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Charles Tranberg Q & A on Fredric March

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Charles Tranberg Q & A on Fredric March

Postby moira finnie » November 22nd, 2013, 5:49 pm

Here's the spot to begin asking Charles Tranberg questions about his latest book, Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (BearManor).

"Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, Cary Grant...even Bogart...all played themselves. I always played the character." - Fredric March

Fredric March was a leading figure on stage and screen for half a century, yet only recently has author Charles Tranberg produced the kind of biography that this actor deserved. On Sat., Nov 23 and Sun. Nov. 24, The Silver Screen Oasis will have the pleasure of discussing his book, Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (BearManor) with the author.

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Remarkably versatile, and able to play both drama and comedy with style and skill, March was a leading man whose career began on film at the end of the silent era with The Dummy in 1929 and ended with his appearance in The Iceman Cometh in 1973. In between those appearances, March's best remembered films include Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Death Takes a Holiday, Design For Living, Les Miserables, A Star is Born, Nothing Sacred, One Foot in Heaven, The Adventures of Mark Twain, The Best Years of Our Lives, Death of a Salesman and Inherit the Wind. Along the way he was nominated five times for an Academy Award and won the coveted statuette twice. On stage, he earned two Tony Awards, for his work in The Skin of Our Teeth and for the role of his lifetime in Eugene O'Neill's Long Day’s Journey Into Night—winning two Tony Awards and earning another nomination for his role in Gideon.

Despite a working schedule that never seemed to ease, March also found time to be an active American citizen, eventually facing criticism from those who felt that his early work against Fascism was ill-advised and later he and his wife Florence Eldridge fought against unfounded accusations in Red Channels during the HUAC years. A remarkably full life, and an intriguing individual whose own personality seems to have eluded detection thanks to his many varied roles.

Charles Tranberg's six well-researched previous books spotlighted little-known corners of entertainment figures' lives in I Love the Illusion: The Life and Career of Agnes Moorehead, Not so Dumb: The Life and Career of Marie Wilson, Fred MacMurray: A Biography, The Thin Man Films: Murder over Cocktails, Robert Taylor: A Biography and Walt Disney and Recollections of the Disney Studios 1955-1980. I had the pleasure of interviewing this author previously here about Fred MacMurray and here about Agnes Moorehead.

For those of us who feel we "know" Fredric March and especially those who have only recently discovered this actor, please accept this invitation to join us to discuss this gifted actor with the author here on 11/23 and 11/24.

After all, as Fredric March once said,

"Keep interested in others; keep interested in the wide and wonderful world. Then in a spiritual sense you will always be young."

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhdLIkOdyWU[/youtube]

Below are links to websites related to the life and career of Fredric March:

Fredric March: A Consummate Actor online

Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (on facebook

The Fredric March Film Society

Fredric March Blog Round-up

Fredric March Playlist on Youtube

Upcoming Fredric March Films on TCM
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby moira finnie » November 23rd, 2013, 8:02 am

Welcome, Charles and thanks for joining us today and tomorrow. Here are a few questions to get us going:

Given the fact that you are now a veteran biographer, why did you choose to focus on Fredric March for this book? Why do you think that March is not as well known today as some of his contemporaries?
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 23rd, 2013, 8:08 am

Charles Tranberg, Sir, I have two questions for you.


His role as President Jordan Lyman in “Seven Days in May” is one of my favorite movies of him battling General James Mattoon Scott played by Burt Lancaster – was one of his better roles in his later days of acting. How he prepared himself in that enduring role?


I’m a Long-Time Rita Hayworth Fan … In Susan and God Movie (back in 1940) – He played a character by the name of Barrie and I was wondering did he enjoy it or not? And, anything else about that movie?

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 8:40 am

moirafinnie wrote:Welcome, Charles and thanks for joining us today and tomorrow. Here are a few questions to get us going:

Given the fact that you are now a veteran biographer, why did you choose to focus on Fredric March for this book? Why do you think that March is not as well known today as some of his contemporaries?


