Friday, November 14, 2008
Favorite Classic Movie Stars - FRANK MORGAN
Frank Morgan was born as Francis Phillip Wuppermann on June 1, 1890 in New York City. He was the youngest of eleven children (six boys and five girls) to the wealthy family which distributed Angostura bitters. He attended Cornell University where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Psa fraternity. He then followed his older brother Ralph into show business, first on the Broadway stage, and then into theaters.
His first film was "The Suspect" in 1916. His career expanded when talkies began, his most stereotypical role being that of a befuddled but good-hearted middle-aged man. He was nominated for an academy award for best actor in 1934's "The Affairs of Cellini" where he played the cuckolded Duke of Florence and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1942's "Tortilla Flat", where he played a simple Hispanic man.
Morgan's most famous performance was in "The Wizard of Oz" in 1939, in which he played the carnival huckster "Professor Marvel", the gatekeeper of Emerald City, the driver of the carriage drawn by "The Horse of a Different Color", the armed guard leading to the wizards hall, and of course, the Wizard himself. Like Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West, his characters only appear on-screen for a few minutes total, but they are the show stoppers. He was so popular that MGM gave him a lifetime contract. Other movies of note include "The Shop Around the Corner", "The Human Comedy", The Mortal Storm" "The White Cliffs of Dover" and his last movie "Key to the City", which was released after his death in Beverly Hills, California.
He also recorded a number of children's records, including the popular Gossamer Wump, released in 1949 by Capital Records.
Morgan married Alma Muller in 1914; they had one son. They were married until his death in 1949.
Morgan died after suffering a heart attack in 1949 (while filming "Annie get your Gun". He was the one major player from "The Wizard of Oz" who did not live to see the film become both a television fixture and an American Institution. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY.