Eldridge, Florence (1901–1988)

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Eldridge, Florence (1901–1988)

American actress . Name variations: Mrs. Fredric March. Born Florence McKechnie on September 5, 1901, in Brooklyn, New York; died on August 1, 1988, in Santa Monica, California; daughter of James and Clara Eugenie McKechnie; graduate of Girls' High School, Brooklyn; married Fredric March (an actor), on May 30, 1927 (died 1975); children: Penelope March , and Anthony March (both adopted).

Selected theatrical roles:

made first New York appearance in chorus of Rock-a-Bye Baby (Astor Theater, 1919); appeared as Dolly McKibble in Pretty Soft (Morosco Theater, 1919), Margaret Nichols in Ambush (Garrick Theater, 1921), Annabelle West in The Cat and the Canary (National Theater, 1922), the Step-daughter in Six Characters in Search of an Author (Princess Theater, 1922), Nadine Morand in The Love Habit (Bijou Theater, 1923), Alma Lowery in The Dancers (Broadhurst Theater, 1923), Evelyn Gardner in Cheaper to Marry (49th Street Theater, 1924), the Girl in Bewitched (National Theater, 1924), Louise in Young Blood (Ritz Theater, 1925), Daisy Fay in The Great Gatsby (Ambassador Theater, 1926), Mation Taylor in A Proud Woman (Maxine Elliott Theater, 1926), Alice Reynolds in Off Key (Bel-mont Theater, 1927); toured for the Theater Guild in Arms and the Man, The Silver Cord, Mr. Pim Passes By, and The Guardsman (1928–29); appeared as Alexa in An Affair of State (Broadhurst Theater, 1930); was in Private Lives (1931); appeared as Julie Rodman in Days to Come (Vanderbilt Theater, 1936), Prue in Your Obedient Husband (Broadhurst Theater, 1938), Irma Gunther in The American Way (Center Theater, 1939), Carlotta Thatcher in Hope for a Harvest (Guild Theater, 1941), Mrs. Antrobus in The Skin of Our Teeth (Plymouth Theater, 1942), Annie Jones in Years Ago (Mansfield Theater, 1946), Miss Leonora Graves in Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (Broadhurst Theater, 1950), Mrs. Stockmann in An Enemy of the People (Broadhurst Theater, 1950), Rose Griggs in The Autumn Garden (Coronet Theater, 1951), Mary Cavan Tyrone in Long Day's Journey into Night (Helen Hayes Theater, 1956, and Theater of Nations Festival, Sarah Bernhardt Theatre, Paris, 1957).

Filmography:

Six Cylinder Love (1923); The Studio Murder Mystery (1929); Charming Sinners (1929); The Greene Murder Case (1929); The Divorcee (1930); The Matrimonial Bed (1930); Thirteen Women (1932); Dangerously Yours (1933); The Great Jasper (1933); The Story of Temple Drake (1933); A Modern Hero (1934); Les Miserables (1935); Mary of Scotland (1936); Another Part of the Forest (1948); An Act of Murder (1948); Christopher Columbus (1949); Inherit the Wind (1960).

A highly respected actress and half of a famous theatrical couple, Florence Eldridge was born in Brooklyn and made her New York debut in the chorus of Jerome Kern's musical Rock-a-Bye Baby (1919). Within three years' time, she was the toast of Broadway. Eldridge's performance in Ambush (1921) was acclaimed as "one of the brightest chapters in the season's theatrical history," and her stature increased with sub-sequent roles in The Cat and the Canary (1922), Six Characters in Search of an Author (1922), and The Love Habit (1923). In 1926, on the

brink of stardom, she met and fell in love with actor Fredric March, and the two were married in Mexico in 1927. In lieu of a honeymoon, they went on tour with the Theater Guild's first traveling repertory company.

In 1928, the couple headed to California, where he had the lead in The Royal Family and then signed a film contract with Paramount. Eldridge embarked on her own film career, often starring with her husband, notably in Les Miserables (1935) and Mary of Scotland (1936). After the marriage, Eldridge put her husband's career first. In time, she limited herself to one picture a year in order to preserve the couple's home life, which was based in the East. The Marches spent winters in Manhattan so that their two adopted children could attend the same school and have the same friends year after year.

In 1938, Eldridge played opposite March in the play Your Obedient Husband, which was a loud failure and closed in a week. So great was the couple's chagrin that they placed a small cartoon in theatrical columns of two trapeze artists missing each other's grip in mid-air over the caption: "Oops, sorry!" Duet performances in the plays The American Way (1939) and Hope for a Harvest (1941) were better received. One critic called the pair's casting in The Skin of Our Teeth (1943), as "nothing short of inspired.… March plays … with immense power, and Miss Eldridge is right behind him in giving a parable of human sympathy and warmth."

Eldridge had one of her greatest stage successes as Mary Tyrone in Eugene O'Neill's auto-biographical Long Day's Journey into Night (1956), for which she received the New York Drama Critics Award for Best Actress. March won a Tony for his role opposite her. In 1960, the couple appeared together in the film Inherit the Wind (for which March received an Oscar), and in 1965 they toured Egypt, Greece, Italy, and the Middle East for the U.S. State Department, giving concert readings.

Florence Eldridge outlived her husband, who died in 1975, by more than a decade. She died in California on August 1, 1988.

sources:

Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1943.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Wilmeth, Don B., and Tice L. Miller, eds. Cambridge Guide to American Theatre. NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Eldridge, Florence (1901–1988)

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