Fredric March

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Fredric March
Fredric March face.jpg
March in 1939
Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel

(1897-08-31)August 31, 1897
DiedApril 14, 1975(1975-04-14) (aged 77)
Years active1921–1973
Ellis Baker
(m. 1921;div. 1927)

(m. 1927)

Fredric March (born Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel; August 31, 1897 April 14, 1975) was an American actor, regarded as one of Hollywood's most celebrated, versatile stars of the 1930s and 1940s. [1] [2] He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), as well as the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Years Ago (1947) and Long Day's Journey into Night (1956).


March is one of only two actors, the other being Helen Hayes, to have won both the Academy Award and the Tony Award twice.

Early life

March was born in Racine, Wisconsin, the son of Cora Brown Marcher (1863–1936), a schoolteacher from England, [3] and John F. Bickel (1859–1941), a devout Presbyterian Church elder who worked in the wholesale hardware business. [4] March attended the Winslow Elementary School (established in 1855), Racine High School, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he was a member of Alpha Delta Phi.[ citation needed ]

He was also a member of an interfraternity society composed of leading students formed at the college in 1919 named the Ku Klux Klan. [5] The fraternity organization was not affiliated with the national Ku Klux Klan. [5] For more detail, see § Ku Klux Klan controversy

March served in the United States Army during World War I as an artillery lieutenant.

He began a career as a banker, but an emergency appendectomy caused him to re-evaluate his life, and in 1920, he began working as an "extra" in movies made in New York City, using a shortened form of his mother's maiden name. He appeared on Broadway in 1926, and by the end of the decade, he signed a film contract with Paramount Pictures. [6]


"March's special ability was to suggest genuine mental pain. As a portrayer of tortured and distressed men, he has no equal. The complete physical control which allows him convincingly to sag, stoop and collapse is assisted by a face suggesting at the same time both intelligence and sensitivity"—Australian-born film historian John Baxter. [7]

Like Laurence Olivier, March had a rare protean quality to his acting that allowed him to assume almost any persona convincingly, from Robert Browning to William Jennings Bryan to Dr Jekyll - or Mr. Hyde. He received an Oscar nomination for the 4th Academy Awards in 1930 for The Royal Family of Broadway , in which he played a role modeled on John Barrymore. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 5th Academy Awards in 1932 for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (tied with Wallace Beery for The Champ , although March accrued one more vote than Beery [8] ). This led to roles in a series of classic films based on stage hits and classic novels like Design for Living (1933) with Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins; Death Takes a Holiday (1934); Les Misérables (1935) with Charles Laughton; Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo; Anthony Adverse (1936) with Olivia de Havilland; and as the original Norman Maine in A Star is Born (1937) with Janet Gaynor, for which he received his third Academy Award nomination.

Warner Baxter, June Lang, and March in The Road to Glory (1936) The Road to Glory (1936) 1.jpg
Warner Baxter, June Lang, and March in The Road to Glory (1936)
March with Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born (1937) FredricMarchinAStarIsBorn1937.jpg
March with Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born (1937)

March resisted signing long-term contracts with the studios, [8] [9] enabling him to play roles in films from a variety of studios. He returned to Broadway after a ten-year absence in 1937 with a notable flop, Yr. Obedient Husband, but after the success of Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth , he focused as much on Broadway as on Hollywood. He won two Best Actor Tony Awards: in 1947 for the play Years Ago, written by Ruth Gordon and in 1957 for his performance as James Tyrone in the original Broadway production of Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night . He also had major successes in A Bell for Adano in 1944 and Gideon in 1961, and he played in Ibsen's An Enemy of the People on Broadway in 1951. During this period, he also starred in films, including I Married a Witch (1942) and Another Part of the Forest (1948). March won his second Oscar in 1946 for The Best Years of Our Lives .

March also branched out into television, winning Emmy nominations for his third attempt at The Royal Family for the series The Best of Broadway as well as for television performances as Samuel Dodsworth and Ebenezer Scrooge. On March 25, 1954, March co-hosted the 26th Annual Academy Awards ceremony from New York City, with co-host Donald O'Connor in Los Angeles.

