Sunday, March 25, 2012



Sinclair Lewis

Fredric March

'Producer's Showcase' - "Dodsworth"

Alternate TV Dimension
("Land Of Remakes"?)

(Universes of Literature, Cinema,
Several Dimensions in the Theatrical Universe - one a musical!,
and Two Dimensions of the TV Universe)

From Wikipedia:

Samuel 'Sam' Dodsworth is an ambitious and innovative automobile designer, who builds his fortunes in Zenith, Winnemac. In addition to his success in the business world, he had also succeeded as a young man in winning the hand of Frances 'Fran' Voelker, a beautiful young socialite. While the book provides the courtship as a backstory, the real novel begins upon his retirement. 

At the age of fifty and facing retirement due to his selling of his successful automobile company (The Revelation Motor Company) to a far larger competitor, he sets out to do what he had always wanted to experience: a leisurely trip to Europe with his wife. His forty-one year old wife, however, motivated by her own vanity and fear of lost youth, is dissatisfied with married life and small town Zenith, wants to live in Europe permanently as an expatriate, not just visit for a few months to allow Dodsworth to visit some manufacturing plants looking for his next challenge. Passing up advancement in his recently sold company, Dodsworth leaves for Europe with Fran but her motivations to get to Europe become quickly known.

On their extensive travels across Europe they are soon caught up in vastly different lifestyles. Fran falls in with a crowd of frivolous socialites, while Sam plays more of an independent tourist. 'With his red Baedeker guide book in hand, he visits such well-known tourist attractions as Westminister Abbey, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sanssouci Palace, and the Piazza San Marco. But the historic sites that he sees prove to be far less significant than the American expatriates that he meets on his extensive journeys across Great Britain and continental Europe'.  

He eventually meets Edith Cortright, an expatriate American widow in Venice, who is everything his wife is not: self-assured, self-confident, and able to take care of herself. As they follow their own pursuits, their marriage is strained to the breaking point. Both Sam and Fran are forced to choose between marriage and the new lifestyles they have pursued.

Fran is clearly Lewis' target here while Sam ambles along as a stranger in a strange land until the epiphany of getting on with his life hits him in the last act. Sam Dodsworth is a rare Lewis character: a man of true conviction and purpose. Purpose and conviction can be relied on significantly as the book (and film) concludes with the two main characters going in quite different directions.

From John Crosby of the Herald-Tribune:

This "As Seen On TV" showcase is my own poor contribution to the blog-A-thon celebrating the life and works of actor Fredric March which is being hosted by the blog "Sittin' On A Backyard Fence". The many participants in the "March-In-March Blog-A-Thon" can be found listed here.

But the participants in this weekend's free-for-all (including Yours Viewly, once I send the link over!) can be found at this link.

Because the British adaptation from 1950 was broadcast first, that tele-version of "Dodsworth" has the "standing" for Earth Prime-Time. Not that it matters in the long run, because I have a feeling both productions are either lost in the aether or tucked away in some private collection. (I checked the Paley Center, but there was no listing for it, and sadly the only thing I found for Mr. March there concerning his television activity was a documentary on the Academy Awards.)

Fredric March didn't do much television, but what he did do was "cherce". "Dodsworth" wasn't the only Literary TV character he brought to the small screen, and as we get closer to Christmas, "Inner Toob" will feature the complete production of "A Christmas Carol" in which Mr. March played Ebenezer Scrooge and Basil Rathbone was Jacob Marley. (If it's still up on YouTube by that point.....)

He also brought several characters from the Theatrical Universe to life for the TV dimension of "ToobStage" - Oscar Jaffe from "The Twentieth Century" ('The Ford Theatre Hour'), Arthur Winslow in Rattigan's "The Winslow Boy" ('The DuPont Show Of The Month'), and Don Juan in Rostand's dramatic poem "The Last Night Of Don Juan" ('Omnibus').

His one tele-theatrical role which I'd most like to see was a truly multiversal role for him, that of Tony Cavendish, the John Barrymore-like actor in "The Royal Family" ('The Best Of Broadway'). If Wikipedia is to be believed (and when are they ever wrong?), the 1954 TV production was broadcast live. But at least there's the 1930 movie version in which he captured that hammy, roguish, but likeable cad of the Cavendishes. (To make it truly multiversal, he also played Tony on stage in Los Angeles - Otto Kruger played it on Broadway - and he was congratulated by Barrymore himself on his performance.)

Mr. March also gave voice to Christopher Columbus and Leonardo da Vinci for two episodes of 'The Saga Of Western Man' (as well as narrating a third episode), and he appears to have created several Toobworld citizens in the Tele-Folks Directory: Sam and Captain Matt (both in episodes of 'Lux Video Theatre') and perhaps the title role in "The Boor" (for 'Nash Airflyte Theatre').

I'd love to find out more regarding "The Flattering World", which was an episode in 'Shower Of Stars'. In that Mr. March played Eugene Tesch, joined by a cast that included Jack Benny, Elsa Lanchester, Peggy Lee, and perhaps even Red Skelton.

Finally, Mr. March served as the host for an anthology series in which the thirteen episodes were dramatizations of sub-plots from the works of Charles Dickens, so he contributed - in a way - to even more Literary TV characters joining the ever-expanding TV Universe.

For the "complete" list of his TV credits - including a few appearances a member of the "League Of Themselves" on shows like 'The Ed Sullivan Show' - click on this link.

So here's to Fredric March - legend of stage and screen who also enriched the fictional domain of Toobworld.......



kittenbiscuits said...


Thank you for discussing a piece out of March's television career. March always said he despised television work. Despite his feelings, he still put on a hell of a performance. I haven't seen his rendition of Dodsworth. It's one of my favorite stories. I'll have to try and find a copy.

Toby O'B said...

Thank you, Jill, for the opportunity!

I found myself fascinated with all of the posts so far about Mr. March because he is an actor I knew so little about, save for only a handful of performances. ('Inherit The Wind', 'Seven Days In May', and 'Best Years Of Our Lives') I've since added 'Death Of A Salesman', 'The Royal Family', and 'The Adventures Of Mark Twain' (which I may have seen as a kid) to the list of must-sees.

It was quite an august group you assembled and I'm humbled/honored to get the chance to join them!