Thank you for inviting me Moira. It's a pleasure to be here with you on this chilly Midwestern morning--at least here in Wisconsin :D This is my seventh book--and fifth book in terms of biography. For me it is always wanting to tell the story of somebody who has been neglected by most other biographers over the years. Prior to my book on Agnes Moorehead there had never been a full-length biography of that fine and versatile actress despite a long & successful career. Marie Wilson was fondly recalled by the old-time radio crowd, but what made her special? Fred MacMurray, despite decades of stardom, was overlooked and under estimated--and never had a book. Robert Taylor was kind of dismissed by some as a rather callow leading man but, in my estimation, he grew as an actor. Now we come to Fredric March, who was, during his lifetime, considered one of the most popular and respected actors of his day. In 1955 a poll was conducted of top stars, directors and producers asking who was their choice as the screen's best actor. March, overwhelmingly, came out on top--followed by Marlon Brando and Spencer Tracy. Cut to 1999 and the AFI poll of fifty 'screen legends' and the name Fredric March doesn't appear (but Brando & Tracy are still there). Of course 'best' and 'legend' are not the same thing, but it was indicative of how March's star had fallen in the years since his passing. The AFI did another poll of the 100 best American films--and only one March title is included, the beautiful Best Years of Our lives which is an ensemble picture. He is one of the great actors of his time, but he really wasn't a screen personality in the way that Cary Grant, James Stewart, Gary Cooper and many of his other contemporaries were. Unlike those gentlemen he really didn't have a distinguishing screen persona that he carried from film to film that instantly identified him with audiences--and had them rooting for him from the very beginning. He was always characterizing. He was always hiding his real personality behind the facade of whatever role he was portraying. He never became a mythical figure in films--unlike Grant, Bogart, Stewart, Gable & Cooper. Long story short I guess I just wanted to recognize him because he deserves to be rediscovered.

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 9:13 am

Rita Hayworth wrote:Charles Tranberg, Sir, I have two questions for you.


His role as President Jordan Lyman in “Seven Days in May” is one of my favorite movies of him battling General James Mattoon Scott played by Burt Lancaster – was one of his better roles in his later days of acting. How he prepared himself in that enduring role?


I’m a Long-Time Rita Hayworth Fan … In Susan and God Movie (back in 1940) – He played a character by the name of Barrie and I was wondering did he enjoy it or not? And, anything else about that movie?


Hello Rita Hayworth!! and thank you for your questions. I totally agree with you about his President Lyman in Seven Days in Maybeing one of his best--not only of his latter day career but of his entire career. As for preparations for that role, March was a very involved man--not only in the entertainment industry but in world and political affairs. He never hesitated to give his opinions and fight for the underdog. This got him into some trouble in the late 40's & early 50's with HUAC, but he recovered and was invited in 1959 to address a joint session of congress delivering Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. What a turn-a-round from being labeled a Communist a decade earlier to addressing the congress of the United States delivering the greatest speech of America's greatest president. He was invited to the White House on that wonderful occasion when JFK honored Nobel Prize winners (this was the event that JFK said that beautiful line about this being the 'most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House...with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone'). March was the evening entertainment that night--delivering excerpts from works of Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis & Gen. Marshall's speech on 'The Marshall Plan.' March was also a widely read man of history and political biography and was well-traveled. He also radiated integrity, I think. This made him a near perfect choice to be this liberal-minded president--perhaps more in the image of Adlai Stevenson that Jack Kennedy. In other words March had the background to play the president of the US convincingly and he did. That confrontation scene between him and Burt Lancaster's General Scott is one of the highlights of the film and shows both actor's at the top of their game, though on the first day of shooting the scene Lancaster kept blowing his lines--he was in awe of working with March, who he greatly admired. Finally after several bad takes Lancaster said, "I knew these lines when I rehearsed them in my office," and March, wanting to lighten things up a bit, smiled at him and said, "Perhaps you should have brought your office with you." Director John Frankenheimer called it a day (probably to let Lancaster compose himself) and the next day the scene was shot letter perfect.

