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His Star Shines On

The very first Fredric March performance I saw was actually during the “William Holden phase” of my classic film self-education. The film was the 1954 corporate boardroom drama Executive Suite. March has a supporting role as Loren Shaw, the company’s fiscally conservative Controller. Shaw is difficult, obnoxious, and just downright infuritating. He’s simply unlikable. I hate to admit this, but I have a bad habit of disliking an actor if I hate the character portrayed. After watching Loren Shaw weasel his way to the top of the executive food chain, while attempting to discredit the beloved William Holden, I took it personally. “No one hurts my William Holden and gets away with it”, I thought. I’m ashamed to say it, but at that moment, Fredric March was added to the “I don’t like you” list. In all honesty, it is a testament to his acting prowess.

March as Loren Shaw, the company’s controlling Controller and compulsive hand wringer.
March as Loren Shaw, the company’s controlling Controller and compulsive hand wringer.

A few years later, TCM featured March during their annual Summer Under the Stars festival in August. I don’t know what possessed me to sit down and watch this actor I thought I loathed, but it doesn’t matter. What I do know is how I felt watching a master of his craft: simply awestruck. I watched every film TCM aired that day, with little reliance on my DVR. I immediately began searching for all of his films and slowly amassed a decent portion of his filmography. One thing I quickly realized about Fredric March is that he is largely forgotten today, despite his two Academy Awards, two Tony Awards for best actor, and a career that spanned half a century.

Although March is not remembered in mainstream pop culture like Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, or even Fred Astaire (remember when he and Stanley Donen choreographed that famous “vacuuming on the ceiling” number?), he is remembered by the classic film community. Not only is he remembered, but he is respected and adored. I discovered this through interactions with fellow classic film bloggers and my pals on Twitter. It was this shared admiration that inspired me to host an event honoring one of the greatest actors of the stage and screen.Throughout the rest of the month, The Fence is featuring essays on Fredric March and his films by bloggers I hold in the highest regard. The goal of March-in-March is to celebrate his life and career, encourage discussion, and inspire those who are not familiar with his work to give him a chance. March once said:

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.

He might have not held much stock in stardom, but for me and all the wonderful people contributing to this event, Fredric March’s star still shines bright.

I will be back next week with thoughts on a couple of my favorite, lesser known March performances. In the meantime, I’ll be posting March-in-March related material, like trivia and photos, on Twitter. Follow me @biscuitkitten and join in on the discussion with the hashtag #MarchInMarch. If you’re interested in participating in the Free-for-All event, go here for information. Also, don’t forget to enter the giveaway for the new Kino International release of A Star is Born. Scheduled for tomorrow is an excellent analysis and review of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by my good friend Josh Mauthe.

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Jill Blake

Jill Blake is the owner of the classic film website Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence. She is also a co-founder and editor of the film site The Black Maria and film editor at CC2K. In 2012, she was interviewed on-air by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz. In 2013, she was a featured guest on the TCM podcast. In her spare time Jill is a stay-at-home mom, wife, fried okra connoisseur, and the neighborhood’s own L.B. Jeffries.

Comments

silverscreenings
Reply

Great post! Really looking forward to this blogathon. It’s a great tribute to a wonderful actor.

R. D. Finch
Reply

Jill, a nicely personal introduction to March-in-March. Fredric March is one of my ten favorite actors of the studio era, and I certainly agree that he is one of the great film actors and one of the most shamefully neglected. The number of participants, both official and unofficial (the free-for-all days), shows how right you are about his popularity with film enthusiasts. I’m looking forward to reading more about his wonderful movie performances.

Helen
Reply

Great articles on one of my favorite actors. Would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Bobby & Martha Raye were having drinks in Milwaukee. Look forward to reading more. Love ya.

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