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Charles Tranberg Q & A on Fredric March

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Erika1712
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Erika1712 » November 23rd, 2013, 7:37 pm

First, I enjoyed your book on Agnes Moorehead very much and I've referred to it often. My question is whether you came across any information regarding Agnes possibly having a relationship with a man of Egyptian descent in the late 1950's. Of course, he may have just been an escort that accompanied her to social events. I've read two newspaper blurbs that I consider to be about the same man -- in one blurb his last name is given as Kadish.

Thank you.

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

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 23rd, 2013, 8:06 pm

One final question ... Mr. Transburg.

In the 1954 Film - The Bridge of Toko-Ri - He played a role of Rear Admiral George Tarrant and I was very stunned to see him in this role that starred William Holden and Grace Kelly. What is role was like?

Can you please share anything about that movie? ... Thanks a million!

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 10:09 pm

JackFavell wrote: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?


Hello Jack Favell and thank you for your welcome and great questions! I also enjoy The Barretts of Wimpole Street, and it has a great back story, too. It was Norma Shearer's first film back after two years off the screen (to have a baby). Irving Thalberg wanted her return to be in something special and this had been a very big hit on Broadway. She really didn't want to do it. She thought it would be a bore to spend two hours suffering on a sofa and thought that Thalberg should get the star of the play, Kit Cornell to play it. Thalberg said no because Cornell, while a big theater name wasn't a big movie name. Reluctantly Norma did it and it turned out to be fine because it ended up being one of her personal favorite films. However Thalberg did want the stage Browning, Brian Aherne, who would have done the film if MGM hadn't insisted on him signing a 7-year contract as a condition. He refused and so they went to March. The Marches were good friends with the Thalberg's--as long as they avoided politics. The Marches were staunch liberals while Thalberg was very conservative. Of Norma Shearer, March once said she had "wonderful sincerity and poise" on screen, but (perhaps because she was the Queen of Metro and married to the boss) he also felt that she could act like a primadonna. March worked with Charles Laughton in three big films: The Sign of the Cross, The Barrett's of Wimpole Street & Les Miserables. He admired and respected Charles as an actor but personally felt a bit uncomfortable around him--at times detecting a gleam in his eye for March--and, according to March, kept trying to look under his toga during the making of "The Sign of the Cross." No, he never played Browning on stage. March didn't really like "The Barrett's of Wimpole Street" later saying that the role "brought out the worst ham elements in me, and I feel I failed in the role."

Regarding period movies he had a love-hate relationship. He enjoyed them for a while but he began making one after the other and he longed to get out of costume and in modern dress and that is where Selznick really came to his rescue in 1937 with A Star is Born and Nothing Sacred.

His best friends through out his life was the friends he made while growing up in Racine and then later in college at the UW in Madison, WI. He maintained contact with them throughout his entire life and when he was in Wisconsin always made time for them. I would say his closest confidante was his brother, Jack Bickel, who he could confide in and whose advice he valued. In show business probably the best friend he had and they went back to the early 20's was the director John Cromwell. When he wasn't working he loved to travel and spend time at his farm in Connecticut with Florence and the kids.

Florence was the most important person in his life. They met while doing summer stock in 1925 at Elitch's Garden in Denver, Colorado. March was married--not very happily--but he fell hard for "Flo" the moment he first saw her, "As far as I was concerned, heaven had descended onto that stage." They were married for 47 years. He thought she was a wonderful actress--and she was. She was a high minded, principled lady who didn't like small talk and so many people thought she was aloof. Humor didn't come easily to Florence, which is why, I think, she really appreciated March--he could make her laugh. She was a good hostess, but by the time they were in there 40's they stopped having big Hollywood parties and they would have just a few friends over for dinner, drinks and stimulating conversation about books, current events and such. She was as you say a political ally--she was probably more political than he was and even more liberal, he grew up in a republican family. She probably had the greater intellect. Some actors thought she was the better actor--not the better screen actor--she never really clicked on the screen, but as a stage actor. She didn't seem to mind her career taking a back seat to his. But later when they worked together so much on the stage--he worked hard to make sure that she wasn't overlooked by people who may have been drawn more to him because of his 'star power.' She, by most accounts, was a good mother. She pretty much gave up her career--except for working with March on occasion--and devoted herself to the children and providing a comfortable home life. March may have had a few affairs along the way, but, according to Bradford Dillman, there really was no other love in his life than Florence and that March knew she was "dynamite."

