“I fear I may be a little too tall for you, Mr. Tracy,” Katherine Hepburn said at their first meeting, prior to 1942’s Woman of the Year. “Don’t worry, Miss Hepburn,” Spencer replied, “I’ll cut you down to size.” And so went one of Hollywood’s most famous partnerships–a sassy battle of the sexes that spanned nine movies (including Adam’s Rib, Pat and Mike and Desk Set) and 27 years.
Nobody said love would be easy. Spencer Tracy was beset by demons, including alcoholism and depression, and his Catholic upbringing kept him from divorcing his wife. He was reportedly sometimes abusive to Hepburn, a crusty (and upper-crust) divorcée who delighted in dressing like a man and speaking her mind. Battling onscreen, they were inseparable off (although they always lived apart). Despite all the obstacles, Tracy and Hepburn managed to live life on their own terms.
When Tracy died of a heart attack in 1967, just days after he and Hepburn finished filming Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, it was Hepburn who found his body. Yet despite the couple’s quarter-century run, she stayed away from the funeral rather than intrude upon his family.
Love Note: “Not much meat on her,” Tracy once observed about Hepburn. “But what’s there is choice.”