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Charles Tranberg Q & A on Fredric March

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 11:51 am

Rita Hayworth wrote:Time for another question ...


Mr. Tranberg, I just remember something in 1944 he did The Adventures of Mark Twain and played Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) and I really find this movie very entertaining and can you share anything about this movie - and I wished that someday that TCM will air this movie for all of us here to enjoy.


Hello again Rita Hayworth! I agree with you about The Adventures of Mark Twain it is a wonderful film and he is very convincing looking as Twain! The producer of the film, Jesse Lasky had a hard time getting Warner Brothers to make the film. He had just given them a huge hit with Sergeant York but Warner's didn't think that a movie about Twain would be relevant with wartime audiences. One thing that Jack Warner insisted on when they did finally decide to bankroll the picture was a star name and immediately the name Fredric March came up. The director, Irving Rapper, later said, "I couldn't think of any other actor--even Spencer Tracy--who could play the part." Originally Olivia de Havilland was to play the part of Mrs. Samuel Clemens, but she was suspended by the studio for turning down another film, and was replaced by Alexis Smith. March had a big supporter in Twain's last living child, Clara, who sent many letters to the studio and to March about her father and how March was really the only actor who could do justice to her father (I quote from many of them in the book). He really immersed himself in the role. He read everything he could find on Twain and repeatedly watched a very old movie (a few seconds long) of Twain walking so he could copy it. When the film was released Twain's daughter wrote him saying, "Your treatment of the various sheaths of his disposition was characteristic and convincing. Serious you were when making your jokes, just a he was...I lost you (the actor) and found my dear father."

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 23rd, 2013, 12:25 pm

It is very interesting that you said that Clara told the studio - that only Fredric March can play Mark Twain. I find this information fascinating - and again thanks for sharing that piece of information there and I can understand why. I just loved that film and get a ringing endorsement from Twain's only living child - is a fitting tribute to his career as an actor.

One more thing, I'm hard of hearing - matter of fact pretty much deaf. I find his speech and voice very easy for me to follow and his voice on film is firm and reassuring and that alone make him a very enjoyable actor to follow. I just wanted to share that information to you. That's why I like him so much.

Again, thanks for sharing his role of Mark Twain back in 1944.

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby moira finnie » November 23rd, 2013, 1:09 pm

The great questions from our members and your thorough replies are a pleasure to read, Charles and participants.

Could you please post a bit about Fredric March's involvement with The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, beginning in 1936?

Was March involved in helping many anti-Nazi European émigrés trying to settle in the U.S., particularly those who were in the arts?

What was the evening like when The Spanish Earth (1937), Ernest Hemingway's documentary about the Spanish Civil War, was presented at the home of March and his wife, Florence Eldridge?

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Above: Florence Eldredge and her husband Fredric March with committee chairman Martin Dies during House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1940, a decade before the more notorious period of McCarthyism began.

Do you think that March ever regretted his involvement when an informer for the Dies committee and later the scurrilous Red Channels publication tried to smear him as a Communist sympathizer? Was he gray-listed as a result of this criticism?

Thanks in advance for your replies.
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Professional Tourist » November 23rd, 2013, 2:33 pm

Good afternoon, Mr. Tranberg. Thank you for your Guest Author visit and willingness to discuss all of your books.

No surprise, I'm sure, I have a question on your first book :wink: which I read five years ago. There is one fact regarding Miss Moorehead's education that has been puzzling me. You had stated that she graduated from Central High School in St. Louis in 1919, but there is no citation for this item in the book's end notes for that chapter. I've always wondered what was your source for that info.

In my personal research, and at the suggestion of one of the members here, I have traced her to St. Louis' Soldan High School for at least one of her early years of high school. I was able to locate and purchase the June 1915 and 1916 Soldan year books and found a photo of AM in the 1915, though nothing in the 1916. She could have transferred to other school(s) for her later years. Also, if she was a freshman in June 1915, then it seems likely she would have graduated high school in 1918 rather than 1919, unless for some reason it took her five years rather than the usual four to complete high school.

Would you mind sharing your source for Central High School 1919 as AM's high school graduation? I'm sure you wouldn't remember this off-hand, but if you have notes that could be checked, I'd be interested to know. This is something AM did not mention during interviews -- she used to speak of her college and grad school, but not high school. Thank you.

