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Fredric March Edit Profile

also known as Fredrie Ernest McIntyre Bickel

actor

Fredric March was an American film and stage actor.

Background

March, Fredric was born on August 31, 1897 in Racine, Wisconsin, United States. Son of John F. and Cora (Brown Marcher) Bickel.

Education

Educated at Winslow Elementary School (established in 1855), Racine High School, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Career

He played a few small film parts in the early 1920s, but it was only with the coming of sound and after several years’ work in the theatre that March prospered. He had the looks and voice to carrv off the romantic comedies that Paramount specialized in, and he was contracted by that studio for The Dummy (29, Robert Milton). He was loaned out for Paris Bound (29, Edward II. Griffith) and Jealousy (29, Jean de Limur), opposite Jeanne Eagels; while at Paramount he was in Sarah and Son (30, Dorothv Arzner); Ladies Love Brutes (30, Rowland V. Lee); Manslaughter (30, George Abbott); Laughter (30, Harry d'Arrast); The Royal Family of Broadway (30, George Cukor and Cvril Gardner), in which he took the John Barrymore part: Honor Among Lovers (30, Arzner); the Night Angel (31, Edmund Gould- ing); and My Sin (31, Abbott).

In most of these, March was subordinate to his female costar, but he established himself, and won the best actor Oscar, in the tour de force of Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (32). As in all Mamoulians films, the performance was only the jewel in an elaborate setting (in this case the trick of transformation), and although the film added to March’s prestige it did not deepen his screen character. But for the next few years he worked hard as one of the most desirable leading men: Merrily We Go to Hell (32, Arzner); Sidney Franklin’s Smilin' Through (32); in De Milles The Sign of the Cross (33); The Eagle and the Hawk (33, Stuart Walker); Lubitsch’s Design for Living (33); and the figure of Death in Mitchell Leisen’s Death Takes a Holiday (34).

At this stage, March refused to resign with Paramount and began free-lancing. Inevitably, he was caught up in the costume films that were in vogue: The Affairs of Cellini (34, Gregory La Cava); as Browning opposite Norma Shearer in Franklins The Barretts ofWimpole Street (34); in Mamoulian’s We Live Again (34), a version of Tolstoys Resurrection; in Les Misérables (35, Richard Boleslavsky); Vronsky to Garbo’s Anna Karenina (35, Clarence Brown); Bothwell to Katharine Hepburn's Mary of Scotland (36, John Ford); and Anthony Adverse (36, Mervyn Le Bov). He then made three films in a row that mark his best work: Hawks’s The Road to Glory (36), and A Star Is Born (37) and Nothing Sacred (37), both for William Wellman. Next, he was in De Milles The Buccaneer (38) and after a return to the theatre he made Susan and God (40, Cukor) and Victory (40) and So Ends Our Night (41), both for John Cromwell.

During the war, apart from René Clair’s I Married a Witch (42) and The Adventures of Mark Twain (44, living Rapper), his material became more sentimental, and in 1946 he won his second Oscar for Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives. The part's Oscar appeal was very ob\ious, but March found the real, awkward man.

He still did theatre—notably A Bell for Ada no and Long Day's Journey Into Night—but his movies lacked stature: Another Pari of the Forest (48, Michael Gordon); An Act of Murder ( 48, Gordon); as Christopher Columbus (49, David MacDonald); Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman (51, Laslo Benedek); Man on a Tightrope (53, Elia Kazan); Executive Suite (54, Robert Wise); The Bridges at Toko-Ri (55, Mark Robson); the father in The Desperate Hours (55, William Wyler); an interesting tycoon, half-Paley, half-Selznick, in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (55, Nunnally Johnson); Philip of Macedon in Alexander the Great (56, Robert Rossen); and very good as an older man infatuated with Kim Novak in Middle of the Night (59, Delbert Mann).

But he had seldom been worse than as William Jennings Bryan in Inherit the Wind (60, Stanley Kramer) and after that he made only four ill- assorted films: The Young Doctors (61, Phil Karlson); Seven Days in May (64, John Frankenheimer); a rare scoundrel in Hombre (67, Martin Ritt); and Tick . . . Tick . . . Tick (69, Ralph Nelson).

Membership

Member Beta Gamma Sigma, Alpha Delta Phi.

Personality

March is a good instance of the durable leading man, much relied upon by major studios, but never a star who dominated audiences. The bulk of his work is nonassertive: he was content to give thoughtful, sensitive performances in support of either a real star or the plot of the film. Working often with his wife, Florence Eldridge, he moved between Broadway and Hollywood and thus acquired a reputation for seriousness that sometimes looked a little stodgy on film. But he had moments that are hard to forget: his Norman Maine in A Star Is Born (37, William Wellman) seems now to give that supposedlv positive product a dark, cold after-feeling—he is so good as a drunk, so stricken by self-loathing and lost confidence. It is a performance of great daring, a gathering of horror stories about Hollywood crack-ups. And somehow it is the most glamorous thing March ever did. For in giving up the ghost, he found allure. Whereas striving to be appealing, he could be a little too classy sometimes.

Connections

Married Florence Eldridge, May 30, 1927. Children: Penelope, Anthony.

father:
John F. Bickel

mother:
Cora (Brown Marcher) Bickel

spouse:
Florence Eldridge

children:
Penelope March

Anthony March