The League of Alternate Superstars:  Fredric March (1897 – 1975)

Any cinephile will scoff at designating Fredric March an “alternate super star.”  After all, he won two Academy Awards for Best Actor and was ranked the equal of his unofficial rival, Spencer Tracy, who also won two Oscars.  Both had the chance to spar with one another in Inherit the Wind (1960).  However, because there is no The Films of Fredric March, I summarize his sterling career here.

Inherit the Wind

March was born in Racine, Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  During World War I he was an artillery lieutenant in the army.  After the war he became a banker but by 1920 was a movie “extra” in New York City-based films.  This was followed by a contract with Paramount Pictures. 

March won his first Best Actor Academy Award for director Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932).  In Hollywood in the Thirties, author John Baxter wrote, “Mamoulian’s inventions for the scenes showing Fredric March’s change from Jekyll to Hyde would alone have made this film memorable.  Determined to engineer the transformations without resorting to cuts or opticals, Mamoulian conceived on the spur of the moment a system in which specially toned makeup, coloured lights and coloured filters were used to change the look of March’s face.”  There was more to it than that.  Makeup turned him into a veritable ape-man in tux and cape.    

In the following year’s World War I film, The Eagle and the Hawk, March gave another superb performance.  According to Thomas Doherty in Projections of War, March was “extraordinary…as the burnt-out pilot (with what was not then called the thousand-yard stare).” 

Death Takes a Holiday

Like Cary Grant, March never tied himself to a long-term studio contract, which necessitated taking any role you were given or else be suspended.  Also like Grant, he was adept at screwball comedy and successfully traded bon mots with Carole Lombard in Nothing Sacred (1937).  Nor did he seem out of place in historical epics, playing Marcus Superbus (!) in The Sign of the Cross (1932).  Fantasy was also up his alley, and he played the title character in the still amusing Death Takes a Holiday (1934).  He did very well in large-scale films based on huge historical novels.  Think Garbo’s Anna Karenina (1935), as Jean Valjean in the estimable 1935 production of Les Miserables, and Anthony Adverse (1936).  He was the doomed Norman Maine opposite Janet Gaynor in the first version of A Star is Born (1937).  High-octane films were inter-mixed with prestigious stage roles in The Skin of Our Teeth, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and An Enemy of the People

Les Miserables

In 1946 he was the lead in The Best Years of Our Lives, the Best Picture Academy Award winner for which he won his second Oscar.  A movie that never fails to touch viewers’ heartstrings, especially those who participated in World War II or whose parents did, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die called it “one of the best American movies about returning soldiers ever made—certainly the most moving and deeply felt.  It bears witness to its times and contemporaries like few other Hollywood features, and Gregg Toland’s deep-focus cinematography is incredible.”  The Essentials called it “A deeply beloved American film from the moment it opened in December 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives spoke to a generation affected by World War II on the battlefield and on the home front.”

The Best Years of Our Lives

In the 1950s March played his age:  Willy Loman in the 1951 film version of Death of a Salesman, furniture manufacturer controller in Executive Suite (1954), admiral in The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1954), television network president in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956), widowed clothing manufacturer conducting an affair with a young receptionist (Kim Novak) in Middle of the Night (1959).

Like Henry Fonda, in the 1960s March had the maturity and gravitas to play the President of the U.S.  Curiously, both had that opportunity in 1964:  Fonda in Fail-Safe, March in Seven Days in May.     

To summarize, Fredric March’s career was second to none.  He chose his roles wisely and deserves to be ranked among the “great stars.” 

By Kim


Arnold, Jeremy.  The Essentials:  52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter.  2016.

Baxter, John.  Hollywood in the Thirties.  1970, c1968.

Doherty, Thomas.  Projections of War:  Hollywood, American Culture, and World War II.  1993.

Schneider, Steven Jay, ed.  1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.  2019. 

Hidden Cinema Gems, 1970-71

For one reason or another, oftentimes studio executives’ befuddlement over the nature of a movie they green-lighted but have no affinity for or understanding of when it is finished, a film enters limbo.  In the past it might become the second entry on a double-feature bill.  Reviews might be scanty or nil.  It will in short become lost.  Today, if it’s an “international” picture, it might not even reach DVD status in North America. 

The five movies discussed below are examples of such films from 1970 or 1971, depending on the actual release date.  Some U.S. Army personnel in West Germany were privileged to see them on base theaters and did not forget what was surely a unique “moviegoing experience.”         

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (aka Satan’s Skin, U.K.)

