Fredric March

For the Australian soldier, see Frederick Hamilton March.
Fredric March

Circa 1940
Born Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel
(1897-08-31)August 31, 1897
Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died April 14, 1975(1975-04-14) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Prostate cancer
Occupation Actor
Years active 1921–1973
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 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 the only actor 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, 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. 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. March served in the United States Army during World War I as an artillery lieutenant.


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 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 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 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 proceeded 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 Edmund 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

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, 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 for motion pictures on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1620 Vine Street, making him one of only twelve male actors in Hollywood history with multiple Oscar wins that have also been honored with a star.[8] In addition, the 500-seat theater at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is named after March,[9] as well as the 168-seat Fredric March Play Circle Theater at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Memorial Union.[10]

Biographies of March include Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second by Deborah C. Peterson (1996),[11] and Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (2013) by Charles Tranberg.[4]

Filmography and awards

Year Tittle Role Notes
1921 The Great Adventure uncredited extra
Paying the Piper uncredited extra
The Education of Elizabeth uncredited extra
The Devil uncredited extra
1929 The Dummy Trumbull Meredith
The Wild Party James 'Gil' Gilmore
The Studio Murder Mystery Richard Hardell
Paris Bound Jim Hutton
Jealousy Pierre
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
1932 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr Edward Hyde Academy Award for Best Actor (tied with Wallace Beery for The Champ)
Strangers in Love Buddy Drake/Arthur Drake
Merrily We Go to Hell Jerry Corbett
Make Me a Star himself behind-the-scenes drama
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
Death Takes a Holiday Prince Sirki/Death
Good Dame Mace Townsley
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 only
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 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 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 Television
Episode: "The Last Night of Don Juan"
Man on a Tightrope Karel Cernik With Terry Moore and Gloria Grahame
The Bridges at Toko-Ri Rear Admiral George Tarrant
1954 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 Chayevsky
1960 Inherit the Wind Matthew Harrison Brady Won — Silver Bear for Best Actor (Berlin Film Festival)[12]
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

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1946 Academy Award A Star Is Born[13]
1953 Theatre Guild on the Air Cass Timberlane[14]
1953 Star Playhouse A Bell for Adano[15]
1953 Star Playhouse There Shall Be No Night[16]


  2. Obituary Variety, April 16, 1975, page 95.
  4. 1 2 3 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" (PDF). 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. "Fredric March | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  11. Peterson, Deborah C. (1996). Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313298028.
  12. "Berlinale: Prize Winners". Retrieved 2010-01-17.
  13. "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (3): 32–39. Summer 2015.
  14. Kirby, Walter (February 15, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 42. Retrieved June 21, 2015 via
  15. Kirby, Walter (October 11, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved July 6, 2015 via
  16. Kirby, Walter (November 29, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved July 14, 2015 via
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