As for Susan and Godhe did making enjoy it! He thought that Crawford was a 'nice person, but a REAL star' and she later said that March had been very helpful to her during the making of the film. March's beloved brother, Jack, wrote him a letter telling him he really didn't like "Susan and God" and March replied that most critics had felt it was Crawford's best 'and my best since A Star is Born.' He also enjoyed working with the director, George Cukor, who was also a friend, and they both enjoyed ribbing each other.

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

Postby JackFavell » November 23rd, 2013, 9:29 am

Welcome Mr. Tranberg! Thank you so much for your work and for stopping at the SSO so frequently!

You said that March didn't have a distinguishing personality as an actor, but one thing that I think runs through most of his films is his humor. Granted, some of his films don't lend themselves to jocularity - Anna Karenina, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (though I think there's a perverse humor in Hyde) and Middle of the Night aren't exactly laugh riots, but I find he brings a self deprecating humor to most of his work. Was he a funny man outside the films? Or was his comic sensibility a cover up for a man who didn't wish to be seen?

Of course, my favorite performance by March is as Norman Maine. Did March have a wellspring of self doubt which he was able to draw on for this role? I somehow find this one of his most moving portraits. How did he get on with William Wellman?

Again, most of his films contain a lot of bluster and bravado, which seems to mask something deeper. I really enjoy his ability to seem like he is thinking on his feet, as in Executive Suite, where he shifts on the slippery sands of big business. What was his technique for getting these very real, thoughtful performances?

And as a former Wisconsinite from Madison, I am curious if you looked into the March archives at U-W for your research? Was his college life enjoyable for him? Also, on a side note, did they ever get the portrait of him from A Bell for Adano restored? I was never able to find out what happened to the painting after reading news articles about it. I loved to look at when I was on campus.

Thanks in advance for responding to my endless questions. I have many more. :D

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

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » November 23rd, 2013, 10:09 am

Charles, we appreciate your visit here with us at The Silver Screen Oasis. Thank you for spending time with us!

A quote attributed to March indicates to me that he was reconciled to the roller coaster ride of being in the limelight:

"Stardom is just an uneasy seat on top of a tricky toboggan. Being a star is merely perching at the head of the downgrade. A competent featured player can last a lifetime. A star, a year or two. There's all that agony of finding suitable stories, keeping in character, maintaining illusion. Then the undignified position of hanging on while your popularity is declining."


His sense of humor, his ability to float between roles on the stage and scenes in front of a camera, and his tendency to philosophize all indicate he had a wry sense of humor, and some of my favorite screen roles of March's include The Best Years of Our Lives, Inherit the Wind, The Desperate Hours, and I Married A Witch are all films that reveal March to be one of our most revered and talented American actors. So I am curious about his own personal sense of humor. What were some of his personal comments that you found reflected his attitude toward himself, his fellow man, and his friends and family?
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 10:31 am

JackFavell wrote:Welcome Mr. Tranberg! Thank you so much for your work and for stopping at the SSO so frequently!

You said that March didn't have a distinguishing personality as an actor, but one thing that I think runs through most of his films is his humor. Granted, some of his films don't lend themselves to jocularity - Anna Karenina, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (though I think there's a perverse humor in Hyde) and Middle of the Night aren't exactly laugh riots, but I find he brings a self deprecating humor to most of his work. Was he a funny man outside the films? Or was his comic sensibility a cover up for a man who didn't wish to be seen?

Of course, my favorite performance by March is as Norman Maine. Did March have a wellspring of self doubt which he was able to draw on for this role? I somehow find this one of his most moving portraits. How did he get on with William Wellman?

Again, most of his films contain a lot of bluster and bravado, which seems to mask something deeper. I really enjoy his ability to seem like he is thinking on his feet, as in Executive Suite, where he shifts on the slippery sands of big business. What was his technique for getting these very real, thoughtful performances?

And as a former Wisconsinite from Madison, I am curious if you looked into the March archives at U-W for your research? Was his college life enjoyable for him? Also, on a side note, did they ever get the portrait of him from A Bell for Adano restored? I was never able to find out what happened to the painting after reading news articles about it. I loved to look at when I was on campus.

