I mentioned to him that Spencer Tracy died shortly after the movie was completed, and Cliff asked, "What caused his death?"
"Cancer, I suppose," I answered. "I read that Katherine Hepburn brought him to the set early in the day so he could do his parts and then leave, because he was in bad shape."
One just assumes that, if it was known he was dying, it must have been cancer. Not so, however.
Thanks to IMDb, I got the real scoop. He died of a heart attack, most likely brought on by lung congestion and diabetes. He was close to the age I am right now. Here are some interesting facts I found about Mr. Tracy, thanks to IMDb:
Tracy suffered from severe alcoholism and diabetes (from the late 1940's), which unfortunately impacted his willingness to accept several tailor-made roles in films that would become big hits. Although his drinking problems were well known, he was inarguably considered one of the best actors in Hollywood among his peers (he had a well deserved reputation for keeping co-stars on their toes for his oddly endearing scene-stealing tricks) and remained in demand. A few weeks after completion of Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), during which he suffered from lung congestion, he died of a heart attack.
His Catholic beliefs precluded ever divorcing his wife Louise, though they lived apart.
Tracy was offered the role of The Penguin in the TV series "Batman" (1966) before Burgess Meredith. He said he would only accept the role if he was allowed to kill Batman.
Katharine Hepburn, his frequent screen partner and longtime flame, never watched Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) because it was his last film and watching it with him gone was too painful for her.
Was seriously ill with emphysema as well as diabetes when he made his final film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
He was making a cup of coffee on the morning of 10 June 1967 when he suffered a sudden heart attack. Katharine Hepburn found him dead on the kitchen floor.
[on acting] Come to work on time, know your lines and don't bump into the other actors.
]on drinking] Hell, I used to take two-week lunch hours!
I couldn't be a director because I couldn't put up with the actors. I don't have the patience. Why, I'd probably kill the actors. Not to mention some of the beautiful actresses.
[on being asked why he was always billed above long-time companion Katharine Hepburn in their films together] Because this is a movie, you chowderhead, not a lifeboat!
The kids keep telling me I should try this new "Method Acting" but I'm too old, I'm too tired and I'm too talented to care.
[on why he never left his wife for Katharine Hepburn] I can get a divorce whenever I want to. But my wife and Kate like things just as they are.
This mug of mine is as plain as a barn door. Why should people pay thirty-five cents to look at it?
I'm disappointed in acting as a craft. I want everything to go back to Orson Welles and fake noses and changing your voice. It's become so much about personality.
It is up to us to give ourselves recognition. 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.
Even when my throat is completely tired out from acting, Luckies still get along with it fine.
There were times when my pants were so thin, I could sit on a dime and know if it was heads or tails.
The physical labor actors have to do wouldn't tax an embryo.
Write anything you want about me. Make up something. Hell, I don't care.
Why do actors think they're so God damn important? They're not. Acting is not an important job in the scheme of things. Plumbing is.
Actors have no damn place in politics, period.
[on Jean Harlow] A square shooter if ever there was one.
[on Gene Tierney] Although she was beautiful in her films, they couldn't quite capture all of her. Fortunately, I did even if it was late in my life.
[On why actors should avoid political activism] Remember who shot [Abraham Lincoln].
[To Ernest Hemingway at dinner in the Stork Club] Sometimes I think life is a terminal illness.
Poor guy, surely he knew diabetics should't be drinking; I guess he just couldn't stop. Actually, once you realize he had diabetes, was an alcoholic, and smoked Lucky Strikes until the day he died, it's amazing he lived past the age of forty.