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memories of Fredrick March


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I know there are many of you who won't believe this, but this is a true story. I thought, in honor of the Star of The Month, I may share it with you all, to let you know what kind of gentleman Mr. March was.

Around 1942, a man named Elmer Hill was a full time bleachery worker and part time house painter, with a family of 6 kids. His eldest, Mary Jane, would accompany him on his jobs, just to be with him, as a helper. At that point, he got a call to the Merryall section of New Milford, Ct., to paint the home of an actor. It was Fredrick March, looking and acting more like friendly country farmer, than an Academy Award winning actor. During the course of the days, he would come out and chat, and at lunchtime, he appeared with a tray full of sandwiches and cold beer for Mr. Hill, and soft drinks for his daughter. Mary Jane was quite taken by him, more so than the other stars who lived in the area. A while later, she got a job as a "soda jerk", to help herself and family, at a drug store near the town green. On Saturday afternoons, Mr. March asked if she would watch his kids, Penney & Tony, after the movies, and he would pick them up there. One afternoon, she was alone in the store, with no help, and very busy. Mr March arrived to pick up a few things, clad in the garb most people in New Milford saw him in, an old slicker, and a beat-up soft hat. Seeing that the young girl was in trouble, {these are her words}, "off came the old slicker and the hat, on went an apron" and he quickly asked what he could do to help. He stayed for nearly an hour, helping out wherever he could, to the delight of the locals, and the amazement and gratitude of Mary Jane Hill. Her ill-tempered Mother, in a fit of anger, threw out her classbook with it's good wishes from him in it. They remained buddies, almost like an uncle to her, until she married, and left New Milford in 1945.

 

I know this story very well, because it was one of Mary Jane's favorite memories from her girlhood, and I had heard many times from the time of my birth, to the day she passed away in 1998. Today, when I see Mr. March in his films, especially, The Best Years of Our Lives, I see the great actor, but also a wonderful man and human being.

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Out of all the mystery guests who ever appeared on "What's My Line", March probably did the best job of stumping the panel, with his accents and dialects. Even Bennett Cerf, who was a good friend of his and was especially good at recognizing voices, didn't have a clue.

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That is a very good story, and no reason not to believe it. People, even celebrities, can always be civil to others, even strangers. When I read of celebrities behaving badly, it usually is because they are put in unpleasant or difficult situations by inconsiderent people.

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I believe it. I've met people who knew Fredric March, and the impression that they all give is that he was a really decent man. And like his co-star in "Best Year" Myrna Loy, March was a good liberal Democrat!

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There's a lot to love about March-especially if you believe (as I do) you CAN tell a lot about a person by their face.

 

The Tikis are going to CT this weekend and after reading LLouise's post I thought, "I know where New Milford is, a gorgeous little stop. Out of the way a bit but worth it if I can see his home." As some of you may know, my hobby while traveling is to visit my favorite stars resting places. On an off chance I looked Frederic up on findagrave.com and sure enough! He's buried at The March Estate, in New Milford, CT.

 

I then called the Chamber of Commerce/Tourism Bureau of New Milford and the woman I spoke with had never heard of Fredric March, had no idea who he was.

 

Robert Osborne's piece in Now Playing talks about how March was a revered actor in his day and he's practically forgotten today. Indeed.

 

Now I've got a call in to the Town Clerk. Hopefully, she can provide me with an address or phone number to call for information. Most likely just a private residence and I won't be able to pay my respects.

Apparently I'm the only one who cares enough to visit. Sad.

 

PS I have a date to visit Katherine Hepburn Sunday.

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*LLouise*, that's such a nice story. Thanks for sharing!

 

*Tikisoo*, please do keep us informed if you journey to Frederic March's gravesite. I always found cemetaries to be fascinating places (perhaps that's kind of morbid admission.)

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Oh thanks for sharing this. I love hearing stuff like this especially since sadly there doesn't seem to be a lot about March out there. I know real Classic fans know who he is but he seems to be forgotten compared to other Classic Stars which I think is a real shame. That is why I am so glad TCM finally made him SOTM.

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> {quote:title=MyFavoriteFilms wrote:}{quote}

> Tiki, keep us posted on this. It sounds very interesting.

 

Well after several phone conversations with old timers/members of the historical society I found this out:

After Frederic passed in 1975, his property was divided into three parcels- the great house (a private residence) the "barn" parcel (owned by someone in CA) and the "land". The estate donated the unused land parcel to a forever wild Weantinoge Land Trust which offers walking trails for hikers.

 

Apparently, Frederic was cremated and his ashes scattered on the "barn" parcel. Supposedly there is a small brass plaque flat in the ground in the area to commemorate him. All the property is surrounded by a large stockade fence, making it impossible to see from the public areas.