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 3:11 pm

moirafinnie wrote:The great questions from our members and your thorough replies are a pleasure to read, Charles and participants.

Could you please post a bit about Fredric March's involvement with The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, beginning in 1936?

Was March involved in helping many anti-Nazi European émigrés trying to settle in the U.S., particularly those who were in the arts?

What was the evening like when The Spanish Earth (1937), Ernest Hemingway's documentary about the Spanish Civil War, was presented at the home of March and his wife, Florence Eldridge?

Image
Above: Florence Eldredge and her husband Fredric March with committee chairman Martin Dies during House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in Los Angeles, Calif., in 1940, a decade before the more notorious period of McCarthyism began.

Do you think that March ever regretted his involvement when an informer for the Dies committee and later the scurrilous Red Channels publication tried to smear him as a Communist sympathizer? Was he gray-listed as a result of this criticism?

Thanks in advance for your replies.

The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League was started in 1936 by those in the film/literary community due to the growth of fascism in Europe and by forces which seemed to support it in the U.S. as well as what they thought was a weak-sister approach by the American government in opposing fascism both politically and morally. Among those who were part of this League were March and his wife, Dorothy Parker, Walter Wanger, Fred MacMurray, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Oscar Hammerstien II, Gloria Stuart, Mervyn LeRoy, Clifford Odets, Chico Marx, Eddie Cantor and Benny Goodman--and several others. A good cross section--some liberal others conservative--Democrat and Republican. Eventually there would be over 5000 members. Eventually the league came under attack from the Martin Dies Committee (HUAC) because some felt that in opposing the fascists, they were not doing enough to oppose communism and that the committee was under communist influence. John Ford would have none of that. He said at one point, "If this is communism--count me in." March made a wonderful statement re: all this: "Every time during the last few years that I have felt impelled to protest an injustice, to cry out against man's inhumanity to man, or to espouse some social reform, I have been called a Communist. Because the founders of our country believed in justice, tolerance and the exercise of such social reform as would benefit the people at large, I insist upon the right to follow their example and still be recognized as a loyal American citizen." Of course one of the things the HANL hoped to accomplish was to help bring those being oppressed or worse by the Nazi's to the US and other countries where they could live freely without persecution. The League also hoped thru the influence of film & their own celebrity focus public opinion against the Fascists.

March and his wife hosted a fundraiser to raise funds to support the loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War by screening the Hemingway documentary "The Spanish Earth." It was while March was in the midst of filming "Nothing Sacred." Among those who attended the event at the March home were John Ford, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Sam Goldwyn, Lillian Hellman and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The original narration for "The Spanish Earth" was done by a very young Orson Welles. After the screening both March and Hellman told Hemingway that the documentary was very powerful but thought that Welles' voice was too 'mellifluous' and that the impact would be stronger if Hemingway himself narrated it, which after some prodding he did redo the narration in his own voice. Naturally after the film the audience expected Hemingway to say a few words, but nothing happened, and finally Florence approached him and told him he should get up and speak to the guests. Hemingway replied, 'Well, I guess your right, but first I got to take a leak." He did and came back and delivered a very strong talk and the event raised about $13,000.

In 1940 an ex-communist named John Leech (the name fit) named several people who had been involved in HANL & supporting the loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War as Communists. His evidence was dubious. Among the very prominent names mentioned were March, James Cagney, Bogart and Franchot Tone. Of course this got a great deal of publicity and famously Bogie said, "If I were to read the doctrine of Marx it would be Groucho not Karl." Rep. Martin Dees was the head of the HUAC and he wanted to get as much publicity as possible. This is a guy who once insinuated that Shirley Temple was a Communist sympathizer. Needless to say in the Summer of 1940, Dees came to Los Angeles and held hearings at the Biltmore Hotel and many of those accused testified including March, with his wife at his side. March denied any association with Communists or the Communists Party and called Leech a liar. Dies later cleared March, Cagney, Bogart and Tone. But years later after the war when HUAC again began to investigate Communism in Hollywood, March's name was again brought up as being if not a Communist himself, then soft on Communism. A publication named "Counter-Attack" called March and his wife 'fellow travelers' and rather than let it go as they were advised to do--the Marches sued. March vigorously defended himself and made a speech where he said, "another informer reports that I received an acting award from the magazine "New Masses" for my acting in the play A BELL FOR ADANO--but the informer omits the fact that I happened to receive seven or eight other awards that year, including the Eisenhower Medal for--now don't laugh--the actor who contributed the most to democracy in 1945." The Marches did win a retraction but the damage was done, and film offers became scarcer and the Marches found themselves working even more on the New York stage--but eventually this did lift. NO, March never did regret his work on behalf of liberal causes or the Anti-Nazi League. He was proud of it and unlike some he fought the accusations against him and was vindicated.