Thanks in advance for responding to my endless questions. I have many more. :D


Hello Jack Favell! and thank you for your welcome. I really do enjoy coming to the Oasis. Yes, outside of films (and even sometimes in films) March had a great deal of humor. His wife, Florence Eldridge, once said that she was initially attracted to March in large part because of his humor. "It's a silly sort of humor that keeps you giggling all day," is how she put it. Elia Kazan said that "Freddie" as everybody called him was a very naturally funny guy and loved "to tell the latest dirty jokes" (never in mixed company). He could write funny letters, too. In the aforementioned Susan and Godhe and George Cukor have a funny, tongue and cheek exchange of letters regarding what clothes he should wear in the film--which I include potions of in the book. On the whole, I would say that March, off camera, was a pretty happy, sunny kind of guy who enjoyed people and mixing it up. He also said many times during his career that he enjoyed working in comedy the most--even though he made far many more dramatic pictures. He considered Laughter and Nothing Sacred to be two of his favorite films. He wished he had made more. I found him terrific at comedy. Oh, look at March in this clip from an appearance on WHAT'S MY LINE? as the mystery guest and you can see how very funny he could be:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZ4os73qL48

A Star is Born is, imo, the masterpiece of March's career. No, I don't think he felt a great deal of self-doubt in real life that he was able to draw upon, but he did draw upon the circumstances of two of his great friends from his early days in Hollywood--John Barrymore and John Gilbert. Both who descended into alcoholism. March, of course, had done a satire of Barrymore on stage and film The Royal Family/The Royal Family of Broadway. Barrymore had seen the stage production in LA and said, "He has made me an utterly worthless, conceited hound, and he had my mannerisms, exaggerated, but true to life." They became fast friends. So he drew from what he observed of the decline of both Barrymore and Gilbert for "A Star is Born." It saddened him. He later said, "imitating him (Barrymore)-or even recalling him-- in that sanitarium scene was no laughing matter. His decline was very tragic." Of course, just as a back story, a major influence on the film was the relationship between Barbara Stanwyck and her first husband, Frank Fay, who helped her break into pictures and she went on to be this great star while his film career spiraled downward and he began to drink heavily (though he later came back big on Broadway in HARVEY). March and his director of both "A Star is Born" and "Nothing Sacred", Wild Bill Wellman, got along fine. Wellman, notoriously, didn't care for actors (though those he really liked were Joel McCrea, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor), and he and March were never chums or hunting buddies. But Wellman called March "a great craftsman--a fine actor."

March was never a actor's studio disciple but he did give a great deal of thought to his parts and how to best interpret them. His scripts (like those of Agnes Moorehead) are full of little notes and underlining key lines to be delivered with emphasize or pathos or whatever the scene called for. He liked to study his scripts in solitude at home until he found whatever trigger there was that was the key to the role. He also said the key to any good actor is to listen and react. Not to wait for the cue from the other actor but to really listen to what the other actors are saying and then respond.

Yes, I certainly did draw on the March archive at the State Historical Society for the book as well as the papers of several producers and directors that he worked with--especially in terms of his stage productions. I spoke earlier about "Seven Days in May" and the Kirk Douglas papers have a great deal of information on the making of that film, for instance, (Douglas produced the film) that I was able to draw on for the book. March enjoyed his years at the UW, which was interrupted for a brief time due to WWI. He was a well-liked student who really knew how to plan his day. He had a stringent routine he adhered to which allowed time for study, exercise and recreation. He had a serious girlfriend who he at one point wanted to marry, but her family felt he was socially beneath them, so his plan was to go to New York (he majored in banking/commerce) and become an international banker in some exotic locale which he felt would impress her family. Well, instead in New York he fell in love with the theater, instead, and gave up banking. The UW Fredric March Play Circle Theater is being renovated & I think it will be open again at some point next year, and from what I understand that beautiful portrait of March from A Bell for Adano will once again hang proudly and I believe it was restored as I saw it just a couple of years ago prior to the theater undergoing renovation and it looked exquisite.

