanin that he felt "okay, but all in." Though Charles Higham stated in his biography of Katharine Hepburn that she was in the house with him when he died, most accounts agree that she was not present when he suffered a heart attack after rising in the early morning of June 10. He was still alive when his housekeeper, Ida Gheczy, found him a few minutes after 6:00 A.M., but he died before his brother Carroll Tracy arrived with a physician.

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