He began as the Depression ideal: a gilded leading man, booze-soaked and brilliantined, with the sort of profile that seems like it was carved by the movie gods just to be photographed against an art deco film set. He was suave, with a voice that managed to be both melodious and gritty; he was wry, able to communicate a kind of furtive, perceptive humour with little more than an eyebrow raised just so. He was the Rake, the Reporter, the Drunkard, the Monster, the Playwright, the Everyman — languishing in expensive penthouses for the entertainment of audiences languishing on breadlines, and doing it very, very well.
Over the course of a prolific career spanning decades, he went on to become a distinguished character actor with two Academy Awards under his belt and a long resume rich with diverse performances. Here is a man who could take almost any role and weave into it a depth of feeling that’s fascinating to watch. He played his characters with respect and humanity, instilling in them a sense of realism that could elevate even the most potentially generic tropes into another stratosphere of authenticity — the fallen movie idol, the veteran readapting to civilian life — vibrant and alive on screen.
I scoured the internet for a quote that could convey the importance of this man and his work in a manner befitting that importance, but I found nothing. The disappointing truth is that he’s not remembered the way he deserves to be; if the word “underrated” applies to anyone, it’s Fredric March. He was outrageously talented, a true master of his craft — if you haven’t seen him act, change that. There’s a March film for everyone: the provocative pre-code comedy Design for Living, the cautionary Hollywood fairy-tale-gone-wrong A Star Is Born, the wacky screwball hijinks of Nothing Sacred, the gaslit horror of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the heartrending (and heartwarming) The Best Years of Our Lives, the still-relevant courtroom drama Inherit the Wind…some of the best movies you’ll ever see, starring one of the greatest actors you’ll ever have the pleasure to adore.