Archive for December, 2013

March in Print

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2013 by mchoffman

There are few biographies on Fredric March, which is hard to fathom considering he was the finest actor of his generation. These are the three books you will find:

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1. Fredric March: Craftsman First, Star Second (1996). Deborah C. Peterson’s biography is a well-written and informative account of March’s life. This was the first biography I read on the actor and it’s been one that I’ve often quoted. (It served me well as a guidebook when I visited March’s hometown.) Since many of the author’s sources were still alive while it was being researched, the book has an authenticity that later authors– forced to rely on repeated second and third-hand accounts– will not have. Out of print, but worth the search.

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2. The Films of Fredric March (1971) Lawrence J. Quirk’s visual guide to March’s career is a pretty good reference and is noteworthy as being the only one written while March was still alive. It also features a short bio at the beginning.

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3. Fredric March: A Consummate Actor (2013) by Charles Tranberg. Recommended mainly for the things not already in the Peterson book. Letters that March wrote in his youth are included. There is also an emphasis on March’s distinguished stage career which is especially interesting in the chapter detailing “The Skin of Our Teeth.” Unfortunately, this latest bio gives the impression of being hurriedly put together with aspects of March’s life superficially recorded– or not recorded at all. (There is no mention of March’s We Live Again, which he made in 1934 with Anna Sten.) There are several inaccuracies regarding film history and dozens of typos throughout the book which range from names of actors (“Ronald Coleman and Vilma Bankley,” “Victor McLauglin,” “Erich Wolfgand Korngold,”) to the names of the films themselves: The Real Glory (a Gary Cooper film) instead of March’s The Road to Glory, The Other Side of the Forest instead of Another Part of the Forest, and A Matter of Life and Death. (We’re reasonably sure the author meant An Act of Murder with this one.) Additionally, the grammatical errors are excessive. If there was a proofreader involved in its editing, they certainly have never read The Elements of Style. These are mostly technical issues. To the author’s credit, there is a respect towards the subject, which is to be admired in this age of sensationalistic biography, and he has an obvious enthusiasm, as evidenced by the occasions when he lapses into first person observations. But he is not an authority on the subject; this is just one more book in a series of biographies.

Though we applaud this latest effort to bring attention to a great actor, it’s time that Fredric March receive the kind of epic biography he deserves. Important actors/actresses/directors, etc. warrant in-depth biographies. Think Scott Eyman’s 600+ page Print the Legend, for instance, on John Ford, or Marshall Terrill’s Steve McQueen. We hope one day there will be much more on Fredric March… if there’s a writer out there up to that challenge.