In early 18th century England, as crows caw spookily, a young farmer unearths a disgusting visage in a furrow, but when he returns with others it has disappeared.  Soon enough, however, young folk go missing.  Some are victims, others in thrall of something not fully formed but obviously intent on contaminating the countryside, including the parson. A witchfinder is summoned.  This is folk horror at its finest and would make a great bookend with The Wicker Man (1973).  It was once on VHS but is not on DVD for viewing in North America despite increasing coverage in outre film magazines.  Elaine Macintyre said it “provides a microcosm of a world in the grip of mass hysteria, in which witches and deviltry lurk round every corner.”  (     

Darker Than Amber (U.S.)

Rod Taylor (The Time Machine, Hotel) is John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, “salvage” expert, aka private eye, when he needs some cash, who lives aboard a houseboat named the Busted Flush in Ft. Lauderdale.  In this outing Travis helps Vangie (Suzy Kendall) survive the depredations of sociopathic Terry (William Smith).  The climactic bare-knuckle fracas between Taylor and Smith (TV westerns, Hawaii 5-O, Chrome and Hot Leather, Any Which Way You Can) that rockets from a cruise ship cabin out onto the dock is worth the price of admission.  In a 2010 interview, Smith said, “Fight choreography and staging went out the window when Rod [Taylor] decided to really hit me.  And so the fight was on.  That was a real fight with real blood and real broken bones.  Rod is a skilled fighter, and, at the same time a real scrapper.  Now that was a good fight!”  (Tim Tal, “William Smith:  My fight with Clint Eastwood was longest two-man fight scene on screen,” BZFilm, April 1, 2010.)  William Lustig called it “A truly great overlooked 70s detective thriller,” and William Smith “expressed disappointment that it had become a legendary lost film.”  (William Lustig, “Anthology Film Archives Screens The Seventies—Buried Treasures Series,” August 14, 2009). 

Road to Salina (France)

Road was directed by George Lautner, a notable French filmmaker, but it’s in English and the four prime performers are American:  Mimsy Farmer (Spencer’s Mountain, Riot on Sunset Strip), Robert Walker (Jr.), son of notable film stars Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette, Duel in the Sun) and Robert Walker (The Clock, Strangers on a Train), Rita Hayworth (Gilda, The Lady from Shanghai), and oddest of all, venerable character actor Ed Begley (Twelve Angry Men, Sweet Bird of Youth).  The story:  A young drifter named Jonas (Walker) finds himself at a gas station cum café in a remote venue (the sun-drenched but haunting moonscape of the Canary Islands) run by Mara (Hayworth).  She proclaims him “Rocky,” the son who ran off four years before.  Jonas plays along just for the heck of it.  It doesn’t hurt that Mara has an alluring daughter, Billee (Farmer).  Warren (Begley) goes along with the deception to keep Mara happy. This is a multi-layered and quite mesmerizing film of mystery, suspense and forbidden romance.  The audio commentary on the new DVD release is enlightening and thought-provoking.  Occasionally it did get some notice in the past:  “The movie has a grainy look and an existentialist bend, befitting of a film made by a Frenchman.  It contains suspense elements…, free love sexuality, exotic scenery, generation gap disconnects, and does-a-number-on-your-head oddness.”  (Brian Greene,, April 25, 2014.)     

Scream and Scream Again (U.K.)

Scream is a distinctly odd sci-fi/horror film starring Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and, briefly, Peter Cushing.  At the time of release most critics deemed it incomprehensible.  Roger Ebert called it “absurd” and “engagingly ridiculous.”  (Roger Ebert, “Scream and Scream Again,”, February 18, 1970.)  The commentators for this newly issued DVD make a case for planned surrealism and also believe the police chase involving a kind of cyborg the longest in cinema history.  Price’s scientist maintains that what he is creating will be great, “but not an evil super race.”  Acid baths hide evidence of misdoing.    

The Vampire Lovers (U.K.)

This Hammer Studios film was the first of the commonly designated “Karnstein Trilogy” that was followed by Twins of Evil and Lust for a Vampire and was the initial Hammer outing for the actress generally considered the studio’s greatest femme fatale (not a scream queen because she caused the screaming), Ingrid Pitt, concentration camp survivor who knew all about human-sponsored horror.  It is based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s famous novella, Carmilla.  Pitt played Carmilla,/Mircalla/Marcilla and visited sex and death upon young ladies whose mansions she infiltrated as a kind of governess.  Even more so than other Hammer films, it was beautifully filmed.  Played straight, there are nevertheless moments of sly humor.  Back in 1970, The Philadelphia Daily News‘ film reviewer Joe Baltake called it “Campy, literate, witty and dead-straight vampire movie.”

