Marge Champion: Actress who was model for Disney’s Snow White dies at 101. The actress was also well known for starring alongside her husband and dance partner Gower Champion in a string of MGM musicals in the 1950s.
She later won an Emmy Award for choreographing the 1975 TV film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.
Champion died Wednesday in Los Angeles while quarantined with her son Gregg Champion, who confirmed her death to the New York Times.
Marge Champion was born Marjorie Celeste Belcher in Hollywood in 1919. Her father was dance and ballet teacher Ernest Belcher, who was friends with Walt Disney. When Disney’s animation team was working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, they studied a young Marge’s movements on a sound stage in order to make the character move more realistically.From the age of 14, Champion would work with them for one or two days per month for two years, during which time she was paid $10 per day.
“None of them [the all-male animation team] had been a young girl or knew how a dress would do this or that or the other thing,” she explained in a 1998 interview with the Archive of American Television.
The Champions were similarly one of the first dance couples to achieve fame through television with their own TV show, “The Marge and Gower Champion Show” in 1957, a sitcom and variety show that featured song and dance. Later in her career, as Gower Champion became a stage director, Marge Champion took smaller roles in TV, films, and on stage and won a Primetime Emmy for her choreography for the TV movie “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.” She would perform a final Broadway appearance in 2001 for a Stephen Sondheim revival of “Follies,” where she danced alongside Donald Saddler.
In 2013, Champion was recognized with the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards.