Spencer Tract won his first Oscar from his second Oscar nomination for portraying Manuel Fidello a fisherman in Captain Courageous.
Spencer Tracy is not actually the lead in Captain Courageous Freddie Bartholomew is as Harvey. He is most certainly supporting. There is nothing all that special about this supporting performance. I will say the character of Manuel does have a heartwarming quality that note even a bad performance can mess up.
That is the only thing I can say that is positive about Tracy's simple and very poor performance. He never for a second is believable as the fisherman even less so than in the Old Man and the Sea, I suppose fishermen were not his forte. His accent he tries is strange, and incredibly inconsistent. A performance really is has a problem when the actor can not even keep a bad accent straight. Manuel dialogue is a tough sell I will say, and Tracy naturally is unable to sell it. He certainly smiles a lot, but so what there is nothing special about that.
There is never anything special about his performance at all. Whenever he tries something more with Manuel, or is required to do more he fails. This certainly just is not a high point for Tracy, after all even Tracy though lowly of it, well before people told him he was good, and won an award for it. This simply is not a good performance, almost everyone acted better than him in this movie, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, even Mickey Rooney.