Henry Drummond (Tracy, left) and Matthew Harrison Brady (March, right) in Inherit the Wind. Previously, March had taken the role in The Desperate Hours originally offered to Tracy. Both men had also played Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. Inherit the wind trailer (6) Spencer Tracy Fredric March.jpg
Henry Drummond (Tracy, left) and Matthew Harrison Brady (March, right) in Inherit the Wind . Previously, March had taken the role in The Desperate Hours originally offered to Tracy. Both men had also played Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde.

March's neighbor in Connecticut, playwright Arthur Miller, was thought to favor March to inaugurate the part of Willy Loman in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Death of a Salesman (1949). However, March read the play and turned down the role, whereupon director Elia Kazan cast Lee J. Cobb as Willy and Arthur Kennedy as one of Willy's sons, Biff Loman. Cobb and Kennedy were two actors with whom the director had worked in the film Boomerang (1947). March later regretted turning down the role and finally played Willy Loman in Columbia Pictures's 1951 film version of the play, directed by Laslo Benedek. March earned his fifth and final Oscar nomination as well as a Golden Globe Award. He also played one of two leads in The Desperate Hours (1955) with Humphrey Bogart. Bogart and Spencer Tracy had both insisted upon top billing, and Tracy withdrew, leaving the part available for March.

In 1957, March was awarded the George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for "distinguished contribution to the art of film". [10]

On February 12, 1959, March appeared before a joint session of the 86th United States Congress, reading the Gettysburg Address as part of a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. [11]

March co-starred with Spencer Tracy in the 1960 Stanley Kramer film Inherit the Wind , in which he played a dramatized version of famous orator and political figure William Jennings Bryan. March's Bible-thumping character provided a rival for Tracy's Clarence Darrow-inspired character. In the 1960s, March's film career continued with a performance as President Jordan Lyman in the political thriller Seven Days in May (1964) in which he co-starred with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Edmond O'Brien; the part earned March a Golden Globe nomination as Best Actor.

March made several spoken word recordings, including a version of Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant issued in 1945 in which he narrated and played the title role, and The Sounds of History , a twelve volume LP set accompanying the twelve volume set of books The Life History of the United States, published by Time-Life. The recordings were narrated by Charles Collingwood, with March and his wife Florence Eldridge performing dramatic readings from historical documents and literature.

Following surgery for prostate cancer in 1970, it seemed his career was over; yet, he managed to give one last performance in The Iceman Cometh (1973) as the complicated Irish saloon keeper, Harry Hope.

Personal life

March in 1946 Fredric March in Best Years of Our Lives trailer.jpg
March in 1946

March was married to actress Florence Eldridge from 1927 until his death in 1975, and they had two adopted children. They appeared in seven films together, the last being Inherit the Wind. [12] He died of prostate cancer, at the age of 77, in Los Angeles, and he was buried at his estate in New Milford, Connecticut.[ citation needed ]

March and Eldridge commissioned Wallace Neff to build their house in Ridgeview Dive, Bel Air, in 1934. It has subsequently been owned by the philanthropist Wallis Annenberg and the actors Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. [13]

Throughout his life, he and his wife were supporters of the Democratic Party.

In July 1936, March co-founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League (HANL), [14] along with the writers Dorothy Parker [15] and Donald Ogden Stewart, the director Fritz Lang, and the composer Oscar Hammerstein.

In 1938, March was one of many Hollywood personalities who were investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and the hunt for Communists in the film community. In July 1940, he was among a number of individuals who were questioned by a HUAC subcommittee which was led by Representative Martin Dies Jr. [16]

Later, in 1948, he and his wife sued the anti-communist publication Counterattack for defamation, seeking $250,000 in damages. [17] The suit was settled out of court. [18]


March has a star for motion pictures on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1620 Vine Street. [19]

Biographies of March include Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second by Deborah C. Peterson (1996), [20] and Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (2013) by Charles Tranberg. [8]

