Fredric March

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Fredric March
Fredric March-1.jpg
Circa 1940
BornErnest Frederick McIntyre Bickel
(1897-08-31)August 31, 1897
Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedApril 14, 1975(1975-04-14) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Prostate cancer
Years active1921–1973
Spouse(s)Ellis Baker (m. 1921–27) (divorced)
Florence Eldridge (m. 1927–75) (his death) 2 children
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For the Australian soldier, see Frederick Hamilton March.
Fredric March
Fredric March-1.jpg
Circa 1940
BornErnest Frederick McIntyre Bickel
(1897-08-31)August 31, 1897
Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedApril 14, 1975(1975-04-14) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Prostate cancer
Years active1921–1973
Spouse(s)Ellis Baker (m. 1921–27) (divorced)
Florence Eldridge (m. 1927–75) (his death) 2 children

Fredric March (born Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel; August 31, 1897 – April 14, 1975) was a "distinguished stage actor and one of Hollywood's most celebrated, versatile stars of the 1930s and 40s."[1][2] He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1932 for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives. March is the only actor to win both the Academy Award and the Tony Award twice.

Early life[edit]

March was born in Racine, Wisconsin, the son of Cora Brown Marcher (1863–1936), a schoolteacher, and John F. Bickel (1859–1941), a devout Presbyterian Church elder who worked in the wholesale hardware business.[3] 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 began a career as a banker, but an 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 signed a film contract with Paramount Pictures.[citation needed]


March received an Oscar nomination for the 4th Academy Awards in 1930 for The Royal Family of Broadway, in which he played a role based upon John Barrymore. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the 6th 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[4]), leading to a series of classic films based on stage hits and tokes and classic novels like Design for Living (1933) with Gary Cooper, 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 Oscar nomination.

March with Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born (1937)

March resisted signing long-term contracts with the studios,[4][5] 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 theatre as 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. He also starred in such films as I Married a Witch (1942) and Another Part of the Forest (1948) during this period, and 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.

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, 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 the two leads in The Desperate Hours (1955) with Humphrey Bogart when Bogart and Spencer Tracy 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."[6]

On February 12, 1959, March appeared before a joint session of the 86th United States Congress, reading of the Gettysburg Address as part of a commemorations of the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.[7]

March co-starred with Spencer Tracy in the 1960 Stanley Kramer film Inherit the Wind, in which he played a somewhat dramatized version of famous orator and political figure William Jennings Bryan. March's Bible-thumping character provided the perfect powerhouse rival for Tracy's Clarence Darrow-inspired character. In the 1960s, March's film career proceeded apace with a notable 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 Edmund O'Brien; the part earned March a nomination as Best Actor by Golden Globes.

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[edit]

March in 1946

March was married to actress Florence Eldridge from 1927 until his death in 1975, and they had two adopted children. He died from cancer, at age 77, in Los Angeles, California; he was buried at his estate in New Milford, Connecticut.

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


March has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1616 Vine Street. In addition, the 500-seat theater at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is named after March,[8] as well as the 168-seat Fredric March Play Circle Theater at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union.[9]

Biographies of March include Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second by Deborah C. Peterson (1996),[10] and Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (2013) by Charles Tranberg.[4]

Filmography and awards[edit]

