Frank Morgan

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Frank Morgan
Frank Morgan-publicity.JPG
Born Francis Phillip Wuppermann
(1890-06-01)June 1, 1890
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died September 18, 1949(1949-09-18) (aged 59)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack [1]
Resting place Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Alma mater Cornell University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1914–1949
Spouse(s) Alma Muller (m. 1914)
Children George Morgan (1916–2003)

Francis Phillip Wupperman (born; June 1, 1890 – September 18, 1949), known professionally as Frank Morgan, was an American character actor who worked extensively in radio, stage and film.[2] His film career spanned four decades, most of it as a contract player for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He is best remembered for playing the title character and several other roles in The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Early life

Morgan was born Francis Phillip Wuppermann in New York City, to Josephine Wright (née Hancox) and George Diogracia Wupperman. He was the youngest of six boys and five girls. The elder Mr. Wuppermann was born in Venezuela, but was brought up in Hamburg, Germany and was of German and Spanish ancestry.[3][4][5] His mother was born in the United States, of English ancestry. The family earned its wealth distributing Angostura bitters, allowing Wuppermann to attend Cornell University where he joined Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and the Glee Club.[6][7] He then followed his older brother Ralph Morgan into show business, first on the Broadway stage and then into motion pictures.


Morgan and Madge Kennedy in Baby Mine (1917)

After his film debut The Suspect (1916), he provided support to his friend John Barrymore in Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917), an independent film produced in and about New York City. Morgan's career expanded when talkies began, his most stereotypical role being that of a befuddled but good hearted middle-aged man.

By the mid-1930s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had been so impressed by Morgan that they signed him to a lifetime contract. Morgan's best remembered film performances, playing six roles, are in The Wizard of Oz (1939): as the carnival huckster "Professor Marvel", the gatekeeper at the Emerald City, the coachman of the carriage drawn by "The Horse of a Different Color", the guard who initially refuses to let Dorothy and her friends in to see the Wizard, the Wizard's scary face projection, and the Wizard himself. Morgan was cast in the role on September 22, 1938. W. C. Fields was originally chosen for the role of the Wizard, but the studio ran out of patience after protracted haggling over his fee. An actor with a wide range, Morgan was equally effective playing comical, befuddled men such as Jesse Kiffmeyer in Saratoga (1937) and Mr. Ferris in Casanova Brown (1944), as he was with more serious, troubled characters like Hugo Matuschek in The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and Professor Roth in The Mortal Storm (1940). MGM's 1946 film The Great Morgan was written with the story centering on Frank Morgan.

In the 1940s, Morgan co-starred with Fanny Brice in one version (of several different series) of the radio program Maxwell House Coffee Time, aka The Frank Morgan-Fanny Brice Show. During the first half of the show Morgan would tell increasingly outlandish tall tales about his life adventures, much to the dismay of his fellow cast members. After the Morgan segment there was a song, followed by Brice as 'Baby Snooks' for the last half of the show. When Brice left in 1944 to have her own program, Morgan continued in a similar vein for a year with The Frank Morgan Show.[8]

In 1947, Morgan starred as the title character in the radio series The Fabulous Dr. Tweedy. He also recorded a number of children's records, including the popular Gossamer Wump, released in 1949 by Capitol Records.

Like most character actors of the studio era, Morgan was sought out for numerous motion picture roles. One of his last roles was as Barney Wile in The Stratton Story (1949), a true story about a baseball player (played by James Stewart) who makes a comeback after having his leg amputated due to a hunting accident.

His final film Key to the City (1950) was released posthumously, in which he played Fire Chief Duggan. He was the third lead, after Clark Gable and Loretta Young.

Personal life and death

Morgan married Alma Muller (1895–1949) in 1914; they had one son. Their marriage ended with his death in 1949. He was widely known to have had 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) and Oz historian Aljean Harmetz. Morgan sometimes carried a black briefcase to work fully equipped with a small mini-bar.[9] Morgan's niece Claudia Morgan (née Wuppermann) was a stage and film actress, most notable for playing the role of Vera Claythorne in the first Broadway 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 Broadway, The Triumph of X which opened at the Comedy Theater in New York City on August 24, 1921,[10] but ran for only 30 performances. The production starred Morgan, and also featured Helen Menken as the female lead. Also in the production for his first Broadway outing was Robert Keith, father of actor Brian Keith and one-time husband of Theater Guild actress Peg Entwistle. Entwistle committed suicide by jumping from the Hollywood Sign in 1932.[11]

Morgan died of a heart attack on September 18, 1949, while filming Annie Get Your Gun. He was replaced in the film by Louis Calhern. His death came before the 1956 premiere televised broadcast on CBS[12] of The Wizard of Oz, which would make him the only major cast member from the film who would not live to see the film's revived popularity and become an annual American television institution.[12] He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His tombstone carries his real name, Wuppermann, as well as his stage name.

Awards and honors

Morgan was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Actor for his role as the cuckolded Duke of Florence in The Affairs of Cellini (1934) and one for Best Supporting Actor for Tortilla Flat (1942), for his poignant performance as a simple Hispanic owner of the dogs.

Morgan has two stars dedicated to him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California: one for motion pictures at 1708 Vine Street, and one for his work in radio at 6700 Hollywood Boulevard. Both were dedicated on February 8, 1960.


Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1940 Screen Guild Players The Shop Around the Corner[13]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Obituary Variety, September 21, 1949, page 63.
  3. ^ The National cyclopaedia of American biography: being the history of the ... - James Terry White - Google Books. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  4. ^ Playbills to Photoplays - New England Vintage Film Inc Society, New England Vintage Film Society, Inc. - Google Books. Retrieved September 18, 2012. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Grand Catalogue of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity - Twelfth Edition, p.377: Bernard C. Harris Publishing Company, 1985.
  7. ^ Slon, Michael (1998-01-01). Songs from the Hill: A History of the Cornell University Glee Club. Cornell University Glee Club. ISBN 9780962010316. 
  8. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. 
  9. ^ "Frank Morgan at Hollywood's Irish Mafia". Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  10. ^ Theater Review by Alexander Woollcot New York Times, August 25, 1921.
  11. ^ "Internet Broadway Database". Archived from the original on 2012-07-25. 
  12. ^ a b Doug Fuhrmann, "Pop Culture History: Wizard of Oz televised (1950s), The Daily April 6, 2009 Archived August 24, 2014, at Accessed 24 August, 2014.
  13. ^ "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (3): 32–39. Summer 2015. 

External links

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