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 10:11 pm

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Charles, thank you so much for these wonderfully in-depth responses. We are very grateful here at the SSO! :D


You're welcome. The questions have been great!

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

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

Professional Tourist wrote: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


Yes, I did see that when I read the Kay Thompson biography (which is quite good by the way), and that is quite intriguing since nearly every other source claims Central High School and even Central claims her but Soldan doesn't, and on their notable alumni page they list Kay Thompson, Virginia Mayo, Clark Clifford and an array of others, but not Agnes. I would think they would want to claim her as well. I do doubt Reedsburg. When I was there I did inquire and they maintain she didn't. I'm pretty sure they would claim her if she did--especially given the Moorehead connection to the town.

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 10:42 pm

Erika1712 wrote:First, I enjoyed your book on Agnes Moorehead very much and I've referred to it often. My question is whether you came across any information regarding Agnes possibly having a relationship with a man of Egyptian descent in the late 1950's. Of course, he may have just been an escort that accompanied her to social events. I've read two newspaper blurbs that I consider to be about the same man -- in one blurb his last name is given as Kadish.

Thank you.


Hello Erika!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the Agnes Moorehead book. What a tremendous actress she was. I too have heard about a foreign man in her life, but I couldn't determine if he was more than a friend/escort or not. I even asked people who knew Agnes such as Paul Gregory & Debbie Reynolds and they didn't recall any relationship or Agnes speaking about this man. But Agnes was a woman of considerable mystery--maybe. BTW, there certainly was a Kadish she knew--Benjamin Kadish who was the associate director of LEFT HAND OF GOD & later became a producer of several films with Josh Logan.

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 10:53 pm

Rita Hayworth wrote:One final question ... Mr. Transburg.

In the 1954 Film - The Bridge of Toko-Ri - He played a role of Rear Admiral George Tarrant and I was very stunned to see him in this role that starred William Holden and Grace Kelly. What is role was like?

Can you please share anything about that movie? ... Thanks a million!


Hello again Rita Hayworth! The Bridges of Toko-Ri is an excellent film. Originally March was supposed to be second-billed to Holden, but in the meanwhile Grace Kelly suddenly became one of the most sought after actresses in Hollywood and won an Oscar so March was relegated to third place, but he still steals the film. It was based on a James Michener novel which has a decidedly unhappy ending. For the Hollywood movie the ending was to be altered, but Holden, then one of the biggest box office stars in the world, insisted that the ending remain faithful to the novel and he won out. March who plays a war-weary admiral in the film has a deep emotional bond with the Holden character in the film. Here is what March said about his role: "The admiral knows no war is a good war to be in and that it nearly always must be fought in the worst possible place at the worst possible time. He has seen two of his own sons killed in action. This affects the admiral's relationship with the young jet pilots he must send off to battle." Preview audiences rated March higher than any of the other actors and it was this film and the emotional impact that connected March to the audience that convinced Paramount to cast him opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Desperate Hours. If you haven't seen this film, yet, you should when you get a chance.