1921The Great Adventureuncreditedextra
Paying the Piperuncreditedextra
The Education of Elizabethuncreditedextra
The Deviluncreditedextra
1929The DummyTrumbull Meredith
The Wild PartyJames 'Gil' Gilmore
The Studio Murder MysteryRichard Hardell
Paris BoundJim Hutton
Footlights and FoolsGregory Pynelost film; the soundtrack survives
The Marriage PlaygroundMartin Boyne
1930Sarah and SonHoward Vanning
Paramount on ParadeDoughboy (cameo)
Ladies Love BrutesDwight Howell
True to the NavyBull's Eye McCoy
ManslaughterDan O'Bannon
LaughterPaul Lockridge
The Royal Family of BroadwayTony CavendishNominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
1931Honor Among LoversJerry Stafford
Night AngelRudek Berken
My SinDick Grady
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeDr. Henry Jekyll/Mr. HydeAcademy Award for Best Actor (tied with Wallace Beery for The Champ)
1932Strangers in LoveBuddy Drake/Arthur Drake
Merrily We Go to HellJerry Corbett
Make Me a Starhimselfbehind-the-scenes drama
Smilin' ThroughKenneth Wayne
The Sign of the CrossMarcus Superbus
Hollywood on Parade No. A-1himselfshort film
1933Tonight Is OursSabien Pastal
The Eagle and the HawkJerry H. YoungWith Cary Grant and Carole Lombard
Design for LivingThomas B. 'Tom' ChambersWith Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins
1934All of MeDon EllisWith Miriam Hopkins and George Raft
Death Takes a HolidayPrince Sirki/Death
Good DameMace Townsley
The Affairs of CelliniBenvenuto Cellini
The Barretts of Wimpole StreetRobert BrowningWith Norma Shearer and Charles Laughton
We Live AgainPrince Dmitri Nekhlyudov
Hollywood on Parade No. B-6himselfshort film
1935Les MisérablesJean Valjean/Champmathieu
Anna KareninaVronsky
The Dark AngelAlan Trent
Screen Snapshots Series 14, No. 11himselfshort film
1936The Road to GloryLieutenant Michel Denet
Mary of ScotlandBothwellWith Katharine Hepburn
Directed by John Ford
Anthony AdverseAnthony Adverse
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 3himselfshort film
1937A Star Is BornNorman MaineNominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
With Janet Gaynor
Nothing SacredWallace 'Wally' Cook
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 5himselfshort film
1938The BuccaneerJean Lafitte
There Goes My HeartBill Spencer
Trade WindsSam Wye
1939The 400 MillionNarratorDocumentary of Chinese history
1940Susan and GodBarrie Trexel
VictoryHendrik Heyst
Lights Out in EuropeNarratorWar documentary about the outbreak of World War II in Europe
1941So Ends Our NightJosef Steiner
One Foot in HeavenWilliam Spence
Bedtime StoryLucius 'Luke' DrakeWith Loretta Young and Robert Benchley
1942I Married a WitchJonathan Wooley/Nathaniel Wooley/Samuel WooleyWith Veronica Lake and Robert Benchley
Lake CarrierNarratorDocumentary short
1944Valley of the TennesseeNarratorvoice only
The Adventures of Mark TwainSamuel Langhorne Clemens
Tomorrow, the World!Mike Frame
1946The Best Years of Our LivesAl StephensonAcademy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
With Myrna Loy
1948Another Part of the ForestMarcus Hubbard
An Act of MurderJudge Calvin Cooke
1949Christopher ColumbusChristopher Columbus
The Ford Theatre HourTelevision
Episode: "The Twentieth Century"
1950The Titan: Story of MichelangeloNarratordocumentary about the life and works of Michelangelo Buonarroti
Nash Airflyte TheatreTelevision
Episode: "The Boor"
1951It's a Big CountryJoe Esposito
Death of a SalesmanWilly LomanGolden 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 TheatreTelevision
Episode: "The Speech"
1952Lux Video TheatreTelevision
Episode: "Ferry Crisis at Friday Point"
Toast of the Townhimselflater known as The Ed Sullivan Show
195325th Academy Awardshimselfpresenter Academy Award for Best Actress to Shirley Booth for Come Back, Little Sheba
Episode: "The Last Night of Don Juan"
Man on a TightropeKarel CernikWith Terry Moore and Gloria Grahame
The Bridges at Toko-RiRear Admiral George Tarrant
195426th Academy AwardshimselfCo-hosted from New York, with Donald O'Connor in Hollywood
Executive SuiteLoren Phineas ShawVenice Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting (shared with the principal cast)
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
The Best of BroadwayTony 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 StarsEbenezer ScroogeTelevision
Episode: "A Christmas Carol"
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
What's My Line?himself
1955The Desperate HoursDan C. HilliardWith Humphrey Bogart
1956Alexander the GreatPhilip II of Macedon
The Man in the Gray Flannel SuitRalph Hopkins
Producers' ShowcaseSam DodsworthTelevision
Episode: "Dodsworth"
Nominated — Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
Shower of StarsEugene TeshTelevision
Episode: "The Flattering World"
Island of AllahNarrator
1957Toast of the Townhimselflater known as The Ed Sullivan Show
Albert SchweitzerNarratordocumentary
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"
1959Middle of the NightJerry KingsleyNominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Written by Paddy Chayevsky
1960Inherit the WindMatthew Harrison BradyWon — Silver Bear for Best Actor (Berlin Film Festival)[11]
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
With Spencer Tracy
1961The Young DoctorsDr. Joseph Pearson
1962I 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
1964Seven Days in MayPresident Jordan LymanDavid 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
1967HombreDr. Alex FavorNominated — Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance
With Paul Newman
1970…tick…tick…tick…Mayor Jeff Parks
1973The Iceman ComethHarry HopeWith Lee Marvin and Robert Ryan


  1. ^
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, April 16, 1975, page 95.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c Tranberg, Charles (2013). Fredric March: A Consummate Actor. Duncan, Oklahoma: BearManor Media. ISBN 9781593937454. 
  5. ^ "Fredric March: A Consummate Actor - An Interview with author Charles Tranberg". Let's Misbehave: A Tribute to Precode Hollywood. 
  6. ^ "Awards granted by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography & Film". George Eastman House. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Nation Honor Lincoln On Sesquicentennial". Yonkers Herald-Statesman (Northern Illinois University Libraries). Associated Press. February 11, 1959. 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." 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Peterson, Deborah C. (1996). Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313298028. 
  11. ^ "Berlinale: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-01-17. 

External links[edit]