Marge Champion (b. 2 September 1919 as Marjorie Celeste Belcher) is an American dancer, choreographer, and actress. She married Gower Champion in 1947. They had two sons, Blake and actor Gregg Champion, before divorcing in 1973.
Marge Champion's first marriage was to Art Babbitt (1907–1992), a top animator at Disney and creator of Goofy. She was the model for the lead character in Disney's animated feature film, Snow White. Her third marriage, to director Boris Sagal, father of actress Katey Sagal, lasted from January 1, 1977, until his death on May 22, 1981, when he was killed in an accident during the production of the miniseries World War III.
Since retiring, Champion has worked as a dance instructor and choreographer in New York City. In 1982, she made a rare television acting appearance on the dramatic series Fame, playing a ballet teacher with a racial bias against African-American students. In 2001, she appeared as Emily Whitman in a Broadway revival of Follies. Champion was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in 2009, and in 2013 she received The Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards ceremonies.
As a dance team, the Champions, appeared in such MGM musicals of the 1940s and 50s as the 1951 version of Show Boat and 1952's Everything I Have Is Yours. MGM wanted the couple to remake Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, but only one, Lovely to Look At (1952), a remake of 1935's Roberta, was completed. The couple refused to remake any of the others, the rights to which were still owned by RKO. During the summer of 1957, the Champions had their own TV series, The Marge and Gower Champion Show, a situation comedy with song and dance numbers. Marge played a dancer and Gower a choreographer. Real-life drummer Buddy Rich was featured as a fictional drummer named Cozy.
Gower Carlyle Champion (b. 22 June 1919 – d. 25 August 1980) was an American actor, theatre director, choreographer, and dancer. Champion was born in Geneva, Illinois, the son of John W. Champion and Beatrice Carlisle. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, where he studied dance from an early age and, at the age of fifteen, toured nightclubs with friend Jeanne Tyler billed as "Gower and Jeanne, America's Youngest Dance Team."
During the late 1930s and early 1940s, Champion worked on Broadway as a solo dancer and choreographer. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, Champion met Marjorie Belcher, who became his new partner, and the two were married in 1947. In the early 1950s, Marge and Gower Champion made seven film musicals: Mr. Music (1950, with Bing Crosby), the 1951 remake of Show Boat (with Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson), 1952's Lovely to Look At (a remake of Roberta, also with Keel and Grayson), the autobiographical Everything I Have Is Yours (1952), Give a Girl a Break (1953, with Debbie Reynolds and Bob Fosse), Jupiter's Darling (1955, with Keel and Esther Williams), and Three for the Show (1955, with Betty Grable and Jack Lemmon). All were made for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer except Mr. Music (Paramount) and Three for the Show (Columbia).
In 1948, Champion had begun to direct as well, and he won the first of eight Tony Awards for his staging of Lend an Ear, the show that introduced Carol Channing to New York theater audiences. During the 1950s, he only worked on two Broadway musicals — choreographing Make a Wish in 1951 and directing, staging and starring in 3 For Tonight in 1955 — preferring to spend most of his time in Hollywood. However, in the 1960s, he directed a number of Broadway hits that put him at the top of his profession. He had a solid success in 1960 with Bye Bye Birdie, a show about an Elvis-like rock star about to be inducted into the army. In 1964, he directed one of Broadway's biggest blockbusters, Hello, Dolly!. Champion had his fourth consecutive hit musical with I Do! I Do! in 1966. His next show, The Happy Time in 1968, broke his streak. It had a relatively disappointing run of only 286 performances. This would be followed by many more disappointments and worse. In the 1970s, Champion directed minor hits (Sugar in 1972 and the revival Irene in 1973), flops (Mack & Mabel in 1974) and complete disasters (Rockabye Hamlet — seven performances in 1976 — and A Broadway Musical, running only one night in 1978, not to mention Prettybelle, which closed out of town in 1971). On top of all this, he and Marge were divorced in 1973.
After the failures of the previous decade, Champion was able to make a comeback with his longest-running show. In 1980, he choreographed and directed a stage adaptation of the movie classic, 42nd Street. It won the Tony for Best Musical, and Champion was nominated for his direction and choreography, winning for the latter. The show ran for 3,486 performances, but Champion did not live to see any. After numerous curtain calls on opening night, producer David Merrick stunned the cast and audience by announcing Champion had died earlier that day.
Scope and Content
Item consists of a portrait of Marge and Gower Champion Onstage.
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