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Know your lines and don't bump into the furniture

With his craggy features and stocky frame, Spencer Tracy may have seemed an unlikely screen hero on paper.

Yet a star he undeniably was, starring in numerous films from the 1930s until the 1960s, and ultimately two Academy Awards. Many of his best performances were played opposite his real-life love, Katharine Hepburn.

After a somewhat reckless youth (the Milwaukee-born Tracy frequently got into fights as a youngster), he got into acting after serving in the US Navy during the First World War.

Although his career was slow to get going, he enjoyed acclaim for his performance as a priest in The Power and the Glory and for his early roles with Hepburn.

His relationship with the actress was as intense off screen and on. Tracy’s marriage to Louise Treadwell was put under severe strain by the revelation that his son John was profoundly deaf. Tracy began an affair with Hepburn that would last for nearly 30 years.

But despite this, he could never bring himself to leave Louise and their two children.

A womaniser and a heavy drinker, Tracy reportedly grew difficult in his final years but nevertheless still pulled off great performances in great films like Inherit the Wind and his final film Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? alongside Katharine and Sidney Poitier.

“It is up to us to give ourselves recognition,” he once said. “If we wait for it to come from others, we feel resentful when it doesn't, and when it does, we may well reject it.”