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

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 24th, 2013, 12:43 am

Mr. Transburg ... thank you very much for the rundown of the movie of the 1954 Film - The Bridge of Toko-Ri and I have seen The Desperate Hours - but I need to see it again and I was hoping that TCM would show it someday! I'm a little vagued on this film and I would loved to see it one more time.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you very much for your time here in Silver Screen Oasis and it's a great pleasure to know more about Fredric March - he is one of my favorite actors - and my first film that I ever seen was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde back in 1931 right around Halloween in 1977 on a public broadcasting channel and he was sensational in this role. I have seen quite a few of his films and I wanted to learn more about his involvement in these films below:

1940 Film - Susan and God
1944 Film - The Adventures of Mark Twain
1964 Film - The Seven Days of May

I do appreciate your candor, vast understanding of Fredric March, and your love of this great actor that been a joy in my life because he speaks so well on camera - to me that is an added benefit for me and very few actors that commands that respect as Fredric March can. I'm hearing disabled ... and to me he makes films pleasant to me.

It has been a great weekend and I hope someday you can join us again!

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 24th, 2013, 8:20 am

Rita Hayworth wrote:Mr. Transburg ... thank you very much for the rundown of the movie of the 1954 Film - The Bridge of Toko-Ri and I have seen The Desperate Hours - but I need to see it again and I was hoping that TCM would show it someday! I'm a little vagued on this film and I would loved to see it one more time.

Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you very much for your time here in Silver Screen Oasis and it's a great pleasure to know more about Fredric March - he is one of my favorite actors - and my first film that I ever seen was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde back in 1931 right around Halloween in 1977 on a public broadcasting channel and he was sensational in this role. I have seen quite a few of his films and I wanted to learn more about his involvement in these films below:

1940 Film - Susan and God
1944 Film - The Adventures of Mark Twain
1964 Film - The Seven Days of May

I do appreciate your candor, vast understanding of Fredric March, and your love of this great actor that been a joy in my life because he speaks so well on camera - to me that is an added benefit for me and very few actors that commands that respect as Fredric March can. I'm hearing disabled ... and to me he makes films pleasant to me.

It has been a great weekend and I hope someday you can join us again!


Thank you, I have been enjoying it.

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

Postby Erika1712 » November 24th, 2013, 10:12 am

Thanks for the answer! :) Perhaps you are right about the Kadish connection. I saw that as well but yet I still wondered. I think Agnes took many things to the grave....she lived her life on her own terms. Frustrating for her admirers but I can respect that she wanted it that way.

I have checked on the June 1918 Central High School yearbook in the past and nothing there from what I was told. I have also tried in vain to definitively locate her sister via a school yearbook. No luck at all.

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

Postby moira finnie » November 24th, 2013, 12:16 pm

Charles, one of the aspects of Fredric March's personality that you deal with frankly but discreetly in your book is his eye for the ladies, despite his deep love for Florence Eldridge for almost half a century.

Image

1.) I was particularly amused in your book by your mentions of the interaction between F.M., "his twenty fingers" and leading ladies such as Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake, and Evelyn Venable when the ladies' co-star got frisky. Despite the fact that he seems to have been relatively circumspect compared to others in Hollywood, did March have a reputation as a womanizer among his contemporaries?

2.) Despite his apparent yen for forbidden fruit, it often seems to me that March when in his prime, he was one of the actors of his generation (William Powell and Spencer Tracy were others) who could relate to his co-stars on screen as people as well as women. This quality seems to come to the fore most poignantly in Merrily We Go To Hell with the ravishing Sylvia Sidney playing a young couple coping with alcohol; with the maturely beautiful Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives, and most affecting, at least for me, in his fantastic rapport with a very young and skittish Kim Novak in Middle of the Night (which features a favorite, often brutally honest March performance that still affects me whenever I've seen that film). Who, aside from Florence Eldridge, did Fredric March feel was a good actress among the ladies he was paired with on-screen?

Image

3.) I have often felt that March was most convincingly believable in roles that showed a man, often a husband and father, who was superficially a success, as well as a bit of a stiff or straight arrow, but whose character strengths and flaws were revealed through the drama of the story [esp. in An Act of Murder, The Desperate Hours, The Best Years of Our Lives]. He appeared to be very adept at showing the differences between appearances and reality in American life. Also, am I correct that most of his characters were capable of heroism as well as ignominious behavior, which most movie stars seem to have avoided? What do you think made March different from his contemporaries?

