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

(1897-08-31)August 31, 1897
Died April 14, 1975(1975-04-14) (aged 77)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1921–1973
Ellis Baker
(m. 1921; div. 1927)

Florence Eldridge
(m. 1927)
Children 2

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 stars of the 1930s and 1940s. As a performer he was known for his protean versatility. Although his career never reached the same heights as that of the previous two decades, his success as an actor continued well into the 1950s and 1960s.

He began his career in 1920, by working as an extra in movies filmed in New York City. He made his stage debut on Broadway in 1926 at the age of 29, and by the end of the decade, he signed a film contract with Paramount Pictures.

Not long after his motion picture debut in 1929, he began receiving leading and major supporting roles. The year after, he gained the first major recognition of his acting career by starring in the film The Royal Family of Broadway (1930) directed by George Cukor. The role garnered him his first Academy Award nomination. The next year he would go onto win both the Academy Award for Best Actor and the Volpi Cup for Best Actor for his performance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). These early successes quickly led to him becoming an established leading man and roles in well known classic films throughout the 1930s and 1940s, roles of which further raised his profile. These films include Design for Living (1933) with Gary Cooper; Death Takes a Holiday (1934); The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) with Norma Shearer; Les Misérables with Charles Laughton; Anna Karenina (1935) with Greta Garbo; The Dark Angel with Merle Oberon; Nothing Sacred (1937) with Carole Lombard and I Married a Witch (1942) with Veronica Lake.

During this period, in 1937, he starred in the leading male role in the original A Star is Born alongside Janet Gaynor, and for which he received his third Academy Award nomination. In 1946, he would receive his fourth Academy Award nomination and win his second Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Best Years of Our Lives, the film that's often regarded as the biggest success of his career. The film was directed by William Wyler and his co-stars included the likes Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo.

During the beginning of the 1950s, March continued to enjoy major success, the first of which being for his portrayal of Willy Loman in the 1951 film adaptation of Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, a role of which Miller originally wanted March to originate on stage. This performance garnered him his fifth and final Academy Award nomination and won him his second Volpi Cup for Best Actor. Other major films of his from this decade are Executive Suite (1954) with Barbara Stanwyck and William Holden; The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954) with Grace Kelly and again with Holden; and The Desperate Hours (1955) with Humphrey Bogart.

March's film career began to decline around the mid-1950s and by the 1960s, he had started to star in a much smaller number of films than he had previously during the most successful decades of his career. In spite of this, he still had major roles in a handful of successful films during this period, they are Inherit the Wind (1960) for which he won the Silver Bear for Best Actor; Seven Days in May (1964) with Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner and Kirk Douglas; and Hombre (1967) with Paul Newman. He closed out his career playing opposite Jeff Bridges and Lee Marvin in the 1973 film The Iceman Cometh.

He was also a well regarded stage actor. During his career acting on stage he had twice won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performances in the plays 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, 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.

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.


"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.

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). 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.

The Road to Glory (1936) 1
Warner Baxter, June Lang, and March in The Road to Glory (1936)
March with Janet Gaynor in A Star is Born (1937)
Best Years of Our Lives
Hoagy Carmichael, March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews and Theresa Wright in The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Inherit the wind trailer (6) Spencer Tracy Fredric March
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 resisted signing long-term contracts with the studios, 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.

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".

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.

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.

Marriage and public activities

Fredric March in Best Years of Our Lives trailer
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.

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

Throughout his life, March and Eldridge were supporters of the Democratic Party. In July 1936, March co-founded the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League (HANL), along with the writers Dorothy Parker 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.

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

March died of prostate cancer, at the age of 77, in Los Angeles, and he was buried at his estate in New Milford, Connecticut.


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

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


March was briefly a member of an interfraternity society composed of leading students formed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1919 and 1920 named the Ku Klux Klan which is not believed to have been affiliated with the notorious organization of that name. In actuality, March was an outspoken proponent of the civil rights movement for five decades, and worked closely with the NAACP. When the collegiate organization was named, the (later national) KKK was a small regional organization. As the national KKK became better known, the collegiate organization changed its name in 1922.

False rumors based on a misunderstanding of the organization of which March was a member were spread on social media that March was a white supremacist. The 500-seat theater at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh was formerly named after March. 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 reports of March's membership in a student fraternal organization calling itself Ku Klux Klan. UW–Oshkosh pulled March's name from what is now the Theatre Arts Center shortly before the 2020–21 academic term.

