Friday, October 23, 2020

Dancing Great Marge Champion Dies at 101

The wonderful Marge Champion has died at the age of 101.

Champion, who was born in Los Angeles on September 2, 1919, passed away in the same city on October 21st.

Her death comes a little over two weeks after the recent passing of fellow '50s MGM musical dancer Tommy Rall.  

Champion, seen above and below with longtime husband Gower Champion, was the younger half-sister of actress Lina Basquette; her father was well-known dancing teacher Ernest Belcher, who instructed a number of future dancing stars.

Champion was a significant contributor to two different, equally notable phases in film history.  As a teenager married to Disney animator Art Babbitt from 1937-41, Champion worked on the first full-length animated film, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937), modeling Snow White for the animators.

She also modeled the Blue Fairy in PINOCCHIO (1940), seen below, and minor characters in FANTASIA (1941) and DUMBO (1941).

She was named a Disney Legend, the studio's highest honor, in 2007.  Disney's D23 website posted an obituary with a look at her career which included this terrific photo of her with a statue of Walt Disney in the Disney California Adventure theme park.

In 1947 she married Gower Champion, to whom she was married for over a quarter century.  Champion had interesting family connections of his own; his brother was writer-director-producer John Champion, whose Western credits included work on PANHANDLE (1948), SHOTGUN (1955), and MUSTANG COUNTRY (1976).

The Champions were teamed in several MGM musicals: SHOW BOAT (1951), LOVELY TO LOOK AT (1952), EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS (1952), GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953), and JUPITER'S DARLING (1955).  "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" from LOVELY TO LOOK AT, seen above, is in my Top 5 favorite musical numbers ever put on film.

I was very fortunate to see her speak at Disney's 2012 Destination D event in Anaheim, which celebrated the 75th anniversary of SNOW WHITE.  She was then 93.

For much more regarding this very special performer, please visit the links below.

As someone who loves both MGM musicals and Disney animation, I feel deep gratitude for the many happy hours Marge Champion's work has given me.  My sincere condolences to her family and friends.

Previously reviewed Marge Champion films: SORORITY HOUSE (1939), EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS (1952), and GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953).

Additional previous links: Destination D: 75 Years of Disney Animation (2012), Happy Birthday, Marge Champion! (2014), and The Marge Champion Centennial (2019).


Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Thank you for the lovely tribute, Laura. I so enjoyed her musicals with Gower. And one of my earliest memories is playing with my Marge and Gower Champion paper dolls - just saw they are still available on eBay! Best, Jane

11:25 PM  
Blogger DKoren said...

I adored her in Show Boat and loved seeing her anytime she was dancing. This was a lovely tribute and I love that pic of her with the Disney statue. RIP.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jane and Deb, thank you both so much for sharing your fond memories of Marge Champion. What a life and career!

Jane, I went to eBay to take a look at Marge & Gower paper dolls - what fun! I love that that's an early memory for you, very special.

Deb, isn't that a great pic with Walt's statue? I also really love the head shot second from the top as it's something I only found recently - really a charming look.

A special lady indeed!

Best wishes,

7:47 PM  

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