4.) One of the Fredric March films that few people seem to know is An Act of Murder (1947), which may be because it seems to have fallen into copyright oblivion for several years. Despite this, it is a beautifully acted, downbeat, but ethically interesting movie about euthanasia and love. Given the fact that this film was released just after the disappointingly received Another Part of the Forest, did this film, along with the changing tastes of film audiences and the studio system's demise, affect March's "bankability" at the box office?

Thank you for any reply to these questions in advance.
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 24th, 2013, 12:58 pm

Erika1712 wrote:Thanks for the answer! :) Perhaps you are right about the Kadish connection. I saw that as well but yet I still wondered. I think Agnes took many things to the grave....she lived her life on her own terms. Frustrating for her admirers but I can respect that she wanted it that way.

I have checked on the June 1918 Central High School yearbook in the past and nothing there from what I was told. I have also tried in vain to definitively locate her sister via a school yearbook. No luck at all.


Hello Erika, Peggy was such a tragedy. In the years since "I Love the Illusion" I have learned more about her suicide which wasn't really talked about back then which is why the Moorehead family tried to say it was due to heart problems. When I found that agonized writing from Agnes in one of her AADA notebooks in her papers I could see how hard it hit her. I think that is one reason why AM was less than candid about speaking about he early years except in generalities and rarely mentioning Peggy was she feared some might find out what really happened to her and also thru-out her career Agnes cut years off her age so, if she said she graduated from High School in 1918 or 1919, some might wonder how a 11 or 12 year old managed to do that! :) Yes, the yearbooks have not been much help. I always thought that Peggy graduated in 1925 from Cleveland High school.

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

Postby Professional Tourist » November 24th, 2013, 1:25 pm

charlestranberg wrote: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?

Professional Tourist wrote: :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

charlestranberg wrote:Yes, I did see that when I read the Kay Thompson biography (which is quite good by the way), and that is quite intriguing since nearly every other source claims Central High School and even Central claims her but Soldan doesn't, and on their notable alumni page they list Kay Thompson, Virginia Mayo, Clark Clifford and an array of others, but not Agnes. I would think they would want to claim her as well. I do doubt Reedsburg. When I was there I did inquire and they maintain she didn't. I'm pretty sure they would claim her if she did--especially given the Moorehead connection to the town.

Well, one thing I know for sure is that AM attended Soldan for the 1914-1915 academic year, which should have been her freshman year of high school, since she is present in the year book. She may not have been there for her sophomore year since she is not present in the 1916 year book. Soldan used to claim her as one of their students, according to the father of one of our members here, who had attended Soldan himself many years later and had heard about it at school. But she could easily have attended more than one high school. If she graduated Central in 1918 there should be some trace of her in that yearbook -- I should have my copy within a couple of weeks.

To bring the subject around to Fredric March :) as you might imagine one of my favorites of his films is Tomorrow, the World due to one of his co-stars. :wink: I've always liked that film, and now that I've learned here of Mr. March's work in the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League, I imagine this film may have had personal significance for him, as his character brings to his American home during WWII the orphaned son of his sister and her german husband, who turns out to be a young Nazi himself. Did Mr. March express any personal feelings about this film, whether in interviews or perhaps in letters? Thank you.

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

Postby mongoII » November 24th, 2013, 1:57 pm

Charles, welcome to the Silver Screen Oasis. It's nice having you visit us today.
No doubt that Fredric March is a wonderful actor who has starred in many of my favorite films, especially "The Best Years of Our Lives.
In a long marriage to a unique woman Florence Eldridge, did he actually fool around on her?
Is it true that Veronica Lake didn't get along with him on the set of "I Married a Witch?"
Did he have a favorite film role?
Thank you very much.
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charlestranberg
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 24th, 2013, 2:06 pm

moirafinnie wrote:Charles, one of the aspects of Fredric March's personality that you deal with frankly but discreetly in your book is his eye for the ladies, despite his deep love for Florence Eldridge for almost half a century.