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

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 23rd, 2013, 10:37 am

Thank you very much for your detailed response to my two questions here and I do understand completely about the two movies that I have been wanting to ask you today. I will have couple more quick questions for you later on. Thanks for everything that you told me today!

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

Postby movieman1957 » November 23rd, 2013, 10:39 am

Mr. Tranberg:

Thanks for coming and thanks also for participating in some of the other threads. I mentioned to Moira that I read her interview with you about Fred MacMurray and found it educational and entertaining. I always thought Fred was a discovery for me as I originally knew him from "My Three Sons." Well, I certainly didn't see that career coming.

As far as March goes I always like watching him and Tracy in "Inherit The Wind." How did he feel about the Brady character? Sometimes in the movie Brady is "on" and we don't often get a chance to see the "real" Matthew Brady." Did he get a chance to do the Drummond part on stage? Did he have any favorite roles?

"Seven Days" is a favorite as well.
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby CineMaven » November 23rd, 2013, 10:52 am

Hi Mr. Tranberg. Thank you for joining us here at the Oasis. Blinded by Gable and others, I keep forgetting about Fredric March. Silly me, of course, because he's put in such phenomenally consistently good work throughout the 30's and the 40's when I think about it. He's under the radar just as Dana Andrews is.

The industry puts such heavy emphasis on an actress' look and sex appeal. But I'm thinking of Mr. March in this regard as well:

Image Image

His performance in "MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT" was fantastic. It brings to mind "Sunset Boulevard" where I thought Gloria Swanson pulled out the stops in a story of taking off the makeup and being an older person. Did Mr. March have any thoughts in that regard...on aging? Here he is, playing an older man in love with a younger woman...and not just any younger...but bombshell KIM NOVAK! He allowed himself to look silly, ridiculously and uncontrollably in love and vulnerable to this younger gal. Here he is now, an older man with actress Kim Novak, who is just one of the long line of stunning-looking actresses March worked with over his career including: Hopkins, Colbert, Lombard, Shearer, Crawford, Loy, Oberon, Joan Bennett, deHavilland, Ann Harding, Garbo and one of the most beautiful ( IMHO ) - Frances Dee. ( I loved the re-pairing of him and Ann Harding later in their careers in "The Man With the Grey Flannel Suit." ) How did he approach his performance in "Middle of the Night" considering those matinee idol looks he had as a young man?

Thanks again for giving thought to my question, and for visiting us classic film fans here at the Oasis. We just love the company.
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Re: Welcome to Charles Tranberg, Guest Author on 11/23 & 11/24

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 10:57 am

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Charles, we appreciate your visit here with us at The Silver Screen Oasis. Thank you for spending time with us!

A quote attributed to March indicates to me that he was reconciled to the roller coaster ride of being in the limelight:

"Stardom is just an uneasy seat on top of a tricky toboggan. Being a star is merely perching at the head of the downgrade. A competent featured player can last a lifetime. A star, a year or two. There's all that agony of finding suitable stories, keeping in character, maintaining illusion. Then the undignified position of hanging on while your popularity is declining."


His sense of humor, his ability to float between roles on the stage and scenes in front of a camera, and his tendency to philosophize all indicate he had a wry sense of humor, and some of my favorite screen roles of March's include The Best Years of Our Lives, Inherit the Wind, The Desperate Hours, and I Married A Witch are all films that reveal March to be one of our most revered and talented American actors. So I am curious about his own personal sense of humor. What were some of his personal comments that you found reflected his attitude toward himself, his fellow man, and his friends and family?


Hello Sue, and thank you for your welcome! That is a great quote regarding stardom. March loved acting and he knew the highs and lows of celebrity. He was one of the great stars of the 30's in one film after another but he also through-out his career took time off to return to the theater, particularly after 1937. If you look at the number of films he made he made the majority of them in a ten year period between 1929-1939. For him acting meant returning to the stage and it is worth recalling, too, that he was one of the great stage actors of his time. His performances in THE AMERICAN WAY, THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH, A BELL FOR ADANO & particularly LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT are some of the very finest performances he gave in any medium. He won two Tony Awards, including the first presented to an actor. March would never consider himself a 'star' he was an actor first and foremost, and I think he saw himself largely as a character actor.

