Oscar Actors: March, Fredric–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Tony Awards, Emmy Noms)

Fredric March Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: Middle; mother schoolteacher; father hardware business

Race/Ethnicity/Religion

Family:

Education:

Training: banker; then actor (after surgery)

Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut: 1926; aged 29

Film Debut: 1929, The Dummy; aged 32

Breakthrough Role: Royal Family of Broadway, 1930; aged 33

Oscar Role: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1931; aged 34

Gap between First Film and First Nom: 1 year

Other Noms: 5 Oscar noms; 2 wins

Other Awards: 2 Tonys, Emmys

Span of Oscar nominations: 1930-1951; 20 years

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: Intelligent, tortured and distressed men

Last Film: 1973; aged 76

Career Output:

Film Career Span: over 50 years

Marriage: one, actress Florence Eldridge

Politics: Democrat

Death: 77

Updated: Dec 27, 2020.

 

Fredric March (born Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel; August 31, 1897–April 14, 1975) was one of Hollywood’s most celebrated, versatile stars of the 1930s and 1940s.

March won the Best Actor Oscar twice, for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931) and for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946).

Note:

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He also earned two 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 Oscar Award and the Tony Award twice.

March was born in Racine, Wisconsin, the son of Cora Brown Marcher (1863–1936), a schoolteacher from England, and John F. Bickel (1859–1941), a devout Presbyterian Church elder who worked in the wholesale hardware business.

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.

He began a career as a banker, but emergency appendectomy caused him to reevaluate 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.

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

Screen Image:

“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…”—film historian John Baxter.

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 Best Actor Oscar 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.

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 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 Oscar nomination.

March resisted signing long-term contracts with the studios, enabling him greater flexibility.

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 played 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), and won his second Oscar in 1946 for The Best Years of Our Lives.

March also branched out into TV, winning Emmy nominations for his third attempt at The Royal Family for the series The Best of Broadway as well as for performances as Samuel Dodsworth and Ebenezer Scrooge.

On March 25, 1954, March co-hosted the 26th Oscar Awards ceremony from New York City, with Donald O’Connor in Los Angeles.

He co-starred with Spencer Tracy 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.

Death of a Salesman

March’s neighbor in Connecticut, playwright Arthur Miller, favored 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, two men that the director had worked with 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, receiving his fifth, and final, Oscar nomination as well as a Golden Globe Award.

March 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”.

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

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 played 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.

After surgery for prostate cancer in 1970, he gave one last performance in The Iceman Cometh (1973), as the complicated Irish saloon keeper, Harry Hope.

March was married to actress Florence Eldridge from 1927 until his death in 1975, and they had two adopted children.

He died from prostate cancer, at age 77, in Los Angeles.

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), along with writers Dorothy Parker and Donald Ogden Stewart, director Fritz Lang, and composer Oscar Hammerstein.

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

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

The 500-seat theater at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh was formerly named after March.[17] 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, due to student protests after a report about March’s membership in a student fraternal organization calling itself Ku Klux Klan. UW–Oshkosh pulled March’s name from the Theatre Arts Center shortly before the 2020–21 academic term.

Biographies

Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second by Deborah C. Peterson (1996)

Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (2013) by Charles Tranberg.

Filmography and awards

1921

The Education of Elizabeth Extra (Uncredited
The Great Adventure Extra Uncredited
The Devil Extra Uncredited
Paying the Piper Extra Uncredited

1929

The Dummy, Trumbull Meredith
The Wild Party James ‘Gil’ Gilmore
The Studio Murder Mystery Richard Hardell
Paris Bound Jim Hutton
Jealousy Pierre lost 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 Cavendish Nominated — 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 Star Himself behind-the-scenes drama, Uncredited
Smilin’ Through Kenneth Wayne
The Sign of the Cross Marcus Superbus
Hollywood on Parade No. A-1 Himself short film
1933 Tonight Is Ours Sabien Pastal
The Eagle and the Hawk Jerry H. Young With Cary Grant and Carole Lombard
Design for Living Thomas B. ‘Tom’ Chambers With Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins
1934 All of Me Don Ellis With 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-6 Himself short film
1935 Les Misérables Jean Valjean / Champmathieu
Anna Karenina Count Vronsky With Greta Garbo
The Dark Angel Alan Trent
Screen Snapshots Series 14, No. 11 Himself short film
1936 The Road to Glory Lieutenant Michel Denet
Mary of Scotland Bothwell With Katharine Hepburn
Directed by John Ford
Anthony Adverse Anthony Adverse With Olivia de Havilland
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 3 Himself short film
1937 A Star Is Born Norman Maine Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
With Janet Gaynor
Nothing Sacred Wallace ‘Wally’ Cook
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 5 Himself short film
1938 The Buccaneer Jean Lafitte
There Goes My Heart Bill Spencer
Trade Winds Sam Wye
1939 The 400 Million Narrator Documentary of Chinese history
1940 Susan and God Barrie Trexel
Victory Hendrik Heyst
Lights Out in Europe Narrator War 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’ Drake With Loretta Young and Robert Benchley
1942 I Married a Witch Jonathan Wooley / Nathaniel Wooley / Samuel Wooley With Veronica Lake and Robert Benchley
Lake Carrier Narrator Documentary short
1944 Valley of the Tennessee Narrator Voice
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 Jaffe Television
Episode: “The Twentieth Century”
1950 The Titan: Story of Michelangelo Narrator documentary 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 Matt Television
Episode: “Ferry Crisis at Friday Point”
Toast of the Town Himself later known as The Ed Sullivan Show
1953 25th Academy Awards Himself presenter Academy Award for Best Actress to Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba
Omnibus Don Juan Television
Episode: “The Last Night of Don Juan”
Man on a Tightrope Karel Cernik With Terry Moore and Gloria Grahame
1954 The Bridges at Toko-Ri Rear Admiral George Tarrant
26th Academy Awards Himself Co-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 Cavendish Television
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. Hilliard With Humphrey Bogart
1956 Alexander the Great Philip II of Macedon
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Ralph Hopkins
Producers’ Showcase Sam Dodsworth Television
Episode: “Dodsworth”
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
Shower of Stars Eugene Tesh Television
Episode: “The Flattering World”
Island of Allah Narrator
1957 Toast of the Town Himself later known as The Ed Sullivan Show
Albert Schweitzer Narrator Documentary
1958 The DuPont Show of the Month Arthur Winslow Television
Episode: “The Winslow Boy”
Tales from Dickens Host also 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 Kingsley Nominated — 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)[22]
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
1963 A Tribute to John F. Kennedy from the Arts Host broadcast 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 Mystery Narrator Television
Pieta Narrator Documentary
1967 Hombre Dr. Alex Favor Nominated — Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance
With Paul Newman
1970 …tick…tick…tick… Mayor Jeff Parks
1973 The Iceman Cometh Harry Hope With Lee Marvin and Robert Ryan
(final film role)