U.S. actor Spencer Tracy was in Cuba more than once, but his most important visit began in March 1956, when he remained about ten weeks for the shooting of The Old Man and the Sea.
U.S. actor Spencer Tracy was in Cuba more than once, but his most important visit began in March 1956, when he remained about ten weeks for the shooting of The Old Man and the Sea, based on the homonymous novel by Ernest Hemingway, one of the writers whose works filmmakers most favored for the screen.
Tracy was 56 years old and his film career was well established. The weekly issue of Bohemia (April 15, 1956) described him straight out as the greatest living movie actor, with two Oscars in the category of Best Actor (1937 and 1938), several other nominations and more than 50 films, since The Old Man and the Sea was said to be his 54th.
His photo with Ernest Hemingway and his wife Mary at the Floridita bar- restaurant is well-known, as well as his presence at the then no-less- famous bar, Sloppy Joe’s.
His stay in Cuba, for reasons of work, gave him little time for interviews. He was eager to meet and familiarize himself with the fishermen’s lives, since he was to play the role of Santiago, the old fisherman whose tenacity arouses such great admiration in readers of the novel and in all who saw the film.
The already mentioned issue of Bohemia, in words of reporter Emma Pérez, pointed out:
“Tracy, without rhetoric, restrained and convincing, shows in his films that a man of honor and will can be useful to humanity, no matter how diverse the conditions in which he takes up the struggle.”
The Face of an Actor
Spencer Tracy’s performance is memorable; his face is capable of expressing the drama of the fisherman’s existence. The shootings directed by John Sturges took place in Cojímar and other points on the coast, and the film premiered in 1958. That year Spencer Tracy was again nominated for the Oscar for Best Actor, but didn’t take home the statue.
Born in Milwaukee in 1900, he made his debut in the cinema (already talking films) in 1930. He won the two aforementioned Oscars consecutively, with the films Captains Courageous and Boys Town, and as well received seven other nominations.
Tracy was favored by his looks. But careful! He was favored precisely because he did not have the looks of a screen idol. He looked much older than he really was and his face inspired trust, seriousness, which granted him natural photogenic qualities that made him an ideal actor for dramatic roles.
Directors picked up this characteristic and used him for interpreting film biographies, complex characters, with intense inner lives.
He remained active until his death. He died in June 1967, a few days after the shooting of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, with Katharine Hepburn, with whom he shared acting in numerous films and also in life for many years.
Movie fans recall his versatility. He never knew bad moments; his career is full of brilliant performances and he remained a first-rate actor for more than 35 years.
The Old Man and the Sea earned him well-deserved praise by the critics. The time elapsed doesn’t tarnish his acting or the authenticity of his character. Having filmed in Cuba was surely a unique experience for all those who shared the set with him.
Translated by Olimpia Esperanza Sigarroa Santamarina
Revised by CF Ray