Image

1.) I was particularly amused in your book by your mentions of the interaction between F.M., "his twenty fingers" and leading ladies such as Claudette Colbert, Veronica Lake, and Evelyn Venable when the ladies' co-star got frisky. Despite the fact that he seems to have been relatively circumspect compared to others in Hollywood, did March have a reputation as a womanizer among his contemporaries?

2.) Despite his apparent yen for forbidden fruit, it often seems to me that March when in his prime, he was one of the actors of his generation (William Powell and Spencer Tracy were others) who could relate to his co-stars on screen as people as well as women. This quality seems to come to the fore most poignantly in Merrily We Go To Hell with the ravishing Sylvia Sidney playing a young couple coping with alcohol; with the maturely beautiful Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives, and most affecting, at least for me, in his fantastic rapport with a very young and skittish Kim Novak in Middle of the Night (which features a favorite, often brutally honest March performance that still affects me whenever I've seen that film). Who, aside from Florence Eldridge, did Fredric March feel was a good actress among the ladies he was paired with on-screen?

Image

3.) I have often felt that March was most convincingly believable in roles that showed a man, often a husband and father, who was superficially a success, as well as a bit of a stiff or straight arrow, but whose character strengths and flaws were revealed through the drama of the story [esp. in An Act of Murder, The Desperate Hours, The Best Years of Our Lives]. He appeared to be very adept at showing the differences between appearances and reality in American life. Also, am I correct that most of his characters were capable of heroism as well as ignominious behavior, which most movie stars seem to have avoided? What do you think made March different from his contemporaries?

4.) One of the Fredric March films that few people seem to know is An Act of Murder (1947), which may be because it seems to have fallen into copyright oblivion for several years. Despite this, it is a beautifully acted, downbeat, but ethically interesting movie about euthanasia and love. Given the fact that this film was released just after the disappointingly received Another Part of the Forest, did this film, along with the changing tastes of film audiences and the studio system's demise, affect March's "bankability" at the box office?

Thank you for any reply to these questions in advance.


Hi again Moira,
Yes he did have such a reputation, but really it seems like it was an almost adolescent approach he seemed to take. The fanny pinching and the like, though Evelyn Keyes is much more explicit about what she says she experienced when she was invited into his dressing room during the making of The Buccaneer. It was her first film and first day on a set and she had a difficult time with DeMille and March had tried to help her and he invited her into his dressing room for, what she thought, was to give her some tips. She admits she was breath taken by his looks and the tight white pants he was was wearing. He sat her down on the sofa next to her and looked deeply in her eyes and picked her hand up and placed it in an unmentionable area on himself. She believes she was saved by an assistant director knocking on the door calling March to the set--he removed her hand and got up and invited her to stay until he came back--she fled--fast. Colbert called him the "worst womanizer" she knew in Hollywood, because of his constant feeble attempts to seduce her. Eliza Kazan, who worked with him as a director on the stage and in the film Man on a Tightrope recalls in his memoirs having to save March from a jealous husband over a maid he had seduced while shooting the film on location. Robert Wagner claimed in his autobiography that he had copped a feel of his then wife Marion Marshall's breast while pretending to admire some jewelry around her neck! But there are detractors. Sylvia Sidney said that March had this reputation but "Freddie was happily married--he'd tease me by saying, 'look at those boobs' or 'look at that toosh-but it was all for fun." I guess her final proof was because he never tried anything on her. Then Rose Hobart once said, "he had the worst reputation, but he was probably the most faithful husband in Hollywood--Oh, he'd kiss somebody behind the set--but that was as far as he went." So he seemed to be frisky and maybe a bit lecherous at times, but given most of the stories he wasn't very successful!

