Marge Champion has been on my mind this week, as the other day I watched part of TCM's screening of LOVELY TO LOOK AT. LOVELY TO LOOK AT is an underrated film -- perhaps because it's a remake of a Fred and Ginger movie, ROBERTA -- which contains my two favorite "Marge and Gower" dances: the ethereal "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and the jazzy fashion show finale where they dance the role of a jewel thief and his willing victim.
To the left is a photo of Marge and Gower Champion from the LIFE archive.
While taking a break from my work this evening, I was poking around YouTube and came across what looks like a most interesting 1998 archival interview with Marge Champion. I watched a few minutes of it and am looking forward to viewing the rest soon. Click the title of this post for the interview.
You can also enjoy Marge and Gower's joint appearance as "Mystery Guests" on WHAT'S MY LINE? thanks to YouTube. It's very cute and worth taking a look if you're a fan.
I once saw Gower Champion in person, incidentally. In the late '70s he directed a production of OUR TOWN at the Center Theater in Long Beach, California. It was a very small, intimate theater, and when Mr. Champion came out to speak to the audience before the performance he was just a few feet away from our seats. He explained that Eddie Albert, who was to play the Stage Manager, had been delayed on a location shoot and that Eddie's son, Edward Albert, would play the role in the preview we were attending. (Edward did a fine job, carrying a leather-bound script since he hadn't had time to memorize the entire part.) Mr. Champion was a handsome man with great presence.
Marge Champion not only made wonderful contributions to MGM musicals, but to great Disney animated films as well. Very early in her career she worked as a model at Disney Studios; she, along with other actors, modeled character movements and dances to help Disney's animators create their characters. Marge worked on both SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and FANTASIA. You can check out some of her work on SNOW WHITE on YouTube.
About 18 months ago she attended a 70th Anniversary tribute to SNOW WHITE at the Disneyland resort; Leonard Maltin featured a photo of her at his site. She looked fabulous.
Marge also had an interesting post-dancing career. She was married to television director Boris Sagal and worked as a choreographer and dialogue coach on several of his productions, including THE AWAKENING LAND (1978, starring Elizabeth Montgomery), THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1980, with Melissa Gilbert), and the unforgettable MASADA (1981), which starred Peter O'Toole and Peter Strauss. Mr. Sagal tragically died in a helicopter accident in 1981.
Marge Champion will turn 90 years old this fall. She is one of the greats whose work has given filmgoers tremendous pleasure over the years.
2014 Update: A 95th birthday tribute.