Marge Champion

Dancer, Choreographer, Actor
A celebrated dancer, actress, and choreographer of stage, screen and TV, Marge Champion, together with her then-husband and partner Gower Champion, excelled at the "story dance", a combination of dance and pantomime ... Read more »
Born: 09/01/1919 in Hollywood, California, USA

Filmography

Actor (14)

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life 2012 (Movie)

Herself (Actor)

Dick Van Dyke: Put on a Happy Face 1999 - 2000 (TV Show)

Actor

Harry Belafonte: Don't Stop The Carnival 1985 - 1986 (TV Show)

Actor

The Night of 100 Stars II 1984 - 1985 (TV Show)

Actor

The Party 1968 (Movie)

Rosalind Dunphy (Actor)

The Swimmer 1968 (Movie)

Peggy Forsburgh (Actor)

Jupiter's Darling 1955 (Movie)

Meta (Actor)

Three For Tonight 1954 - 1955 (TV Show)

Actor

Three For the Show 1955 (Movie)

Gwen Howard (Actor)

Give a Girl a Break 1953 (Movie)

Madelyn Corlane (Actor)

Lovely to Look At 1951 (Movie)

(Actor)

Ava Gardner (TV Show)

Actor
Other (5)

Agnes: The Indomitable De Mille 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Consultant

Whose Life Is It Anyway? 1981 (Movie)

choreography (Choreographer)

Ike 1978 - 1979 (TV Show)

Choreographer

Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (TV Show)

Choreographer

The Awakening Land (TV Show)

Dialogue Consultant

Biography

A celebrated dancer, actress, and choreographer of stage, screen and TV, Marge Champion, together with her then-husband and partner Gower Champion, excelled at the "story dance", a combination of dance and pantomime, which they performed to great renown on Broadway, in several films, and on such TV programs as "The Broadway Admiral Revue" (NBC, 1949). Champion was the daughter of Ernest Belcher, a ballet coach for Hollywood stars. In 1936, she performed with the Los Angeles Civic Opera in several productions, often before as many as 23,000 people. Soon thereafter, she was a human figure model for the heroine of Disney's animated "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937), and later modeled for the blue fairy in "Pinocchio" (1940). Then known as Marjorie Bell, she also made her film debut in "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" (1939), although it was Ginger Rogers who danced with Fred Astaire.

Champion was keeping busy, but her career did not pick up steam until she moved to New York in 1945. She became reacquainted with Gower Champion, with whom she had attended Bancroft Junior High School in Hollywood. The duo appeared in the 1945 show, "Dark of the Moon" and also worked up a nightclub act. In 1947, they married and their "Gower & Bell" team became known as Marge and Gower Champion. They performed with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on TV's "The Admiral Broadway Revue", but when the comics went on to do "Your Show of Shows", the Champions returned to Hollywood. There they performed in several musicals at MGM, principally a lavish color remake of "Show Boat" (1951), in which they played second bananas Ellie and Frank. The Champions played leads in the agreeable "Everything I Have is Yours" (1952) and "Give a Girl a Break" (1953) and supporting roles in films including "Jupiter's Darling" (1955), but they were never top stars and MGM released them from their contract.

Among the reasons the Champions left Hollywood was because they had insisted on the right to do TV. And so the duo appeared in "Three for Tonight", a 1955 CBS special, and tried their own CBS sitcom in 1957, "The Marge & Gower Champion Show", in which they were dancers trying to establish a new life. As their style was considered "sophisticated", it easily lent itself to several somewhat highbrow specials such as "Accent of Love" and "Marriage--Handle With Care" (both 1959). Marge also began acting solo in straight dramatic roles, sometimes on the light side, such as the Peter Sellers comedy "The Party" (1968) or Frank Perry's thoughtful study of middle age, "The Swimmer" (1968).

Marge and Gower Champion divorced in 1973, but Marge, on her own, choreographed the feature film "The Day of the Locusts" (1973) and won an Emmy for creating the dances for the celebrated TV-movie "Queen of the Stardust Ballroom" (CBS, 1975), the story of a widow (Maureen Stapleton) who finds a new lease on life at a ballroom dance hall. In 1977, she married director Boris Sagal and began working with him on several of his TV projects. She did the choreography for the miniseries "Ike" (ABC, 1979) and was dialogue coach for the miniseries "Masada" (ABC, 1981). When Sagal was killed in a tragic accident while on location in 1981, Champion curtailed her activities. But she appeared on "Harry Belafonte: Don't Stop the Carnival", a 1988 HBO special reuniting her with a performer with whom she had appeared on TV in the late 50s. Champion, often billed since the late 70s as Champion Sagal, was also a consultant for the 1987 PBS documentary "Agnes: The Indomitable De Mille," and, in 1988, choreographed a show for the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.

Relationships

Gladys Belcher

Mother

Richard Belcher

Brother

Art Babbitt

Husband
first marriage divorced after two years of marriage

Lina Basquette

Step-Sister
prominent in silent film her mother was married to Ernest Belcher

Ernest Belcher

Father

Gower Champion

Husband
married on October 5, 1947 divorced in 1973 died in August 1980

Blake Champion

Son
born on February 14, 1962 died in an automobile accident in May 1987 at age 25

Gregg Champion

Son
born on November 20, 1956

Boris Sagal Director

Husband
Married Jan. 1, 1977 until her death in 1981

Boris Sagal

Husband
married from January 1, 1977 until his death on May 22, 1981

Jean Sagal

Step-Daughter
twin of Liz

Katey Sagal

Step-Daughter
stars "Married, With Children"

Liz Sagal

Step-Daughter
twin of Jean

EDUCATION

studied acting with Sanford Meisner

Milestones

2000

Returned to stage performing, teamed with Donald Saddler for the revival of "Follies"

1988

Choreographed the stage production of "Stepping Out" at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Massachusetts

1987

Served as consultant for "Agnes: The Indomitable de Mille" (PBS)

1975

Choreographed the TV-movie "Queen of the Stardust Ballroom" (CBS)

1973

Choreographed dance sequence in the feature "The Day of the Locusts"

1957

Starred on TV in "The Marge & Gower Champion Show" (CBS)

1955

Last MGM musical, "Jupiter's Darling", starring Esther Williams

1952

Co-starred with husband Gower Champion in the medium-budget MGM musical, "Everything I Have Is Yours"

1951

Brief star buildup for "Marge and Gower Champion" dance team by MGM, beginning with prominent supporting roles in the color remake of the musical "Show Boat"

1949

With Gower, starred on TV's "Admiral Broadway Revue" (NBC)

1944

Formed "Gower and Bell" with Gower Champion; Broadway debut, "Dark of the Moon"

1939

First film as actress, "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle", starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire

1937

Human model for animated "Snow White"

1936

Made stage debut before 23,000 people at Hollywood Bowl

Acted in several supporting roles in features in the late 1960s

Bonus Trivia

.

"Light as bubbles, wildly imaginative in choreography, and infinitely meticulous in execution. Above all, they are exuberantly young...the best dance team of any kind in the world."--Critic John Crosby

.

Since 1995, Champion has been on the nominating committee for the Tony Awards.

SIMILAR ARTICLES