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New book looks at the life of Fredric March

Fredric March in A Star is Born (1937)
Fredric March in A Star is Born (1937)
public domain

Fredric March: A Consummate Actor


Biographies, especially star bios, are hit and miss, but Charles Tranberg can always be counted on to provide hits. "Fredric March: A Consummate Actor" is Tranberg's latest celebrity bio.

Wisconsin-born like his subject (and this reviewer), Tranberg offers some level of special insight to the early years of March's midwestern upbringing not found in other books. By the time we are reading about the gradual development of his acting career, we are already quite familiar with Fredric March the person.

March was a top flight actor on the stage and on screen, his versatility notable in his choice of roles, from the macabre, to the dramatic, to the comical. His career continued to flourish and he ended his years with Oscars and Tony awards.

Tranberg points out that March did not develop a recognizable screen persona that followed him from film to film. Instead he commanded the lead in several different roles, hiding his real life persona behind such characters as Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, the ill-fated actor Norman Maine, or humorist Mark Twain.

March's problems during the red scare are documented with quotes from accurate sources, detailing his strength during this time, and his successful battle against being smeared as a Communist sympathizer.

The bio, as with all of Tranberg's work, tells the story in an interesting and entertaining way while continuing to be informative. Excerpts from period reviews and comments from co-actors from Ben Gazzara to Dick Clark further enhance the experience as do several nice photo illustrations. As director John Frankenheimer said of March, "I know I will never work with anyone as good."

Highly recommended for all readers and all libraries.