Ku Klux Klan controversy

The 500-seat theater at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh was formerly named after March. [21] The University of Wisconsin–Madison had named the 168-seat at the Memorial Union as the Fredric March Play Circle Theater; however, in 2018, his name was removed, after student protests following a report detailing March's membership in a student fraternal organization calling itself Ku Klux Klan. [22] [23] [24] [25] UW–Oshkosh pulled March's name from what is now the Theatre Arts Center shortly before the 2020–21 academic term. [26] The fraternity, that March briefly was a member of, was not affiliated with the KKK. [5] When the collegiate organization was named, the (later national) KKK was a small regional organization. [5] As the national KKK became more well known, the collegiate organization changed its name. [5] In contrast to the views of the national KKK, March was an outspoken proponent of the civil rights movement and worked with the NAACP. [27] [28]

Filmography and awards

1921 The Education of Elizabeth ExtraUncredited
The Great Adventure ExtraUncredited
The Devil ExtraUncredited
Paying the Piper ExtraUncredited
1929 The Dummy Trumbull Meredith
The Wild Party James 'Gil' Gilmore
The Studio Murder Mystery Richard Hardell
Paris Bound Jim Hutton
Jealousy Pierrelost film
Footlights and Fools Gregory Pyne lost film; the soundtrack survives
The Marriage Playground Martin Boyne
1930 Sarah and Son Howard Vanning
Paramount on Parade Doughboy Cameo
Ladies Love Brutes Dwight Howell
True to the Navy Bull's Eye McCoy
Manslaughter Dan O'Bannon
Laughter Paul Lockridge
The Royal Family of Broadway Tony CavendishNominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
1931 Honor Among Lovers Jerry Stafford
The Night Angel Rudek Berken
My Sin Dick Grady
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr Edward Hyde Academy Award for Best Actor (tied with Wallace Beery for The Champ )
1932 Strangers in Love Buddy Drake / Arthur Drake
Merrily We Go to Hell Jerry Corbett
Make Me a StarHimselfbehind-the-scenes drama, Uncredited
Smilin' Through Kenneth Wayne
The Sign of the Cross Marcus Superbus
Hollywood on Parade No. A-1Himselfshort film
1933 Tonight Is Ours Sabien Pastal
The Eagle and the Hawk Jerry H. YoungWith Cary Grant and Carole Lombard
Design for Living Thomas B. 'Tom' ChambersWith Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins
1934 All of Me Don EllisWith Miriam Hopkins and George Raft
Good Dame Mace Townsley
Death Takes a Holiday Prince Sirki / Death
The Affairs of Cellini Benvenuto Cellini
The Barretts of Wimpole Street Robert Browning With Norma Shearer and Charles Laughton
We Live Again Prince Dmitri Nekhlyudov
Hollywood on Parade No. B-6Himselfshort film
1935 Les Misérables Jean Valjean / Champmathieu
Anna Karenina Count VronskyWith Greta Garbo
The Dark Angel Alan Trent
Screen Snapshots Series 14, No. 11Himselfshort film
1936 The Road to Glory Lieutenant Michel Denet
Mary of Scotland Bothwell With Katharine Hepburn
Directed by John Ford
Anthony Adverse Anthony AdverseWith Olivia de Havilland
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 3Himselfshort film
1937 A Star Is Born Norman MaineNominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
With Janet Gaynor
Nothing Sacred Wallace 'Wally' Cook
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 5Himselfshort film
1938 The Buccaneer Jean Lafitte
There Goes My Heart Bill Spencer
Trade Winds Sam Wye
1939The 400 MillionNarratorDocumentary of Chinese history
1940 Susan and God Barrie Trexel
Victory Hendrik Heyst
Lights Out in EuropeNarratorWar documentary about the outbreak of World War II in Europe
1941 So Ends Our Night Josef Steiner
One Foot in Heaven William Spence
Bedtime Story Lucius 'Luke' DrakeWith Loretta Young and Robert Benchley
1942 I Married a Witch Jonathan Wooley / Nathaniel Wooley / Samuel WooleyWith Veronica Lake and Robert Benchley
Lake CarrierNarratorDocumentary short
1944Valley of the TennesseeNarratorVoice
The Adventures of Mark Twain Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Tomorrow, the World!Mike Frame