Black Lives Matter: Community Reads


By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control–relegating millions to a permanent second-class status–even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.

Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, Me and White Supremacy takes readers on a 28-day journey of how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, is available as an ebook and eAudiobook through July 19, 2020.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

A current, constructive, and actionable exploration of today’s racial landscape, offering straightforward clarity that readers of all races need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.

Book summaries taken from

No Wait, These Books Are Great!

RRN_FictionYAWe have new collections of kids and teen eBooks, eAudiobooks, and Read-Alongs that are available without holds! These books are from Rosen Publishing, Lerner Publishing Group, Britannica Digital Learning, Orca Book Publishers, Triangle Interactive, and other participating publishers.  More titles will be added in the future!

Looking for Read-Alongs?  Here are some of the ones in the kids collection:

goldy luckmy heart

Are you missing sports?  Maybe these books from Britannica will help:


Check out the rest of the 100 + titles available with no holds!  Here is the kids collectionHere is the teen collection.

Golden Voice: Julia Whelan

educatedAudioFile Magazine’s Golden Voices list is like a Hall of Fame of Audiobook narrators.  One of this year’s Golden Voices is Julia Whelan.  Here are some of our favorite Audiobooks that she has narrated:

Educated by Tara Westover
This Audiobook won two 2019 Audie Awards (like the Oscars of the Audiobook industry) – Best Female Narrator and Memoir.

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
Winner of AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Award

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgowwife between us
This Audiobook made AudioFile Magazine’s Best of 2016 Young Adult list

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Here are more titles that she has narrated.


Libby Picks

There are ways to enjoy a good book, even if you can’t browse the shelves—this month’s Multimedia Department staff picks are all available on the Libby app.  With Libby you can read or listen to a huge selection of books from any mobile device, without ever needing to leave your home. For more information on Libby, click here.

Emily’s Picks

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Grown-up fans of Harry Potter will love this tale of English magic set in an alternate strangeRegency era. Featuring captivating characters and a meticulously researched and carefully-built world, this Hugo-winning debut novel will have you turning page after page, unable to put it down. At the height of England’s war against Napoleonic France, when magic seems to be merely a topic of study and theory but never of practice, to practicing magicians of very different temperaments—Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell—emerge and, through their initial partnership and eventual rivalry, change the course of history forever.

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Although it’s the 14th book in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, there’s no need to read the first 13 books to enjoy this hilarious tale of magic and mischief (although you could if lordsyou wanted to!). Lords and Ladies is set in the small, sleepy Kingdom of Lancre, a kingdom run by a king who was once a court jester and protected by three witches: Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick. When it seems that the elves are returning to Lancre, the kingdom’s young people are confused as to what all the fuss is about—after all, elves are supposed to be nice. But the witches know better. Elves aren’t nice, elves are bad, and it’s up to the witches to stop them before they ruin the King’s wedding and possibly much more. Loaded with Pratchett’s trademark whimsical wit, colorful characters, and a few winks and nods to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this is a must-read for fantasy lovers.

Jessie’s Picks

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

etiquetteLooking for a book that will transport you out of this reality? Then give Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series a try! Set in an alternate Victorian England, this humorous steampunk series follows Sophronia through her many adventures at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Moira Quirk does a great job of narrating this Young Adult series.

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericksdeath

This mystery series starter is set in New York City circa 1910. Jane Prescott is a ladies’ maid to the daughters of the wealthy Benchley family. Jane becomes involved in a complex mystery when Charlotte Benchley’s fiancée is murdered. Jane discovers that her position allows her to learn important details. This mystery series is a good choice for fans of Laurie R. King and Anne Perry.

John’s Picks

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
Fans of HBO’s A Game of Thrones will certainly enjoy George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, but the third book of this epic fantasy is particularly exciting. So many of the television series’ most pivotal moments unfold within these 1000+ pages, but there are plenty of nuances to make the 48-hour-long audiobook exciting for all. Listen along as giants roam north of the Wall, four kings wage a devastating war across the Seven Kingdoms, and dragons fly high above the continent of Essos.

