Tracy and Hepburn | Mark’s Remarks - Republic-Times | News

Tracy and Hepburn | Mark’s Remarks

By on January 30, 2019 at 10:15 am

I remember watching “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” one rainy afternoon and really loving the duo of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. After that, I tried to see all of their movies and I became a fan of both.

I read articles on them and watched any interviews or shows devoted to them, although there were few.  They were notoriously quiet and no-nonsense, which may be one of the reasons I liked them.

It never occurred to me to dislike either of them for the person they were in real life. Why would I? I didn’t know who they were away from the big screen, nor did I care. I’ve heard plenty about the shenanigans of actors and although I don’t approve, I still manage to separate the craft from the real person. I think it’s possible to be entertained by a person or at least admire their work and not agree with their lifestyle. Shoot, I can name a whole gob of folks I admire yet don’t support their offscreen way of living.

I doubt they give a hoot what I think.

Spencer Tracy was a tortured soul from what I’ve read, yet he somehow managed to become one of the greatest. Along with Henry Fonda, Tracy is my favorite actor. He is a classic example of someone who lives the craft. He plays a part from the inside out and doesn’t make a big deal about any of it. 

I found a lot of his mannerisms and ways of doing things amusing. You can see him in several movies actually looking down at the floor to make sure he gets “on his mark.” That’s the spot an actor can’t go past in order to stay in focus for the camera.  

Most actors try to use peripheral vision or find other ways to make it to their mark. Not Tracy. He boldly walks over, looks down at the ground, and somehow makes that movement part of the scene. Watch any of his movies and you’ll see it.  It’s genius, I tell you.

Hepburn is a whole different animal. I would venture to guess I might not have liked her much if I had known her, although I would have been willing to try. She was a bit of a snob and quite self-centered, from what I’ve read. But she, like Tracy, is a joy to watch and is a masterful actor. 

I recently watched a rare interview Hepburn did with Dick Cavett in 1973.  In true Hepburn style, she waltzed in to the studio (she happened to be in the building) and finally agreed to the interview Cavett had been begging her to do for years.  

She looked around, moved furniture and tried to redecorate the set before finally sitting down and starting the interview. Now, mind you, there was no audience and Cavett himself wasn’t even dressed as usual for the interview. They ended up talking for three hours and the final edition of the show was split into two episodes. I’m sure Cavett didn’t know what hit him. It’s an amazing piece of history. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube.

Something that struck me as shocking and also quite sad was the portion of the interview in which Hepburn talks about her views on religion. She said some things like: “I don’t think you go anywhere. I hope you just lie down, happy, just lie in the ground. At rest at last. I’ve never had the slightest interest in the next world. I think it’s here. Anything that is good, is here. That’s why you should do all your good here for other people. I believe in Christ, and I believe in the example of a perfect human being. He certainly proved that if you can live, away from yourself and for other people, you will be happy.”  

She said quite often that she was an atheist.

Tracy apparently was a staunch Catholic who wouldn’t divorce his wife.  Yet, they hadn’t had a true marriage for a long time before he met Hepburn. I wonder if the two of them ever hashed it out or talked about their beliefs with one another. He surely believed in something more solid than she did. Wouldn’t you like to have been a fly on the wall?

Some folks reading this will say to leave her alone and let her believe what she believes. Yet my convictions about eternity are so strong, I can’t help but have a sadness and burden for folks like Katharine Hepburn; I don’t look down my nose at her or think I’m better, it is just something that is very sad. Have I said that enough?  It’s certainly too late to do anything about it now.

I often wonder how folks arrive at their beliefs.  Without any judgment or feeling of superiority, I am interested. I’ve talked to many about differing beliefs and I’m always intrigued.  It’s also good sport to defend your own stance with good old-fashioned, non-threatening debate.

I’d have loved to have talked it all over with Kate and Spencer.   

Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.