MCM: Fredric March

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Between his name and his suave good looks, I thought Fredric March might be some European transplant to Hollywood. Nope, he was born in Wisconsin and just took a shortened version of his mother’s maiden name for his stage name. Well, I may not know his personal history, but I know his face because he shows up in a lot of classic frock flicks. March was one of the biggies in the 1930s, but his career continued right up until his death in 1975. He played dashing but complicated heroes, and several times co-stared with his wife Florence Eldridge.

 

Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Hyde in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

Fredric March, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

March won his firs Best Actor Oscar for this double-sided role.

 

Marcus Superbus, Prefect of Rome, in The Sign of the Cross (1932)

Fredric March, The Sign of the Cross (1932)

As a Roman soldier who falls in love with Christian woman during Emperor Nero’s reign.

 

Benvenuto Cellini in The Affairs of Cellini (1934)

Fredric March, The Affairs of Cellini (1934)

March plays a 16th-c. sculptor with romantic entanglements & a cute little mustache.

 

Robert Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)

As the famed poet wooing another poet in this rather extravagant production.

 

Jean Valjean / Champmathieu in Les Misérables (1935)

Fredric March, Les Misérables (1935)

Starring in the first big Hollywood production of Victor Hugo’s novel.

 

Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina (1935)

Fredric March, Anna Karenina (1935)

Opposite Greta Garbo in this tragic romance.

 

Lt. Michel Denet in The Road to Glory (1936)

Fredric March, The Road to Glory (1936)

A World War I story.

 

Earl of Bothwell in Mary of Scotland (1936)

Mary of Scotland (1936)

Making Bothwell a sexy rogue (contrary to historical reality, of course).

 

Anthony Adverse in Anthony Adverse (1936)

Fredric March, Anthony Adverse (1936)

A strange & unsatisfying movie, but March looks great in it.

 

Jean Lafitte in The Buccaneer (1938)

Fredric March, The Buccaneer (1938)

Making one elegant pirate!

 

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, aka Mark Twain, in The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)

Fredric March, The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)

Returning to historical roles after a while, March attempted Twain.

 

Marcus Hubbard in Another Part of the Forest (1948)

Fredric March, Another Part of the Forest (1948)

In this tense 1880s period drama, March & Florence Eldridge play husband & wife of an unscrupulous family.

 

Christopher Columbus in Christopher Columbus (1949)

Fredric March, Christopher Columbus (1949)

Florence Eldridge played Queen Isabella to March’s Columbus in this hugely over-budget, ill-fated production.

 

Philip of Macedonia in Alexander the Great (1956)

Fredric March, Alexander the Great (1956)

A historical epic over-stuffed with big battles.

 

Matthew Harrison Brady in Inherit the Wind (1960)

Fredric March, Inherit the Wind (1960)

A fictionalization of the the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial where March plays the character modeled after William Jennings Bryan.

 

Harry Hope in The Iceman Cometh (1973)

Fredric March, The Iceman Cometh (1973)

A highly praised adaption of the Eugene O’Neill play set in 1912 New York City.

 

 

What’s your favorite frock flick featuring Fredric March?

15 Responses

  1. the Storyenthusiast

    I’ve been familiar with March for a while, but have only this past year learned to respect and admire his talent. I know it’s not a historical flick, but he’s fabulous in Merrily We Go to Hell. But he also did a great job as Mark Twain, at least in appearance.

    Reply
  2. Roxana

    Marcus Suberbus??? Seriously??? Who came up with that name? I’m not an expert but I know enough Roman history for that to sound phony as heck.. almost as bad as Maximus Decimus Meridius!
    The historical Bothwell probably was considered sexy by his contemporaries, certainly he had enough women panting after him, not just Mary.

    Reply
    • hsc

      “Marcus Superbus??? Seriously??? Who came up with that name?”

      British playwright Wilson Barrett, in 1895:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Barrett#1890s:_The_Sign_of_the_Cross

      It was first performed in the U.S., and was a big comeback for him and his greatest success. It played on stage on both sides of the Atlantic for years, and there was a 1914 silent version by Paramount before their 1932 sound remake with March.