The Great Courses: Foundations of Western Civilizationgreat

Thomas F. X. Noble is Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame. This offering by the Great Courses invites you into the award-winning historian’s classroom for 48 unique lectures on topics ranging from the earliest civilizations in Mesopotamia to the cusp of the modern world around 1600. Noble has published dozens of scholarly books and articles on the history of Western civilization, and he shares his research and expertise in this incredibly insightful audiobook.

Kim’s Picks

Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by Julie Andrews

Picking up where Home: A Memoir of My Early Years (2009) left off, stage and screen icon homeworkAndrews begins with a summary of her young life that included bizarre family secrets, performance in vaudeville, and the epic stage successes My Fair Lady and Camelot. Home Work continues with her introduction to major films courtesy of Walt Disney. She is candid about everything, including her amicable divorce from esteemed production designer Tony Walton and marriage to the equally famous and hypochondriac Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther, and Victor, Victoria). She praises Disney, James Garner, Dick Van Dyke, Carol Burnett, Robert Preston, and many others who helped her and became life-long pals. Like Home, Home Work is everything you’d want in a star biography. There is much to amuse the reader, e.g., being smashed to the stage when the wires helping her fly in Mary Poppins (1964) snapped, and in The Sound of Music (1965) when the lights installed in the gazebo made horrible sounds each time she and co-star Christopher Plummer looked deeply into each other’s eyes. Breaking into uncontrollable laughter, it forced director Robert Wise to give and shoot them in silhouette which of course worked wonderfully well.

Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

This famous 1922 novel by the Nobel-prize winning author of Main Street, Arrowsmith, babbittDodsworth, and Elmer Gantry describes the culture of the fictional Zenith, a growing midwestern metropolis with streetcars, automobiles, banks, caterers, clubs and more clubs, theaters, tall buildings, and humming factories—ultimate examples of American progress. The focus is on middle-aged George Babbitt and his household. Despite his success in real estate and pride at belonging to a coterie of men on the make (he’s a realtor, not a real estate man, thank you very much), he does experience episodes causing him to question his life choices. Yet conformity is impossible to buck. “Babbitt” became a synonym for those hustling for material gain to the detriment of a fully realized, ethical, and honest society.

Mary’s Picks

Becoming by Michelle Obama
An inspirational autobiography showing that anything can be accomplished with hard work and perseverance. This audiobook is read by the author which makes it that much more enjoyable. She tells her extraordinary story in a very down-to-earth way that everyone can connect with. Warm, thoughtful, educational, and inspiring.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahamewind

This is my all-time favorite childhood book. Beautifully written and enjoyable for both children and adults. The descriptions are so rich that you feel you are right there in the story with the most beloved characters. A true classic and feel-good book that everyone should read.

Stephanie’s Picks

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith
In the fourth volume of the Cormoran Strike series, Galbraith interweaves a complex plot involving murder, politics, and blackmail. It’s filled with captivating dialogue with wonderfully flawed characters. The first few chapters are a little slow going, but if you put your faith in the gruff narration from Robert Glenister, he will lead you through a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (narrated by Anthony Bourdain)
I was extremely hesitant to read this book, as I always thought of Bourdain as an arrogant, unpleasant man, who had no problem voicing his opinion of those he deemed beneath him. However, a good friend assured me I would really like this book. He was right! In this unexpectedly humorous memoir, Bourdain tells his story with a quick wit that is as offensive as it is poignant. His passion for food comes through unboundedly, and I appreciate his fierce advocacy for under-appreciated chefs, specifically those in the Latino community. His disdain for vegetarians aside, I found this book very enjoyable.

Virtual Program: Libby: Ask Me Anything

Maybe you’re finding yourself with more free time now that all of your social events and outings have been canceled. Maybe you just need a break from it all. Either way now might be a great time to pick up a good book, and we still have you covered with our digital collection on Libby.
If you’re new to Libby, need a refresher, or have a specific question, join us on Friday afternoons at 3 PM for virtual learning sessions.  Registration is required.
A Zoom link will be emailed to registrants 2 hours before the program starts.  Make sure to check the email address you registered with to receive the link.  You do not need a Zoom account to attend the virtual program.


Virtual Program

Spanish eBooks and eAudiobooks!

Did you know that we have Spanish eBooks and eAudiobooks?  We have a whole bunch for a wide variety of ages and interests!  There are a lot of titles for kids and teens to choose from as well.  If you want to see only our Spanish titles when you browse or search in the Libby app, then follow these steps:

  1. Tap Preferences at the top of the library’s home screen or any list.
  2. Change the “Language” filter to Spanish.
  3. Tap Apply Preferences.

Libby Spanish