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Frank Morgan (June 1, 1890 – September 18, 1949) was an American actor best known for his portrayal of the title character in the film The Wizard of Oz.

Early life

Born as Francis Phillip Wuppermann in New York City, the youngest of eleven children (six boys and five girls) to the wealthy family which distributed Angostura bitters, he attended Cornell Universitymarker where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. He then followed his older brother Ralph Morgan into show business, first on the Broadwaymarker stage and then into motion pictures.

Acting career

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 the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1934's The Affairs of Cellini, where he played the cuckolded Duke of Florencemarker 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 (1939), in which he played the carnival huckster "Professor Marvel", the gatekeeper of the Emerald City, the driver of the carriage drawn by "The Horse of a Different Color", the armed guard leading to the wizard's hall, and the Wizard himself. Like Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West, his characters only appear on-screen for a few minutes in total, but they are 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, Californiamarker.

He also recorded a number of children's records, including the popular Gossamer Wump, released in 1949 by Capitol Recordsmarker.

Like most character actors of the studio era Frank Morgan had numerous roles in many motion pictures. One of his last roles was as a key supporting player in The Stratton Story, a true story about a ballplayer (played by James Stewart) who makes a comeback after losing a leg in a hunting accident.

Personal life

Morgan married Alma Muller in 1914; they had one son. They were married until his death in 1949.

He was widely known to have a drinking problem, according to several who worked with him, including actress Margaret Hamilton (the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, 1939) and "Oz" historian Aljean Harmetz. Morgan sometimes carried a black briefcase to work fully equipped with a small mini bar.

Frank Morgan's niece, Claudia Morgan (née Claudia Wuppermann) was a stage and film actress, most notable for playing the role of Vera Claythorne in the first Broadwaymarker production of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

Morgan was also a brother of playwright Carlos Wupperman, who was killed in the Rhineland in 1919 while on duty there with the Army of Occupation. Wupperman had only one play produced on Broadwaymarker. The Triumph of X opened at the Comedy Theatremarker in New York Citymarker on August 24, 1921, but ran only 30 performances. The production is notable for several reasons; besides starring Frank Morgan, the play's female lead was Helen Menken (who would marry Humphrey Bogart in 1926), and in his first Broadway outing, character actor Robert Keith, father of actor Brian Keith and one-time husband of Theatre Guild actress Peg Entwistle, who committed suicide by jumping from the Hollywood Signmarker in 1932.

Death

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 was buried in Green-Wood Cemeterymarker in Brooklynmarker.

He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker at 1708 Vine Street.

Filmography





References

  1. Theater Review by Alexander Woollcot New York Times, August 25, 1921.
  2. {{cite web |title=Internet Broadway Database |url=http://www.ibdb.com/index.php |


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