Florence Eldridge once said his humor was very 'child-like' and he took pleasure at the things a child would. Elia Kazan said his humor could often be salty and he loved to wink at him and take him aside and tell the latest dirty jokes. So there are those two sides of his humor--the child-like innocence he probably exhibited with Florence and other women and then the salty type of humor he enjoyed with men--when Flo wasn't around. Both Kazan and Bradford Dillman, who played the youngest son in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY & again worked with March in his last film The Iceman Cometh thought that March was one person in front of his wife--more staid and formal--while a more free person when Florence wasn't around.

As for his feelings about people close to him such as his family--he adored Florence. She was the star when they meant. She was a big name in the theater. She sacrificed a lot to marry him and he never forgot that. He always tried to bring attention to her if he felt she was being overlooked. For instance, on "Long Day's Journey" in which she co-starred with him as the wife, Bradford Dillman points out that she didn't quite dominate the part the way it should have been. The play, he said, "is really about the wife" and so with Florence not really dominating the part--the other actors had to take up some of the slack. Yet when people would come back stage and congratulate March, he would say to them, 'What did you think of Florence?' and they would, naturally, say, 'Wonderful,' and he would then tell them to go over and tell her. He loved his adopted children--particularly the daughter, Penny. The son, Anthony, eventually grew estranged from the family due to various run-ins with the law and lack of motivation. He told a reporter that he and Florence didn't adopt them, "they adopted us." I think that March's attitude towards himself was that he took his work seriously but he didn't take himself seriously. He also believed in looking out for the underdog and he and Florence were 'do-gooders' in the best sense of the word. They had deeply held convictions and stood up for them even if it might have hurt them professionally.

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

Postby charlestranberg » November 23rd, 2013, 11:18 am

movieman1957 wrote:Mr. Tranberg:

Thanks for coming and thanks also for participating in some of the other threads. I mentioned to Moira that I read her interview with you about Fred MacMurray and found it educational and entertaining. I always thought Fred was a discovery for me as I originally knew him from "My Three Sons." Well, I certainly didn't see that career coming.

As far as March goes I always like watching him and Tracy in "Inherit The Wind." How did he feel about the Brady character? Sometimes in the movie Brady is "on" and we don't often get a chance to see the "real" Matthew Brady." Did he get a chance to do the Drummond part on stage? Did he have any favorite roles?

"Seven Days" is a favorite as well.


Hello Movie Man 1957! Good to be here. That is one of the reasons why I wanted to do the Fred MacMurray book--so many people knew of Fred for MY THREE SONS & the Disney films that he was kind of a national father figure, but they seemed to forget about the flip, carefree light romantic leading man he originally was.

I like the movie Inherit the Wind and it is certainly one of his best known titles today (even though the film itself was a box office bomb in 1960), but I agree with your criticism of the 'Matthew Brady' character. Too often Kramer allowed March to either 'ham it up' or directed him to do so. March knew he could have a tendency to overact at times and he always told a director to rein him in, 'don't allow me to ham it up.' At points in "Inherit the Wind" I just think that he wasn't reined in enough. Perhaps it was because Tracy was always underplaying so they allowed March to overact. The film certainly is pro-Drummond, pro-Darwin, but I feel in someways they go out of their way to demean the Brady-Bryan' character. Yes, in religious matters Bryan was closed minded, but on the great political issues of the day Bryan was very progressive and ahead of his time. I wish we could have seen some of that in the film to make this clash of the two titans more even-handed. But, for all of that, it is a very entertaining picture and also features good performances by Gene Kelly, and a pre-Darrin Dick York as well as a lot of wonderful character actors.

No, he never did get a chance to play Drummond on stage. Paul Muni and Ed Begley I believe played Drummond-Brady on stage with Tony Randall in the newspaper man role.

