From Banker to Broadway
UW Alumnus Makes an Impact
With dreams of becoming a banker, Fredric Bickel attended UW-Madison, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in commerce. He was an active undergrad, but his scholastic career was put on hold when WWI broke out. Leaving banking behind, March served for two years as an artillery officer and was decorated with the Iron Cross for his service. After the war, he was finally able to start his career as a banker. However, an emergency appendectomy caused him to reevaluate his life.
As an undergraduate, Fredric was actively involved in several honorary societies and clubs, including the Edwin Booth Dramatic Society. In 1920, when he decided to redirect his career, he fell back on his acting skills, playing an extra in various New York City productions. By 1926, he had signed a contract with Paramount Pictures and had changed his name to Fredric March. He won an Oscar for Best Actor in 1932 for his appearance in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and again in 1947 for the Best Years of Our Lives. In 1958, March was presented with an honorary doctorate of humanities from UW-Madison. March passed away in 1975 at the age of 77.
As an actor, March fought Nazism. He, along with Dorothy Parker, Fritz Lang, and Oscar Hammerstein, were principal founders of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League. In 1939, March and his wife Florence were awarded the Badge of Tolerance by The National Conference of Christians & Jews and in 1945, March also received the Eisenhower Medal as the actor who contributed most to democracy.
The Play Circle Theater was dedicated to March in 1978.