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives Al Stephenson Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
With Myrna Loy
1948 Another Part of the Forest Marcus Hubbard
An Act of Murder Judge Calvin Cooke
1949 Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus
The Ford Theatre Hour Oscar JaffeTelevision
Episode: "The Twentieth Century"
1950 The Titan: Story of Michelangelo Narratordocumentary about the life and works of Michelangelo Buonarroti
The Nash Airflyte Theater Television
Episode: "The Boor"
1951 It's a Big Country Joe Esposito
Death of a Salesman Willy Loman Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Volpi Cup for Best Actor
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
Lux Video Theatre Television
Episode: "The Speech"
1952 Lux Video Theatre Captain MattTelevision
Episode: "Ferry Crisis at Friday Point"
Toast of the Town Himselflater known as The Ed Sullivan Show
1953 25th Academy Awards Himselfpresenter Academy Award for Best Actress to Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba
Omnibus Don JuanTelevision
Episode: "The Last Night of Don Juan"
Man on a Tightrope Karel CernikWith Terry Moore and Gloria Grahame
1954 The Bridges at Toko-Ri Rear Admiral George Tarrant
26th Academy Awards HimselfCo-hosted from New York, with Donald O'Connor in Hollywood
Executive Suite Loren Phineas Shaw Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting (shared with the principal cast)
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
The Best of Broadway Tony CavendishTelevision
Episode: "The Royal Family" (based on March's Broadway play and film of the same name)
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
Shower of Stars Ebenezer Scrooge Television
Episode: "A Christmas Carol"
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
What's My Line? Himself
1955 The Desperate Hours Dan C. HilliardWith Humphrey Bogart
1956 Alexander the Great Philip II of Macedon
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Ralph Hopkins
Producers' Showcase Sam DodsworthTelevision
Episode: "Dodsworth"
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
Shower of Stars Eugene TeshTelevision
Episode: "The Flattering World"
Island of AllahNarrator
1957 Toast of the Town Himselflater known as The Ed Sullivan Show
Albert Schweitzer NarratorDocumentary
1958The DuPont Show of the MonthArthur WinslowTelevision
Episode: "The Winslow Boy"
Tales from DickensHostalso known as Fredric March Presents Tales From Dickens, March hosted seven episodes during 1958 and 1959.
Episodes: "Bardell Versus Pickwick", "Uriah Heep", "A Christmas Carol", "David and Betsy Trotwood", "David and His Mother", "Christmas at Dingley Dell", and "The Runaways"
1959 Middle of the Night Jerry KingsleyNominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
1960 Inherit the Wind Matthew Harrison Brady Won — Silver Bear for Best Actor (Berlin Film Festival) [29]
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
With Spencer Tracy
1961 The Young Doctors Dr. Joseph Pearson
1962 I Sequestrati di Altona
(The Condemned of Altona)
Albrecht von Gerlach
1963A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the ArtsHostbroadcast on November 24, 1963, two days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy
1964 Seven Days in May President Jordan Lyman David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
With Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas
The Presidency: A Splendid MysteryNarratorTelevision
1967 Hombre Dr. Alex FavorNominated — Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance
With Paul Newman
1970 …tick…tick…tick… Mayor Jeff Parks
1973 The Iceman Cometh Harry HopeWith Lee Marvin and Robert Ryan
(final film role)

Radio appearances

1942 Lux Radio Theatre One Foot in Heaven [30]
1946 Academy Award A Star Is Born [31]
1949 The MGM Theater of the Air Citadel
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air Cass Timberlane [32]
1953Star Playhouse A Bell for Adano [33]
1953Star Playhouse There Shall Be No Night [34]