 

One historian who is a member of the Land Trust said he tried to "wander in" off the trails to locate the plaque but was unsuccessful. So, probably not a good idea for me to try either.

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Yeah, I wouldn't try wandering in and be at risk for trespassing. But if you decide to hike the trail, maybe a powerful pair of binoculars would be a good idea!

 

Thanks for keeping us updated on this. It's all rather interesting. It must've been quite some homestead.

 

Did you inquire about any living relatives? Maybe you could get more information that way and possibly access to the property. It would be wonderful if you could somehow obtain a photo of his memorial plaque.

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This is a nice story. My own admiration stems merely from his contributions to classic film. He's terrific in INHERIT THE WIND, even better understated, as in "Best Years" and A STAR IS BORN. He makes a fine president in SEVEN DAYS IN MAY; a solid business man in "Gray Flannel Suit." Why I've never seen his Willy Loman I don't know. What I love is that there is no Fredric March type. He was never pigeon-holed into a standard role. He gave a sincere, individual interpretation to each character. A fine actor.

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I'm reading a book by the actress Evelyn Keyes. She talks about making her first movie in 1938 starring Frederic March. It was called "The Buccaneer."

 

According to the young and beautiful Ms. Keyes, the married Mr. March invited her into his trailer dressing room. Mr. March, "told me to sit beside him...And then in the gentlest way, he took my hand and placed it over the bulge in the front of those white pants. My first movie star erection, in person."

 

After an interuption in which he was called to the set, "Mr. March picked up my hand and gave it back to me, polite as could be. 'Please,' he said, 'feel free to rest here.' And then he left for the set.

 

I got out, fast."

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That's interesting. When the original poster said the girl's mother threw away the book with the autograph in it, I got the feeling that she felt her daughter was a romantic target of Freddie March. He may not have had the purest intentions when helping the girl in the restaurant that day, or when asking her to look after his kids. LOL

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I saw this thread and after reading the book thought I'd add the little Keyes-March incident. It doesn't mean he wasn't a decent man in other areas. A lot of people can have two sides. And a beautiful young actress can tempt a lot of males.

 

I still think he was a great actor and "The Best Years of Our Lives" is one of my top 5 favorite movies.

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Well I will say that is outright sexual harassment and I don't care if he is tempted by a pretty woman. But Fredric March was known as a womanizer. Of course I am not going to judge his acting by that. He is still a brilliant actor. And besides at that point (the 1930's) unfortunately I am sure a lot of men thought they could treat women like that.

 

 

March did stay with his 2nd wife all their lives (1927-till his death) which is rare in Hollywood. I also wonder if the womanizing stopped as he got older and lost his good looks.

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*That's interesting. When the original poster said the girl's mother threw away the book with the autograph in it, I got the feeling that she felt her daughter was a romantic target of Freddie March. He may not have had the purest intentions when helping the girl in the restaurant that day, or when asking her to look after his kids. LOL*

 

For someone who doesn't like Robert O, Ben M or Alec Baldwin talking about stars' often less than stellar lives off the camera in their introductions, you sure seem to have no problem throwing mud on those same stars.

 

Edited by: lzcutter on Oct 9, 2010 10:23 AM

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Hope you're having a nice day, Lynn. LOL

 

I wanted to get at the throw-away comment that the original poster made about the girl's mother tossing the autograph out. Nobody commented on it. Then, when all this other stuff about March's behavior was posted, I thought maybe there was a connection, that's all. When I posted, I kept in mind, what if Freddie was standing over me watching me write this...am I slandering him? And I thought, no...a lot of men like being known for their way with women. And if it was just a temporary lapse in judgment or something he did with many costars, we will never know. So since the evidence is rather limited, I don't have a reason to paint him as a bad guy, or even a saint for that matter.

 

Now, specifically, with regards to your comment...has anyone said Alec gossiped about actors? I did not. And I don't remember ever writing that I did not like Robert O. But if we just look at your comment, you seem not really be on any one side. It seems to be okay for them to talk about actors' private lives, but not for me to do so. You can't allow one group to gossip and the other group not to...and as I stated, I was not talking negatively about March. This leads me to think you are trying to make a personal attack.

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*This leads me to think you are trying to make a personal attack.*

 

Sorry you feel that way. It wasn't intended that way. It was just an observation based on previous posts by you. Do it with it as you will.

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Kino--I just read Evelyn Keyes "memoirs" of Hollywood in a personal interview about the Freddy March incident. But it was common knowledge that he couldn't keep his clothes on most of the time.

 

His wife was probably a member of the "Louise Treadwell" actress society.

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