I Get a Kill: Dancer/Actress Marge Champion @ 101
Marge Champion, a dancer-actress in Golden Age movies, Broadway musicals and television shows, has died. She was 101.
Champion, who was the real-life model for Disney’s animated Snow White and won an Emmy for choreographing the 1975 telefilm “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom,” died Wednesday in Los Angeles, dance instructor Pierre Dulaine confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Marjorie Celeste Belcher was born on Sept. 2, 1919. Her father was noted Hollywood dance teacher Ernest Belcher, who taught Fred Astaire and Shirley Temple — and was friends with Walt Disney. This led to the animation team working on 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” studying her movements on a soundstage in order to make their animated leading lady move realistically on screen.
Starting at 14 years old, she danced for the all-male team a couple days a month — at 10 bucks a day — for two years.
“None of them had been a young girl or knew how a dress would do this or that or the other thing,” she said in a 1998 interview
with the Archive of American Television. “Most of the animators [before then] took their characters … out of themselves.”
She later served as Disney’s model for the Blue Fairy in 1940’s “Pinocchio,” Hyacinth Hippo in 1940’s “Fantasia” and Mr. Stock in 1941’s “Dumbo.”
Marge and her famed husband/dance partner Gower Champion — also a student of her father’s — were married from 1947 until they divorced in 1973. He died in 1980 at 61.
She and Gower co-starred in several MGM musicals, including George Sidney’s 1951 remake of “Show Boat,” with Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson and Ava Gardner. They went on to appear in a films with Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Bing Crosby.
The 5-foot-2-inch dancer made her Broadway debut in 1945’s “The Fair Witch in Dark of the Moon.” Rechristened “Marjorie Bell,” she formed an act with her new husband called Gower & Bell, playing nightclubs and co-starring with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on NBC’s “The Admiral Broadway Revue.”
In the summer of 1957, the pair headlined “The Marge and Gower Champion Show.” “Each of the Champions’ dances tells a story,” a TV critic once wrote according to THR, “and virtually every leap, every move, every gesture tells part of that story.”
The pair also choreographed Broadway musicals, including the original production of “Hello, Dolly!,” starring Carol Channing, which premiered in 1964 and ran through 1975.
Marge wed her last husband, TV director Boris Sagal, in 1977. He died in 1981 from injuries suffered when he accidentally walked into a helicopter blade on the set of the NBC miniseries “World War III.”
Survivors include a step-daughter, actress Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy”), and her son, producer-director Gregg Champion. She also had two other step-daughters, twins Liz and Jean Sagal (stars of the 1980s sitcom “Double Trouble”), and stepson Joey, an actor. https://nypost.com/2020/10/22/marge-champion-legendary-dancer-and-snow-white-dead-at-101/