See also


  1. "Fredric March". Turner Classic Movies.
  2. Obituary Variety , April 16, 1975, page 95.
  3. "Guests: Jill & Dickie Kolmar; Fredric March". What's My Line?. March 21, 1954. 15:00 minutes in. CBS. Retrieved March 5, 2019 via YouTube.
  4. Ross, Lillian; Ross, Helen (22 September 1961). The Player A Profile Of An Art. New York: Simon And Schuster. pp. 359–363 via Internet Archive.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Ask Flamingle". Wisconsin Alumni Association. 5 July 2008.
  6. "Fredric March, american actor". Encyclopædia Britannica . August 27, 2018. Archived from the original on March 10, 2018.
  7. Baxter, 1970 p. 176
  8. 1 2 3 Tranberg, Charles (2013). Fredric March: A Consummate Actor. Duncan, Oklahoma: BearManor Media. ISBN   978-1593937454.
  9. "Fredric March: A Consummate Actor - An Interview with author Charles Tranberg". Let's Misbehave: A Tribute to Precode Hollywood.
  10. "Awards granted by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film". George Eastman House. Archived from the original on April 15, 2012. Retrieved April 25, 2013.
  11. "Nation Honor Lincoln On Sesquicentennial" (PDF). Yonkers Herald-Statesman . Associated Press. February 11, 1959. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 1, 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2013. Congress gets into the act tomorrow, when a joint session will be held. Carl Sandburg, famed Lincoln biographer, will give and address, and actor Fredric March will read the Gettysburg Address.
  12. Pryor, Thomas M. (July 6, 1960). "Film Reviews: Inherit the Wind". Variety. p. 6. Retrieved December 4, 2020 via Internet Archive.
  13. "Hedge Funder Slashes Price of Showbiz Pedigreed Estate by $4.5 Million". Variety . 22 October 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  14. "Hollywood Fights Back - In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California 1933-1945". Archived from the original on 2018-06-01. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  15. Longworth, Karina (2016-02-26). "Dorothy Parker Goes to Hollywood". Slate . ISSN   1091-2339 . Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  16. "HUAC Goes to Hollywood, Part 1: The Forgotten Investigation of 1940". Cold War & Internal Security (CWIS) Collection: East Carolina University. December 7, 2017. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
  17. Everitt, David (2007). A Shadow of Red: Communism and the Blacklist in Radio and Television. Ivan R. Dee. pp. 30 (1948), 85 (1950). ISBN   9781683931133 . Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  18. Cuthbertson, Ken (1 May 2015). A Complex Fate: William L. Shirer and the American Century. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN   9780773597242 . Retrieved 3 March 2018.
  19. "Fredric March". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  20. Peterson, Deborah C. (1996). Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN   978-0313298028.
  21. "UW Oshkosh: Theatre Facilities". University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh. Archived from the original on 2010-06-19. Retrieved 2010-08-02.
  22. "Wisconsin Union Theater". Wisconsin Union. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  23. Widell, Sydney (May 3, 2018). "Union to cover KKK fraternity members' names on gallery, play circle". The Daily Cardinal . Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  24. Erickson, Doug (April 19, 2018). "UW–Madison releases report on student organizations that took name of KKK in 1920s" (Press release). University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  25. "1924 Badger". Wisconsin Alumni Association. 5 July 2008.
  26. Ordonez, Brenda (18 August 2020). "UW-Oshkosh renames theatre building after troubling discovery". WFRV-TV . Retrieved 18 August 2020.
  27. "Hollywood Monuments to John Wayne, D.W. Griffith and More Are Under Fire: A Status Report". The Hollywood Reporter. Dec 18, 2020. Retrieved Feb 22, 2021.
  28. "A Star Is Shorn: Thanks to Woefully Underinformed Campus Activists, Acting Legend, Badger Alum, and Civil Rights Champion Fredric March Is Suddenly "Off Wisconsin"". Bright Lights Film Journal. Nov 25, 2020. Retrieved Feb 22, 2021.
  29. "Berlinale: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  30. "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. Vol. 43 no. 2. Spring 2017. p. 33.
  31. "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. Vol. 41 no. 3. Summer 2015. pp. 32–39.
  32. Kirby, Walter (February 15, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved June 21, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  33. Kirby, Walter (October 11, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved July 6, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  34. Kirby, Walter (November 29, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved July 14, 2015 via Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg

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