Marge Champion: Snow White model, actress and dancer dies aged 101 | Ents & Arts News
Actress and dancer Marge Champion – who famously modelled for classic Disney animation Snow White – has died aged 101.
Her death on Wednesday in Los Angeles was confirmed by dance instructor Pierre Dulaine to The Hollywood Reporter.
Her son Gregg told The New York Times she died at his home, where she had been living over the last six months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Aged just 14, Champion – whose father was friends with Walt Disney – became the muse for the all-male animation team as they drew their lead character for Snow White And The Seven Dwarves.
Performing for them for a couple of days every month over the course of two years, she was reportedly paid around $10 a day.
The 1937 feature-length animation was the first of its kind in America and was a box-office hit.
Talking about the unusual job in 1998, she told the Archive of American Television: “None of them [the all-male team] had been a young girl or knew how a dress would do this or that or the other thing.”
She went on to model for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, Hyacinth Hippo in Fantasia and Mr Stork in Dumbo.
Champion starred in a host of MGM musicals throughout the 1950s, including Show Boat, Lovely To Look At and Give A Girl A Break.
She went on to win an Emmy for her choreography of the 1975 TV film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.
In 1982 she appeared in a guest role, playing a dance teacher, in the TV series Fame.
In later life she focused on choreography, and also served as a TV dialogue and movement coach.
Her life’s dream was to perform in New York musicals, but at just 5ft 2in tall she was considered too short. Her height also meant she was too small to peruse a career in ballet.
Aged 81, Champion appeared in Broadway musical Follies, telling The Wall Street Journal: “As a dancer, by the time you’re 40 you’re done. If I ever come back, I want to be an actress – it lasts long.”
Born Marjorie Celeste Belcher in Hollywood in 1919, her father was a dance schoolteacher with students including Shirley Temple, Joan Crawford and Betty Grable.
Aged 17, she married Goofy creator Art Babbitt, however the marriage lasted just four years.
In 1947 she went on to wed dancer Gower Champion, with whom she regularly performed, later starring in their own TV song and dance show. The couple had two children but divorced in 1973.
In 1977 she married director Boris Sagal. Tragically he died just four years later after walking into the blade of a helicopter while filming a TV miniseries.
A second family tragedy was to follow, when in 1987 her son Blake was killed in a car accident aged just 25.
Champion is survived by her son, producer-director Gregg, four stepchildren from her third marriage, and three grandchildren.