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 3:30 pm

Professional Tourist wrote:Good afternoon, Mr. Tranberg. Thank you for your Guest Author visit and willingness to discuss all of your books.

No surprise, I'm sure, I have a question on your first book :wink: which I read five years ago. There is one fact regarding Miss Moorehead's education that has been puzzling me. You had stated that she graduated from Central High School in St. Louis in 1919, but there is no citation for this item in the book's end notes for that chapter. I've always wondered what was your source for that info.

In my personal research, and at the suggestion of one of the members here, I have traced her to St. Louis' Soldan High School for at least one of her early years of high school. I was able to locate and purchase the June 1915 and 1916 Soldan year books and found a photo of AM in the 1915, though nothing in the 1916. She could have transferred to other school(s) for her later years. Also, if she was a freshman in June 1915, then it seems likely she would have graduated high school in 1918 rather than 1919, unless for some reason it took her five years rather than the usual four to complete high school.

Would you mind sharing your source for Central High School 1919 as AM's high school graduation? I'm sure you wouldn't remember this off-hand, but if you have notes that could be checked, I'd be interested to know. This is something AM did not mention during interviews -- she used to speak of her college and grad school, but not high school. Thank you.


Hello Professional Tourist!! I believe you are correct. I do note that on page 18 of "I Love the Illusion" I write, 'When Agnes graduated from Central High School in 1919' that is either a typo on my part or a faulty assumption due to her beginning her college career in 1919. I will say that my information for the earliest years of Agnes' life was rather scant and if I were doing it over today I would probably change a few things.

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Professional Tourist » November 23rd, 2013, 3:53 pm

charlestranberg wrote:
Professional Tourist wrote:Good afternoon, Mr. Tranberg. Thank you for your Guest Author visit and willingness to discuss all of your books.

No surprise, I'm sure, I have a question on your first book :wink: which I read five years ago. There is one fact regarding Miss Moorehead's education that has been puzzling me. You had stated that she graduated from Central High School in St. Louis in 1919, but there is no citation for this item in the book's end notes for that chapter. I've always wondered what was your source for that info.

In my personal research, and at the suggestion of one of the members here, I have traced her to St. Louis' Soldan High School for at least one of her early years of high school. I was able to locate and purchase the June 1915 and 1916 Soldan year books and found a photo of AM in the 1915, though nothing in the 1916. She could have transferred to other school(s) for her later years. Also, if she was a freshman in June 1915, then it seems likely she would have graduated high school in 1918 rather than 1919, unless for some reason it took her five years rather than the usual four to complete high school.

Would you mind sharing your source for Central High School 1919 as AM's high school graduation? I'm sure you wouldn't remember this off-hand, but if you have notes that could be checked, I'd be interested to know. This is something AM did not mention during interviews -- she used to speak of her college and grad school, but not high school. Thank you.

Hello Professional Tourist!! I believe you are correct. I do note that on page 18 of "I Love the Illusion" I write, 'When Agnes graduated from Central High School in 1919' that is either a typo on my part or a faulty assumption due to her beginning her college career in 1919. I will say that my information for the earliest years of Agnes' life was rather scant and if I were doing it over today I would probably change a few things.

Correct about what? Do you have any source for St. Louis Central High School as the place of her high school graduation, whether it was 1919 or another year? Do you know which city/school/year it actually was, or is all of this unknown? I thought you might have found something in her papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society to document this, such as her diploma?

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 4:10 pm

Professional Tourist wrote:
charlestranberg wrote:
Professional Tourist wrote:Good afternoon, Mr. Tranberg. Thank you for your Guest Author visit and willingness to discuss all of your books.

No surprise, I'm sure, I have a question on your first book :wink: which I read five years ago. There is one fact regarding Miss Moorehead's education that has been puzzling me. You had stated that she graduated from Central High School in St. Louis in 1919, but there is no citation for this item in the book's end notes for that chapter. I've always wondered what was your source for that info.