Filmography and awards


Year Title Role Notes
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
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
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
Design for Living Thomas B. 'Tom' Chambers
1934 All of Me Don Ellis
Good Dame Mace Townsley
Death Takes a Holiday Prince Sirki / Death
The Affairs of Cellini Benvenuto Cellini
The Barretts of Wimpole Street Robert Browning
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
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
Anthony Adverse Anthony Adverse
Screen Snapshots Series 16, No. 3 Himself short film
1937 A Star Is Born Norman Maine
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
1940 Susan and God Barrie Trexel
Victory Hendrik Heyst
Lights Out in Europe Narrator Documentary
1941 So Ends Our Night Josef Steiner
One Foot in Heaven William Spence
Bedtime Story Lucius 'Luke' Drake
1942 I Married a Witch Jonathan Wooley / Nathaniel Wooley / Samuel Wooley
Lake Carrier Narrator Documentary short
1944 Valley of the Tennessee Narrator
The Adventures of Mark Twain Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Tomorrow, the World! Mike Frame
1946 The Best Years of Our Lives Al Stephenson
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
The Nash Airflyte Theater Television
Episode: "The Boor"
1951 It's a Big Country Joe Esposito
Death of a Salesman Willy Loman
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 Omnibus Don Juan Television
Episode: "The Last Night of Don Juan"
Man on a Tightrope Karel Cernik
1954 The Bridges at Toko-Ri Rear Admiral George Tarrant
Executive Suite Loren Phineas Shaw
The Best of Broadway Tony Cavendish Television
Episode: "The Royal Family" (based on March's Broadway play and film of the same name)
Shower of Stars Ebenezer Scrooge Television
Episode: "A Christmas Carol"
What's My Line? Himself
1955 The Desperate Hours Dan C. Hilliard
1956 Alexander the Great Philip II of Macedon
The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Ralph Hopkins
Producers' Showcase Sam Dodsworth Television
Episode: "Dodsworth"
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
1960 Inherit the Wind Matthew Harrison Brady
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
1964 Seven Days in May President Jordan Lyman
The Presidency: A Splendid Mystery Narrator Television
Pieta Narrator Documentary
1967 Hombre Dr. Alex Favor
1970 …tick…tick…tick… Mayor Jeff Parks
1973 The Iceman Cometh Harry Hope final film role

Awards and nominations

Award Year Category Work Result
Academy Awards 1931 Best Actor The Royal Family of Broadway Nominated
1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Won
1938 A Star Is Born Nominated
1947 The Best Years of Our Lives Won
1952 Death of a Salesman Nominated
BAFTA Awards 1952 Best Foreign Actor Nominated
1955 Executive Suite Nominated
1961 Inherit the Wind Nominated
Golden Globe Awards 1952 Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Death of a Salesman Won
1960 Middle of the Night Nominated
1965 Seven Days in May Nominated
Primetime Emmy Awards 1955 Best Single Performance by an Actor The Best of Broadway (for episode "The Royal Family") Nominated
Shower of Stars (for episode "A Christmas Carol") Nominated
1957 Producers' Showcase (for episode "Dodsworth") Nominated
Tony Awards 1947 Best Actor in a Play Years Ago Won
1957 Long Day's Journey into Night Won
1962 Gideon Nominated
Venice Film Festival Awards 1932 Best Actor Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Won
1952 Volpi Cup for Best Actor Death of a Salesman Won
1954 Special Jury Prize for Ensemble Acting Executive Suite Won (shared with the principal cast)
Berlin Film Festival Awards 1960 Silver Bear for Best Actor Inherit the Wind Won
David di Donatello Awards 1964 Best Foreign Actor Seven Days in May Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1946 Best Actor The Best Years of Our Lives Nominated
Laurel Awards 1967 Top Male Supporting Performance Hombre Nominated

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1942 Lux Radio Theatre One Foot in Heaven
1946 Academy Award A Star Is Born
1949 The MGM Theater of the Air Citadel
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air Cass Timberlane
1953 Star Playhouse A Bell for Adano
1953 There Shall Be No Night

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Fredric March para niños

  • List of actors with two or more Academy Awards in acting categories
Black History Month on Kiddle
African-American Women in Medicine:
Mary Eliza Mahoney
Susie King Taylor
Ida Gray
Eliza Ann Grier
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