Getty Images YouTube/Disney Dynasty
Source: Getty Images YouTube/Disney Dynasty

Legendary Dancer & Model for Disney's 'Snow White,' Marge Champion, Dies at 101

Junie Sihlangu
Oct 23, 2020
07:38 A.M.
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Hollywood has sadly lost another star in the form of actress Marge Champion. The legendary model and dancer passed away at the age of 101 on Wednesday, October 21, 2020.

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According to dance instructor Pierre Dulaine, who spoke to “The Hollywood Reporter,” Marge Champion died this week in Los Angeles. The actress is well-known for acting as the real-life model for “Snow White.”

Besides acting, she joined her dance partner and husband, Gower Champion on Broadway musicals. The two also worked together on films and various television shows over the years.

Marge Champion during Merv Griffin Honored at the Museum of Television and Radio's Annual Gala in New York City on May 26, 2005 | Photo: Robin Platzer/FilmMagic/Getty Images

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In 1951, the Champion couple notably danced together in George Sidney's remake of “Show Boat.” The pair’s performances on the songs "Life Upon the Wicked Stage" and "I Might Fall Back on You" were said to be some of the film's biggest highlights.

A year before that, the couple danced in “Mr. Music” and in 1952, they appeared in “Lovely to Look At.” They also featured in 1953’s “Give a Girl a Break,” 1955’s “Jupiter’s Darling,” and in the same year they also starred on “Three for the Show.”

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The late actress’s father, Ernest Belcher, was a famous Hollywood dance and ballet teacher. Belcher was close friends with the late Walt Disney, who hired an all-male animation team to work in 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Disney actually studied Marge’s movements on a soundstage in order to make the animation character’s moves more realistic. She began working for the production from age 14 for two years and performed for one or two days a month at a salary of $10 a day.

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Marge also danced for the production team as the dwarf Dopey. Besides dancing, the actress also worked as a Disney model in 1940 for the Blue Fairy in “Pinocchio,” the Hyacinth Hippo in “Fantasia” in that same year, and for Mr. Stock the following year in “Dumbo.”

The star married her husband in 1947 until their divorce in 1973. The pair also studied together at the Bancroft Middle School and he was actually a student of Marge’s father before his death in 1980 aged 61.

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On September 2, 1919, the actress was born as Marjorie Celeste Belcher in Hollywood. Her legendary father worked for the famous director Cecil B. DeMille and he also founded the Celeste School of Dance.

Marge’s older half-sister, Lina Basquette, was a silent film actress. In 1968, the late star appeared in two films, “The Swimmer” and “The Party,” plus in 1982 she featured as a ballet teacher on an episode of “Fame.”

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In 2001, Marge starred as Emily Whitman in the Broadway revival of “Follies.” One of the accolades she got in her lifetime came in 1975 when she won an Emmy Award for choreographing the telefilm, “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.”

In 2009, Marge was 90-years-old and she was remarkably still working. She and her dance partner, Donald Saddler, took part as the subjects of the documentary, "Keep Dancing," according to the “Daily Press.”

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The actress is survived by a stepdaughter, actress Katey Sagal, and her producer-director son, Gregg Champion. Her other survivors include her stepdaughters, twins Liz and Jean Sagal, and her stepson Joey.

Marge isn’t the only actress to get to the ripe age of 100. Olivia de Havilland was 104 years old when she died, while George Burns, Claire Du Brey, Bruce Bennett, Gloria Stuart, and Bob Hope were all 100.

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