In my personal research, and at the suggestion of one of the members here, I have traced her to St. Louis' Soldan High School for at least one of her early years of high school. I was able to locate and purchase the June 1915 and 1916 Soldan year books and found a photo of AM in the 1915, though nothing in the 1916. She could have transferred to other school(s) for her later years. Also, if she was a freshman in June 1915, then it seems likely she would have graduated high school in 1918 rather than 1919, unless for some reason it took her five years rather than the usual four to complete high school.

Would you mind sharing your source for Central High School 1919 as AM's high school graduation? I'm sure you wouldn't remember this off-hand, but if you have notes that could be checked, I'd be interested to know. This is something AM did not mention during interviews -- she used to speak of her college and grad school, but not high school. Thank you.

Hello Professional Tourist!! I believe you are correct. I do note that on page 18 of "I Love the Illusion" I write, 'When Agnes graduated from Central High School in 1919' that is either a typo on my part or a faulty assumption due to her beginning her college career in 1919. I will say that my information for the earliest years of Agnes' life was rather scant and if I were doing it over today I would probably change a few things.

Correct about what? Do you have any source for St. Louis Central High School as the place of her high school graduation, whether it was 1919 or another year? Do you know which city/school/year it actually was, or is all of this unknown? I thought you might have found something in her papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society to document this, such as her diploma?


I'm sorry, I meant that you are correct about her graduating in 1918. Over the years some other people have mentioned the same thing to me, and Central High School, now known as Central Visual & Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, does list her as an alumni graduating in 1918 on there website http://www.slps.org/Page/21165 And no, I found little or nothing in her papers here regarding her high school career, in fact, precious little about her early life.

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Professional Tourist » November 23rd, 2013, 4:29 pm

Professional Tourist wrote:
charlestranberg wrote:
Professional Tourist wrote:Good afternoon, Mr. Tranberg. Thank you for your Guest Author visit and willingness to discuss all of your books.

No surprise, I'm sure, I have a question on your first book :wink: which I read five years ago. There is one fact regarding Miss Moorehead's education that has been puzzling me. You had stated that she graduated from Central High School in St. Louis in 1919, but there is no citation for this item in the book's end notes for that chapter. I've always wondered what was your source for that info.

In my personal research, and at the suggestion of one of the members here, I have traced her to St. Louis' Soldan High School for at least one of her early years of high school. I was able to locate and purchase the June 1915 and 1916 Soldan year books and found a photo of AM in the 1915, though nothing in the 1916. She could have transferred to other school(s) for her later years. Also, if she was a freshman in June 1915, then it seems likely she would have graduated high school in 1918 rather than 1919, unless for some reason it took her five years rather than the usual four to complete high school.

Would you mind sharing your source for Central High School 1919 as AM's high school graduation? I'm sure you wouldn't remember this off-hand, but if you have notes that could be checked, I'd be interested to know. This is something AM did not mention during interviews -- she used to speak of her college and grad school, but not high school. Thank you.

Hello Professional Tourist!! I believe you are correct. I do note that on page 18 of "I Love the Illusion" I write, 'When Agnes graduated from Central High School in 1919' that is either a typo on my part or a faulty assumption due to her beginning her college career in 1919. I will say that my information for the earliest years of Agnes' life was rather scant and if I were doing it over today I would probably change a few things.

Correct about what? Do you have any source for St. Louis Central High School as the place of her high school graduation, whether it was 1919 or another year? Do you know which city/school/year it actually was, or is all of this unknown? I thought you might have found something in her papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society to document this, such as her diploma?

charlestranberg wrote:I'm sorry, I meant that you are correct about her graduating in 1918. Over the years some other people have mentioned the same thing to me, and Central High School, now known as Central Visual & Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, does list her as an alumni graduating in 1918 on there website http://www.slps.org/Page/21165 And no, I found little or nothing in her papers here regarding her high school career, in fact, precious little about her early life.

I've come across that web page myself, but felt uncertain of its accuracy -- so many places make claims to connections with her. :) Well, I do have a source for a copy of Central's 1918 year book, so I'll check it out and see if she's in there. If so, she may have started high school at Soldan and then transferred to Central by senior year. Thank you.