I believe you are correct about the ease with which he worked with many of his leading ladies and part of that may have been when he came to Hollywood he was paired with top female stars who he wasn't supposed to dominate but to help them make the transition from silent film to talkies and to introduce new female stars from the Broadway stage to film. So they had, on film, a more equal relationship especially if the woman was the star. Despite her spurning his lame attempts at seduction, he always admired Claudette Colbert as an actress. Carole Lombard was another favorite of his, not only for Nothing Sacred, but also for a lesser known gem called The Eagle and the Hawk. She also had the kind of bawdy sense of humor he liked. He felt he worked well with Mariam Hopkins, who almost steals Jekyll & Hyde from him, but conceded she could be a pain in the ass trying to upstage people. Myrna Loy, he admired both as an actress and as a person who was as public minded as he and Florence were. He liked Garbo, too, but unlike so many of her leading men he was not overwhelmed by her beauty--he had already known her thru John Gilbert for many years and they were friendly but not close. He had relatively nice things to say about most of the actresses he worked with with the exceptions of Tallulah Bankhead and Veronica Lake, both of which are examined in the book. Of course his stock answer when asked his favorite leading lady was to say Florence.

A Star is Born is another example of a March character (Norman Maine) who is both noble & ignominious in his actions. He was a drunk who not only embarrassed himself but also his wife and associates thru his behavior and yet, he tried, he really tried to give up the booze and he was truly in love with the woman whose career he helped foster and in his own way Norman thought that by taking that final step that he was nobly giving his life so that Vicki could live hers free of the continual scandal and problems that he caused. March was a major male star who didn't mind showing the weaknesses in the men he played on screen.

In 1946 March was a star and got an Oscar for the biggest box office film since GWTW, The Best Years of Our Lives. It was a revered film even then and still is today. Despite this he wouldn't have another box office success until 1954. First, yes, the changing tastes of the film industry. "Best Years" was March's first post-war film and while he was a star of it he was only one of the stars--it was a big ensemble picture, so he didn't carry it. He had made relatively few films during the war years, as the theater and a tour for the USO took up much of his time. New stars and new tastes were emerging and by the time of "Best Years" March was nearly 50 years old. Then there was the publicity about his alleged communist sympathies. This destroyed many careers, and while it didn't destroy March's it may have slowed things down as some studios may have decided not to risk hiring Fredric March. Universal-International wasn't one of those. They were a smaller studio who did a lot of programmers, but they also wanted to make a few prestigious pictures per year. They, surprisingly, out bid major studios for the rights to Another Part of the Forest & hired March & Eldridge. The film is a prequel to the Bette Davis classic "The Little Foxes." It's a very good film in its own right--and March gives a very good unsympathetic performance. But the studio had to cut costs in other ways because the Broadway rights were expensive--and instead of a Willie Wyler to direct they got Michael Gordon, good & competent, but perhaps not overly imaginative. The film tanks at the box office. Then they put the Marches in the excellent An Act of Murder which was a small picture and rightly so, it was still very powerful and very well done, but audiences were looking for relief from real life problems and stayed away from a film dealing with euthanasia. So now March has two big box office bombs and off he goes to England to a big scale production of Christopher Columbus which while very pretty and colorful is not very exciting--it too bombs. So it could be said that a number of things slowed March's bankability down: 1) he was an aging actor at a time when new stars were emerging 2) Studios may have been reluctant for a time to hire him due to adverse publicity 3) his most recent films were not successful at the box office. I think all three have something to do with it. Even with a prestigious production like Death of a Salesman for Columbia, he received an Oscar nomination but the film was not successful because it was considered too bleak. Also, reviewers were of two minds on his performance. Some felt he was wonderful and others thought he was over the top. When he did come back it was in two very successful films The Bridges at Toko Ri & Executive Suite in which he had two wonderful parts but he was not the lead. For the rest of his career he would alternate between some leading roles and big supporting roles in the pictures he made.


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