There’s always something magical about meeting with a Disney Legend. That it’s almost as if all those wonderful people who worked with Walt Disney had been touched by some kind of Pixie Dust and had kept something from Mickey’s father, starting with his optimism and energy. Or is it because Walt had an innate sense of choosing the most extraordinary people to work with him?

Certainly, there’s a little of both. And Marge Champion is one of these extraordinary people!

As her Disney Legend official biography elaborates, “Marjorie Celeste Belcher was born on September 2, 1919, in Los Angeles. She began dancing as a child under the instruction of her father, Ernest Belcher, a noted Hollywood ballet coach who trained Shirley Temple, Cyd Charisse, and Gwen Verdon. Marge was a ballet teacher at her father’s studio by the time she was 12.

A short time later, she was approached with the seemingly preposterous notion of auditioning for a cartoon. “A talent scout came to my father’s studio sometime in 1933,” Marge said, “and chose three of us out of the class to audition for this.”

She was the live-action reference model for the heroine of Disney’s feature-length cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), performing dances, scenes, and special business so the animators could caricature her actions and make their princess as human as possible.

She later modeled for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, and Hyacinth Hippo in the “Dance of the Hours” segment of Fantasia (1940), a ballet parody that she also helped choreograph.

She appeared in Honor of the West and All Women Have Secrets (1939) under the name “Marjorie Bell”, and became a legend in Hollywood with Gower Champion, whom she married in 1947. They went on to appear together in hit musical films including Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look At (1952), Give a Girl a Break (1953), and Jupiter’s Darling (1955), becoming the screen’s most popular dance team since Astaire and Rogers.

The Champions also fixed their stardom through frequent television appearances including “The Red Skelton Show,” “General Electric Theater,” “The United States Steel Hour” “The Dinah Shore Chevy Show” and “Toast of the Town.” The couple even starred in their own situation comedy, “The Marge and Gower Champion Show”, which ran briefly in 1957. During their collaboration, Marge and Gower Champion also staged the dances for the Broadway musical revues Lend an Ear (1948) and Make a Wish (1951).”

But more than the legend and the star, what I will keep from this interview is the kindness and elegance of a lady who kindly accepted to share her fabulous memories with us. She was a model for Snow White, but she definitely is a model for all of us!


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