Lee Tracy

Active - 1929 - 1964  |   Born - Apr 14, 1898   |   Died - Oct 18, 1968   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Comedy Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of a traveling railroad worker, Lee Tracy was never in one place long enough to claim a hometown. After attending Western Military Academy, Tracy studied electrical engineering at Union College. He served as a 2nd lieutenant in World War I, later returning to uniform (with higher ranking) during World War II. In the late teens, Tracy decided to give acting a whirl; after experience in stock, he became a Broadway star by way of his starring role in the original 1924 production of George Kelly's The Show Off. Thanks to his finely honed features and mile-a-minute voice, Tracy was most often cast as a newspaperman. He played reporter Hildy Johnson in the 1928 staging of The Front Page and a Walter Winchell-type gossip columnist in 1932's Blessed Event -- the first of many Winchell-esque stage and screen assignments. Even late in life, Tracy couldn't get the newsprint out of his veins, as witness his 1958 TV series New York Confidential. In private life, Tracy had a reputation as a rounder and troublemaker; he lost a plum role in the movie Viva Villa when, while on location in Mexico, he stood on the balcony of his hotel and urinated on a passing military parade. Despite his contentiousness, Tracy was regarded as a thorough professional, well liked by his coworkers because of his willingness to share the spotlight. During his film career, Tracy accepted many a B-picture role, investing his earnings wisely so as to be able to pick and choose his roles later in life. In the latter stages of his career, Lee Tracy was one of four actors to portray the TV detective Martin Kane, and was memorably cast as the peppery Truman-like U.S. president in both the Broadway and film versions of Gore Vidal's The Best Man.

Movie Highlights

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