Marge Champion dead at 101 – Actress and the model for Snow White dies after eight-decade Hollywood career

LEGENDARY actress Marge Champion who was the model for Snow White has died at the age of 101.

The on-screen icon passed away in Los Angeles on Wednesday after an eight-decade career in Hollywood, which saw her star in Broadway musicals, TV shows, and movies.

Dance instructor Pierre Dulaine confirmed the news to The Hollywood Reporter today.

Her son Gregg told the New York Times his mom had been living with him at his California home for the past six months as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Champion's multiple achievements include an Emmy-win for choreographing the telefilm "Queen of the Stardust Ballroom" (1985).

She also danced alongside her childhood friend-turned-husband Gower Champion in several MGM classics like "Show Boat" (1951) alongside Ava Gardner.

Two of the film's most memorable moments was their "I Might Fall Back on You" and "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" performances.


The Times noted that the Champions "epitomized the clean-cut, all-American dance team of Hollywood musicals, Broadway productions and television variety shows of the 1950s."

They also danced together in "Mr. Music" (1950), starring Bing Crosby; "Lovely to Look At" (1952); "Everything I Have Is Yours" (1952); "Give a Girl a Break" (1953); "Jupiter’s Darling" (1955); and "Three for the Show" (1955).

Champion's dad Ernest Belcher was a famed Hollywood ballet teacher who was friendly with Walt Disney and established the Celeste School of Dance.

He was also pals with animation team working on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937).

This all-male group of illustrators studied 14-year-old Champion's movements on a soundstage in an effort to make the cartoon Snow White move around realistically.



She performed for them one or two days a month for two years for $10 a day – and also danced for them as the dwarf Dopey.

"None of them had been a young girl or knew how a dress would do this or that or the other thing," she told the Archive of American Television. "Most of the animators took their characters … out of themselves."

During the 1998 interview, Champion also revealed she could "never remember a time when I wasn't dancing" and started seriously training at five or six years old.

As well as Snow White, she modeled for the Blue Fairy in "Pinocchio" (1940), Hyacinth Hippo in "Fantasia" (1940) and for Mr Stock in "Dumbo" (1941).

Her husband second husband was a student of her dad's and went to school with her at Bancroft Middle School.


They married in 1947, divorced in 1973, and Gower Champion died in 1980 at 61.

Champion was born Marjorie Celeste Belcher on September 2, 1919 in Orange Drive, Hollywood.

Her dancer dad taught big names like Astaire, Shirley Temple, Cyd Charisse and Joan Crawford and worked for director Cecil B. DeMille.

Showbiz appeared to run in the family as her older half-sister was silent film actress Lina Basquette.

In 1936, Champion performed at the Los Angeles Civic Opera.

At 17, she married Disney animator Art Babbitt who was 29 at the time and the man who created the cartoon Goofy.


The couple divorced in 1940 and Champion went on to play Snow White in a vaudeville act with "The Three Stooges."

She was renamed Marjorie Bell by famed agent Henry Willson.

In 1939, Champion appeared in five films, including "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle," and "Honor of the West."

Her Broadway debut came aboutin 1945 when she took to the stage as The Fair Witch in "Dark of the Moon" and appeared in the 1946 musical "Beggar's Holiday."

This was when she formed the double act Gower & Bell with her husband, playing the nightclub circuit.

The toe-tapping couple appeared alongside Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on NBC's "The Admiral Broadway Revue."


They choreographed the shows "Small Wonder," "Lend an Ear" and "Make a Wish" (1951).

In 1957, Champion and her husband appeared in the CBS sitcom The Marge and Gower Champion Show.

In it, Marge played a dancer, Gower was a choreographer, and American jazz drumming legend Buddy Rich was a character called Cozy, who played the drums.

Champion went on to act opposite Burt Lancaster in two 1968 films "The Swimmer" and "The Party," an episode of "Fame" (1982) as well as the Broadway show "Follies" in 2001.

She choreographed the movie "The Day of the Locust "(1975) and "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" (1981).

Her last husband was Boris Sagal, a director she married in 1977.

He died in 1981 after he accidentally walking into the blade of a helicopter during production of the NBC miniseries "World War III."

Champion is survived by her step-daughter, the actress Katey Sagal; her son, Gregg Champion, who is a producer-director; step-daughters, twins Liz and Jean Sagal; and her stepson Joey.




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