Among his stated favorite films (sometimes the list changed but these films show up consistently): THE ROYAL FAMILY OF BROADWAY, LAUGHTER, DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY, STAR IS BORN, NOTHING SACRED, ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN, BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, THE DESPERATE HOURS, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. Among his stage plays he really loved A BELL FOR ADANO (and wished he could have made the film) & LONG DAYS JOURNEY INTO NIGHT--though that was physically very trying for him. He admired Wilder's SKIN OF OUR TEETH, but he didn't particularly enjoy doing the play because of all the problems he and Florence had with Tallulah Bankhead and the producer Michael Myerberg.

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

Postby Rita Hayworth » November 23rd, 2013, 11:32 am

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.

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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, 11:39 am

CineMaven wrote:Hi Mr. Tranberg. Thank you for joining us here at the Oasis. Blinded by Gable and others, I keep forgetting about Fredric March. Silly me, of course, because he's put in such phenomenally consistently good work throughout the 30's and the 40's when I think about it. He's under the radar just as Dana Andrews is.

The industry puts such heavy emphasis on an actress' look and sex appeal. But I'm thinking of Mr. March in this regard as well:

Image Image

His performance in "MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT" was fantastic. It brings to mind "Sunset Boulevard" where I thought Gloria Swanson pulled out the stops in a story of taking off the makeup and being an older person. Did Mr. March have any thoughts in that regard...on aging? Here he is, playing an older man in love with a younger woman...and not just any younger...but bombshell KIM NOVAK! He allowed himself to look silly, ridiculously and uncontrollably in love and vulnerable to this younger gal. Here he is now, an older man with actress Kim Novak, who is just one of the long line of stunning-looking actresses March worked with over his career including: Hopkins, Colbert, Lombard, Shearer, Crawford, Loy, Oberon, Joan Bennett, deHavilland, Ann Harding, Garbo and one of the most beautiful ( IMHO ) - Frances Dee. ( I loved the re-pairing of him and Ann Harding later in their careers in "The Man With the Grey Flannel Suit." ) How did he approach his performance in "Middle of the Night" considering those matinee idol looks he had as a young man?

Thanks again for giving thought to my question, and for visiting us classic film fans here at the Oasis. We just love the company.


Hello CineMaven and thank you for your very nice welcome! I think you make a very good comparison between Fredric March and Dana Andrews--both being a little bit below the radar. Middle of the Night is a gem. It is Fredric March's last romantic leading role and he was 62 years old at the time he made it compared to Kim Novak's 26! and yet I think they make an engaging couple. I could really see her falling for him. Paddy Chayefsky who wrote the play wanted March to do it on Broadway, but March had another commitment and so Edward G. Robinson did the play, and got fantastic notices, but when the film came around Chayefsky and director Delbert Mann had only one choice--Fredric March, and March leaped at it. March could be a very lusty guy--he was flirtatious in real life and did his share of fanny pinching--and I think he was pretty excited to be playing such an adult love story as "Middle of the Night" opposite one of the era's reining sex symbols Kim Novak (as a side note, Novak suffered terribly making the film--she didn't think she could do such a complex role. Originally Elizabeth Taylor was going to play it, but that fell thru after Mike Todd's death & Columbia always had Hope Lange in the wings just in case Novak faltered, she finally, thru a lot of hard work, completed the film and gave one of her, I think, best performances). The studio needed a big star name like Novak opposite March because, frankly, March wasn't bankable at that time at the box office. He had been off the screen for three years doing a play and many of the films he had made in the years prior to that were supporting (Executive Suite, Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, ect.) March knew he didn't have the matinee idol looks of his 30's films and he had lampooned that in "Best Years of Our Lives" when he is looking in the mirror at his current post-war self while holding a picture of his pre-war self. This was a May-December romance and he wanted every bag under his eyes and every gray hair to show along with a slight paunch --this was the character he was playing--this is how Jerry Kingsley looked. It had nothing to do with Fredric March.


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