Saturday, June 20, 2009

Guest Blogger Kate Gabrielle ~ Frederic March

Kate Gabrielle is a woman of many blogs. My favorite one of hers is Silents and Talkies which is a fusion of her love of classic film and her artistic talent. Today's guest post comes from the uber-talented Kate as she shows us why we should appreciate Frederic March.

If I told you that there was an actor who was Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Robert Taylor all rolled into one, with a pinch of Paul Muni thrown in for good measure you'd probably think I'm nuts. But such an actor did exist, and his name was Fredric March.

Like Tracy and Muni, March was a real actor with a capital A. In films like A Star is Born, Inherit the Wind and The Best Years of Our Lives, March gives the kinds of performances that make you forget that he is an actor playing a role-- you're only seeing the character. And March went a step further than Tracy, often choosing roles that didn't mesh with his offscreen views if it got the point across. For instance, in real life March actually agreed with the Clarence Darrow side of the Inherit the Wind argument. But he played the role of Matthew Brady with conviction and a fire in his belly so that you believed that he believed the lines he was saying.

Like Gable and Taylor, March could also play a romantic lead. I mean, it was totally believable that Greta Garbo would leave her husband and son to spend her life in sin with Fredric March in Anna Karenina. In Design for Living, you can completely understand why Miriam Hopkins can't decide between Gary Cooper and Fredric March.

Speaking of Design for Living, this is the film that officially got me hooked on Fredric March. I never, in all my movie watching years, would have thought this particular word would describe him, but... he is so .... adorable. If you wouldn't mind the slight inconvenience of fast-forwarding a little through a YouTube video, you will get to see my favorite March moment out of all his films.

A little background first. In Design for Living, March plays an unpublished playwright who is being artistically challenged by Miriam Hopkins, his and friend Gary Cooper's shared paramour. In my favorite scene, he has finally finished Act I of his play, "Goodnight Bassington: a comedy in about three acts with a tragic ending." March reads the ending aloud to Gary Cooper. I'll be brutally honest-- I was giggling uncontrollably when I watched this scene for the first time.

Just fast forward to 1:30 (or watch the 1:30, that's funny too but mainly Gary Cooper) and hopefully you will see what amuses me so much.


I think it's a shame that Fredric March isn't remembered today with the same iconic status that Spencer Tracy has acquired. I believe that he could match, if not top, Tracy's acting ability when faced with any role. I don't even have to hypothesize about this because they actually did play the same role. In 1931, Fredric March played the infamous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a whole ten years before Spencer Tracy re-created the role in 1941. While both actors bring something different to the role, I've always liked the March version ten times more. He really blends into his character, merges with the role in a way that Tracy could never quite manage... you always still see that good natured, honest Spencer Tracy peeking through whichever character he played.

Not to knock Spencer Tracy again, but really... which would you prefer? Spencer Tracy? OR...Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable and Robert Taylor all rolled into one with a pinch of Paul Muni thrown in for good measure?


  1. Thanks for the excellent homage to Frederic March. After watching him in THe Sign of the Cross and Executive Suite, I had a new found appreciation for him. I'm glad you chose to write about him because people should definitely watch his films.

    I love how you say he's Tracy, Gable, Taylor with a pinch of Muni! I've never thought of a star that way, but I like it.

  2. wow what a great thing to see, another Fredrich March fan!! i have long considered him to be one of the finest actors ever to set foot in front of a camera. he was always believable and could play an incredibly vast range of characters and emotions with utter sincerity. i too prefer his version of Jekyl and Hyde and i thought he was amazing in Les Miserables, Anthony Adverse, Road to Glory, The Desperate Hours, Seven Days in May (his final confrontation with Burt lancaster is a STELLAR piece of acting) and so many others. what a great post, TY! - Paulie

  3. Another great post, Kate. I have been a fan of Frederic March ever since I first saw Inherit the Wind. I think he was an enormously talented actor, in many respects more talented than some actors who are better known today. Spencer Tracy seemed as if he only played role, while March played many.

    Thanks for having Kate as your guest, Raquel!

  4. Gorgeous post about a gorgeous human being, thanks Kate!

    For me, March's Norman Maine is the ONLY Norman Maine. Every single time I watch that film, he absolutely shatters my heart.

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  6. Thanks so much for having me as a guest blogger Raquelle! And thank you to everyone who left such nice comments about my post :D

  7. My dad recently watched SEVEN DAYS IN MAY and said that during the DVD commentary director John Frankenheimer said that Fredric March was one of the two greatest actors (or maybe movie actors, not sure) of all time. He didn't say who the other one was!

    I think the adorable factor caught my attention in THERE GOES MY HEART, BEDTIME STORY, and I MARRIED A WITCH. But he's also remarkable in straight dramatic roles. Mr. March made my 20 Favorite Actors list a few months ago.

    Thanks for an enjoyable look at one of the best!

    Best wishes,

  8. Nice job, Kate, & great to see you on Raquelle's excellent blog. You're "uber-talented" indeed.

  9. Superb! Fredric March is one of those semi-forgotten actors who should be an icon. He was very versatile and his performances was always solid.
    His Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde will always be my favorite version of the story.

  10. Wow, this was super-amazing! Great job, Kate!

    You taught me a lot more about March then I ever knew before!


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