Birthday: August 31, 1897
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel, Freddie, Frederic March, Fredric Marcher
Born in: Racine
Famous as: Actor
Spouse/Ex-: Ellis Baker, Florence Eldridge
father: John F. Bickel
mother: Cora Brown
children: Anthony March, Penelope March
Died on: April 14, 1975
place of death: Los Angeles
U.S. State: Wisconsin
education: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Fredric March was one of Hollywood's most celebrated actors of the 1930s and 1940s. He is best remembered for his dual role in the horror classic ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ which won him the prestigious Academy Award for Best Actor. A renowned actor of the stage before venturing into films, he was also the recipient of two Tony Awards. His interest in acting dated back to his youth when he dreamed of becoming a great actor. However, he chose to become a banker after completing his studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. A serious health issue and his subsequent recovery made him re-evaluate his life and he proceeded to pursue his acting dreams. He found work as an extra in movies and eventually made his first Broadway appearance. Blessed with polished good looks and natural talent for acting, he was able to establish himself as a successful actor of the stage. Before long he ventured into films as well and appeared in a series of classic films based on stage plays and novels. A versatile actor, he excelled in a variety of roles and also made some television appearances during the later part of his extensive career.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Ernest Frederick McIntyre Bickel on August 31, 1897, in Racine, Wisconsin, U.S. to Cora Brown Marcher, a schoolteacher, and John F. Bickel who worked in the wholesale hardware business.
He received his primary education from the Winslow Elementary School and graduated from Racine High School. He proceeded to earn a degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison where he was a member of Alpha Delta Phi.
He developed an interest in acting as a young boy but decided to pursue a more stable profession after completing his studies.
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He began his career as a bank teller for First National City Bank. A serious health issue, however, made him re-evaluate his life choices. A ruptured appendix led to an emergency appendectomy which brought him near to death. He realized that life is short and decided to pursue his acting dreams after making his recovery.
He moved to New York where he found work as an extra in films in 1920. He adopted the stage name Fredric March at the beginning of his acting career. Naturally gifted in acting, he first appeared on Broadway in 1926 and found considerable success as a stage actor.
In 1929, his performance in the satirical play 'The Royal Family' caught the attention of Paramount Pictures who recognized his potential and signed him to a five year contract. He appeared in the film adaptation of 'The Royal Family of Broadway' in 1930 for which he received his first Academy Award nomination.
In 1931, he starred in ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ in a dual role as Dr. Henry Jekyll / Mr. Edward Hyde, a performance that was much lauded. With a growing string of successes, he attained the status of a superstar during the 1930s.
Once his contract with Paramount Pictures expired, he refused to sign a long term contract with any studio and preferred to work on a freelance basis. He performed in many acclaimed films throughout the 1930s including ‘Design for Living’ (1933), ‘Death Takes a Holiday’ (1934), ‘Les Misérables’ (1935) ‘Anthony Adverse’ (1936), and ‘A Star is Born (1937).’
He enjoyed his superstar status in the 1940s as well. One of his best known films of the era was his portrayal of a World War II veteran in the drama film ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ in 1946. His role in ‘Another Part of the Forest’ (1948) was also an acclaimed one.
During his younger years, he was more often cast in the archetypal role of the leading man owing to his good looks and gentlemanly demeanor. However, as he aged he began taking up more versatile character roles both on the stage and in films. In addition to his films, he also performed in the successful plays ‘A Bell for Adano’ (1944) and ‘Years Ago’ (1947) in the 1940s.
His roles in the films ‘Death of a Salesman’ (1951), ‘The Desperate Hours’ (1955), ‘Inherit the Wind’ (1960), and ‘Seven Days in May’ (1964) were the highlights of his later career. He also branched out into television and was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor for his performance in ‘The Best of Broadway’ in 1954.
His health began failing in the early 1970s and he made his final film appearance in ‘The Iceman Cometh’ in 1973.
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Fredric March’s dual role of a mild-mannered doctor and a homicidal maniac in the horror film ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ is undoubtedly one of his best performances. The film was a commercial hit and March received praise for his gripping performance.
His role of World War II veteran, Al Stephenson, was much appreciated in the multi-starrer drama ‘The Best Years of Our Lives.’ The film received extremely positive reviews from critics and went on to become one of the biggest commercial hits in the history of Hollywood up to that time.
Awards & Achievements
Fredric March won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1932 for his performance in ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (tied with Wallace Beery for ‘The Champ’).
He won a second Academy Award for Best Actor for the film ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ (1946).
He was the recipient of two Best Actor Tony Awards: in 1947 for the play ‘Years Ago’, and in 1957 for the original Broadway production of ‘Long Day's Journey Into Night’.
In 1957, he was presented with The George Eastman Award, given by George Eastman House for "distinguished contribution to the art of film."
Personal Life & Legacy
Fredric March’s first marriage was to Ellis Baker from 1921 to 1927.
He tied the knot for the second time with actress Florence Eldridge in 1927. They adopted two children and remained married until his death in 1975.
He suffered from prostate cancer during his later years and died on April 14, 1975. He was 77.