Monday, April 28, 2008

Fredric March - Footprints at Grauman's

The strong signature of Fredric March scrawled across the wet cement, accompanied by imprints of the hands and shoes, was made at Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater a week before “A Star in Born” was released.

Mr. March’s career did not echo the infamous Norman Maine’s tragic demise of that film. He and his actress wife, Florence Eldridge, enjoyed long, successful careers on stage and screen. March won the Academy Award, and a couple of Tony Awards for his work on Broadway, appeared on television and worked several decades at a craft at which he was particularly good.

From matinee idol to aging character actor, he could play the charming hero, the menacing heavy, the miserable wretch of uncertain mind and dubious morals. He played men of the Elizabethan age with a flourish, and modern men in Greek tragedies. His presence on screen was as strong and as certain as his masterful signature.


Campaspe said...

He gets derided a bit for (alleged) hamminess but he was wonderful in a lot of movies. As a stage-trained actor he played strongly as you say. I have a number of actors filed in my brain under "why don't they have bigger followings?" and he's one of them, along with William Powell and John Garfield. One reason may be that they all had screen careers that were either cut short, like Garfield, or interrupted at length. March would go off and do long stints of stage work when the screen parts weren't pleasing him and Powell had a period of illness that sidelined him for a while.

Here's a gossipy, unsubstantiated little anecdote about March. Supposedly he was a real dog who would get more friendly than his leading ladies might wish at times. There is a moment in Nothing Sacred where he's embracing Carole Lombard, and she gets a startled look on her face. The story goes that the camera is capturing her expression as March took advantage and grabbed her ass.

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

The hamminess may be actual, but I think only in brief, inspired bursts of adrenalin, and for me, forgivable. He was a good actor, who did not shy away from a range of roles. I'm not quite sure about the lack of following for him, or the other actors you mentioned. Sometimes, as in March's case, when an actor plays a range of roles as he ages, he may lose his following because they don't know who they're following. Somebody like Cooper or Gable or Heston, I suppose, played the hero. You knew what you were paying for.

Did his "friendliness" with the leading ladies extend to Myrna Loy? Their chemistry in "Best Years" is terrific.

Campaspe said...

Yes, that's astute; as a smaller star March's image wasn't one continuous arch. "Inspired bursts of adrenalin" is itself a pretty darned inspired apologia for hamminess, I absolutely love it.

I have no idea if he got frisky with Myrna but somehow I think not!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Not with Myrna? Dang.

I'd like to direct our readers to two recent posts of the Siren's on Joseph Breen and his office of film censorship, and the "dance soliloquy." Both typically excellent. (

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