The romance between Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn lasted twenty seven years but, although they were the subject of gossip and speculation, they managed to live their lives out of the public eye.
When they met Katherine had started to revive her career after a slump. She was divorced from her husband but remained on friendly terms
with him for the rest of their lives. Tracy was married and had two children, one of them a totally deaf boy, John. He and his wife
Louise seemed to have drifted into a friendship type of relationship. They were both Catholic so divorce would be out of the question. They lived in separate households for a great part of their marriage but were tied by their children and their faith. In later years, Tracy was involved in a school for the deaf that Louise started initially to help their own son.
Katherine wasn't Tracy's first affair, or even the last. He had troubles his whole life with binge drinking episodes, probably fuelled by guilt, as he felt his son's deafness was a judgment on him for his choices in lifestyle.
Katherine was a feisty, independent woman who was happy to remain single. She once said "Perhaps men and women should live next door and just visit once in a while". Maybe this was part of Tracy's attraction for her; she knew he'd never leave his wife and she could love him while keeping her independence. She apparently never yearned for a family life with children, admitting that she would probably make a bad mother as she was too selfish. She may have thought of herself as selfish but with Tracy she seems to have adopted the role of nurturer.
They met when they made their first movie together in 1942, 'Woman of the Year'. They were attracted to each other immediately, and the nine movies they made together sizzled with the chemistry that carried over into their private lives.
Although they didn't live together, she would move in to care for him during the periods of ill health which accompanied his binge drinking. She was there with him during his final illness. He died in 1967, shortly after making "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?", a movie for which Hepburn won an Oscar.
Although she cared for him to the end of his life, she never attended his funeral. She knew the publicity furor this would cause, so it was a mark of her respect and love for him that she didn't attend.
Hepburn lived a long life after Tracy's death, dying in 2003 when she was in her 90s.
Their romance definitely had the elements of tragedy. Tracy lived a life tormented by his weaknesses and filled with guilt but remained powerless to lead his life in any other way. Hepburn could never claim all Tracy's love as he had a family and could never leave them. But perhaps she got the best end of the deal. After all, a life of freedom to do as she wished had always been her goal, and marriage and children were never part of her vision. Love sometimes comes in mysterious forms.