      The 1932 version was quite popular, and was re-released by Paramount in 1938– minus some “naughty bits” (it was a Cecil B. DeMille “sin and repent” epic) that had passed before the Motion Picture Code dropped in 1934.

      In 1944, they released the cut version yet again, now with an “inspiring” wraparound newly shot by DeMille, showing WWII fighter pilots going into battle and getting the story told to them as a feature-length flashback, returning to the planes at the end for a big symbolic aerial view of a cathedral forming a cross.

      The original 1932 version has fortunately been restored and is the one most commonly available today, but I saw the 1944 version– the only one available for decades– in a revival theater back in the mid-70s.

      I also saw DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (ironically, in a restored version of the pre-code version unseen for decades) and ANNA KARENINA in the same theater, along with many other classic “frock films,” like MARIE ANTOINETTE and ROMEO AND JULIET.

      Losing those niche theaters is the big downside to the “home media” revolution– we now have much easier access to seeing films, but lose the experience of seeing them at the screen size they were designed for, and with an audience sharing the experience.

      Reply
      • Roxana

        Oh well, 19th century, you couldn’t just look up Roman naming conventions on Wikipedia.

        Reply
  3. mmcquown

    Haven’t seen a lot of them, but I’ll go for Jekyll and Hyde. Amusing note about Mary of Scotland: the earl’s family name was Hepburn.

    Reply
  4. MJ

    My favorite Fredric March pic isn’t a frock flick (“The Best Years of Our Lives”) but several of these look interesting/fun to watch (he’s certainly not the swashbuckler Errol Flynn was, but all the more interesting for that). I did NOT realize that was him in “Inherit the Wind”!

    Reply
    • Melanie

      The Best Years of Our Lives is phenomenal and one of my favorite movies. I’ve always wanted to see his Jekyll and Hyde but still need to get around to it!

      Reply
    • Carrie

      I was so taken by his youthful hotness that I didn’t even recognize him as the mustachioed banker from The Best Year’s of Our Lives, one of my favorite films of all time! The scene where he drags his wife, daughter and Dana Andrews to nightclub after nightclub is masterful, as is the bank loan scene, and the banquet speech scene… Not a frock flick but better than anything Hollywood could come up with today to portray the postwar period.

      Reply
  5. M.E. Lawrence

    I love March’s dramatic and rom-com roles–he was funny as hell in “Nothing Sacred” and “Design for Living”–but had no idea he frock-flicked so much, let alone played Mark Twain.

    Interesting bio note: March was a dedicated leftie, as was his wife Florence Eldridge, and an ally of the NAACP. Nevertheless, his name has been removed from a theatre at his alma mater, UW-Madison, because, back in 1919, he briefly belonged to a fraternity that called itself something like HKKK. (Think privileged white teenagers who didn’t understand what the KKK was; the name was changed in haste.)

    https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-film-group-connecticut-20220307-2l55qngx4baadoali3vyl3bw2e-story.html

    Fascinating longer piece here: https://brightlightsfilm.com/a-star-is-shorn-thanks-to-woefully-underinformed-campus-activists-acting-legend-badger-alum-and-civil-rights-champion-fredric-march-is-suddenly-off-wisconsin/

    Reply
  6. Rowen G.

    I first became aware of him as the title character in the 1932 ‘Death Takes a Holiday’, and still have a soft spot for that one.

    Reply
  7. Kendra

    Too funny – I saw this on our calendar of upcoming posts, and assumed this would be Mr. March from Little Women — who I now know is named Robert!

    Reply
  8. Darlene Marshall

    He was great in The Buccaneer, but IMO Yul Brynner in the remake was unbeatable. If I had to pick a fave March film it would be a toss-up between Inherit the Wind and The Best Years of Our Lives.

    Reply
    • M.E. Lawrence

      Or the two I mentioned above, “Design for Living” (from a Noel Coward play, co-starring Miriam Hopkins and Gary Cooper: heaven) and “Nothing Sacred” with Carole Lombard. F.M. is also terrific in “A Star is Born.” He could apparently play just about any style.

      Reply
  9. Melissa

    No one’s mentioned “Smilin’ Thru” yet, but he’s awesome in that. I want Norma Shearer’s “1860s” bias cut ball gown. It has to be seen to be believed.

    Reply

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