Now I'd like to know what she did with that gap year between high school and college. . . . :P :D

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 4:42 pm

charlestranberg wrote:I'm sorry, I meant that you are correct about her graduating in 1918. Over the years some other people have mentioned the same thing to me, and Central High School, now known as Central Visual & Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, does list her as an alumni graduating in 1918 on there website http://www.slps.org/Page/21165 And no, I found little or nothing in her papers here regarding her high school career, in fact, precious little about her early life.

I've come across that web page myself, but felt uncertain of its accuracy -- so many places make claims to connections with her. :) Well, I do have a source for a copy of Central's 1918 year book, so I'll check it out and see if she's in there. If so, she may have started high school at Soldan and then transferred to Central by senior year. Thank you.

Now I'd like to know what she did with that gap year between high school and college. . . . :P :D[/quote]

Yes, that is a good question. Perhaps helped her parents move to Reedsburg before going off to College. Perhaps Axel Nissen in his forthcoming biography of Agnes Moorehead will have some additional information from that period of her life?

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 4:51 pm

This has been a lot of fun so far! Thank you for your very good questions. I'm going to be gone for a few hours, but if you have a question please post it and I'll get to it later on and look forward to answering them thru tomorrow :)

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby JackFavell » November 23rd, 2013, 5:03 pm

Mr. Tranberg,

Thanks so much for your in depth replies! It's a joy to get to know the man behind so many movie characters.

One of my favorite roles for March is Robert Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street. I don't think it was exactly a showcase for March, more of one for Shearer, nor a stretch for him as an actor, but I really enjoy the breath of fresh air he brings to the Barrett household in the film. He's quite perfect as the warm, exuberant poet. I think the costume drama is tremendously good, with excellent performances all around, most notably from Charles Laughton as the tyrannical patriarch who uses religious devotion and the memory of their mother as a way to keep his daughters under his control. Did March ever play Browning on stage? How did he enjoy working with Norma Shearer and Charles Laughton? Did he enjoy period films? Was he attracted to this film role because of its stage origins?

Did he have any great friends in the film industry? outside the film industry? folks he really felt a kinship with? I am guessing he liked to be in groups of people, but that's only a guess.

I am quite curious about Florence Eldredge. If you could encapsulate her life, and her effect on March, what would be her legacy? Was she foremost an actress, an entertaining hostess, a homemaker, a political ally, an intellectual? Perhaps some combination of these? What was her leading trait, in relation to her marriage to March? Was it difficult for her to be the second lead to him, so to speak?

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 23rd, 2013, 5:52 pm

Charles, thank you so much for these wonderfully in-depth responses. We are very grateful here at the SSO! :D
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Professional Tourist » November 23rd, 2013, 6:24 pm

charlestranberg wrote:
Professional Tourist wrote:
charlestranberg wrote:I'm sorry, I meant that you are correct about her graduating in 1918. Over the years some other people have mentioned the same thing to me, and Central High School, now known as Central Visual & Performing Arts High School in St. Louis, does list her as an alumni graduating in 1918 on there website http://www.slps.org/Page/21165 And no, I found little or nothing in her papers here regarding her high school career, in fact, precious little about her early life.

I've come across that web page myself, but felt uncertain of its accuracy -- so many places make claims to connections with her. :) Well, I do have a source for a copy of Central's 1918 year book, so I'll check it out and see if she's in there. If so, she may have started high school at Soldan and then transferred to Central by senior year. Thank you.

Now I'd like to know what she did with that gap year between high school and college. . . . :P :D

Yes, that is a good question. Perhaps helped her parents move to Reedsburg before going off to College. Perhaps Axel Nissen in his forthcoming biography of Agnes Moorehead will have some additional information from that period of her life?

:o Hrrrmmph. I think you are aware from this summer's discussions at Harpies that that's one book, if it does come forth, I would not purchase. :x

Sam Irvin, in his bio of Kay Thompson, claims that AM had graduated from Soldan, which was Thompson's alma mater. I've seen one book that reports she graduated from Reedsburg High School in Wisconsin! Well, I may get to the bottom of this eventually. :D

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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby movieman1957 » November 23rd, 2013, 6:26 pm

I haven't seen a great deal of his work (compared to what his catalog is) but I don't recall he played a character that is rather hard to like. "Executive Suite" comes to mind. What is the one March picture you want people to see?

Having read the MacMurray interview and knowing you wrote about Robert Taylor is there anything you picked up about any of these men that really surprised you?
Chris

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