Fredric March did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying President Jordan Lyman in Seven Days in May.
état lead by a General Scott (Burt Lancaster). Fredric March had some trouble adapting after his earlier days during the Golden Age of Hollywood. In films like Inherit the Wind and Death of a Salesman March seemed out of his element giving performances where he overacted wildly, that is not the case here which was one of his final performances.
Fredric March plays the President Jordan Lyman who is not a very popular guy as no one seems to like him, but he is a man who stands by his convictions doing what he thinks is right even if many people think otherwise. March has the most difficult role actually because he has to make the President compelling even though Lyman stands by what he believes through the film. Kirk Douglas gets to show the conflict of loyalties, Lancaster is straight forward but gets to be a vicious villain, Edmond O'Brien stays on the same side but hey he gets to be a sweaty drunkard, this leave March to be man standing his ground firmly and it is amazing because March actually steals the film. March wipes the slate clean of some his other late period performance with his very assured performance here.
March is excellent because he basically goes about showing all the complexities there are within a man who is so convicted in terms of his personal beliefs. March brings the right type of dignity to his role, a natural dignity. He never glorifies the President as a Saint like man, but shows him to be simply an honest statesman. March makes it believable that he would be such a good man, but as well would be a man that so many other people could hate. March is great in his early scenes as he explains his reasons for standing by his position no matter what. There is not a hint of sanctimony in anything that March says and he brings a naturalism to all of the Lyman's points. March never gives speeches to anyone, other than his actual speech at the end, he just makes Lyman a real man just trying to do what he thinks is best.
March really makes himself stand out though because he always brings more than just conviction to the part of President Lyman. March actually nicely brings some doubt in Lyman. This is never something that overwhelms the portrayal but March brings it in nicely though to flesh out Lyman. By bringing these slight hesitations in his performance March humanizes Lyman very effectively as he shows the mind of an actual president who has to think about too many things at too many times. Importantly March never makes as if Lyman is really doubts about what he believes, but rather doubts in regards due to the way so many around him are look at his desires for peace. There is an underlying fear March suggests, not fear of war, but a fear in Lyman over an apparent hysteria gripping the people.
President Lyman, despite his unpopularity, is no fool and takes it very seriously when he hears about the possible coup which brings out the strategist in the man. March is terrific in his scenes of showing how Lyman plays the game against General Scott and how he mediates his own room of allies. March stays unassuming to a certain point but always suggests a intelligence in the man. March is very good because as the other men say their peace he always has Lyman reasoning and deciphering what they are saying in an attempt to get to the bottom of it and make his next move. March never makes Lyman a machine though and one of his best moments is when one of his close aids have died. March is very moving as he shows that it really does hit him hard, but he can't do anything other than continue working to stop the coup.
The real test of March comes down to his confrontation scene with Lancaster. March has to go toe to toe with Lancaster and make it so we the audience believe that Lyman wins against the argument, and Lancaster is not pitching softballs. March not only stands his ground in the scene he actually overtakes Lancaster with the tremendous drive he brings with his performance. Every single line March delivers like a bullet at Lancaster. Every word he has March finds the passion behind it, and leaves no one to question who wins the day when the General leaves the room. I just love seeing March really give it his all with his performance and never once indulging in overacting as he very easily could have. Fredric March gives a great performance, giving the greatest presidential performance of 1964, and I would argue his personal best as an actor.