Frank Morgan

Francis Phillip Wuppermann (June 1, 1890 – September 18, 1949), known professionally as Frank Morgan, was an American character actor on radio, stage and film. He was best known for his appearances in films starting in the silent era in 1916, and then numerous sound films throughout the 1930s and 1940s, with a career spanning 35 years[1] mostly as a contract player at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, with his most celebrated performance playing the title role in The Wizard of Oz (1939). He was also briefly billed early in his career as Frank Wupperman and Francis Morgan.

Frank Morgan
Frank Morgan-publicity.JPG
Born
Francis Phillip Wuppermann

(1890-06-01)June 1, 1890
DiedSeptember 18, 1949(1949-09-18) (aged 59)
Resting placeGreenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York
Alma materCornell University
Occupation
  • film actor
  • stage performer
Years active1914–1949
Spouse(s)
Alma Muller
(m. 1914)
Children1

Early lifeEdit

Morgan was born in New York City, to Josephine Wright (née Hancox) and George Diogracia Wuppermann. He was the youngest of 11 children, and had five brothers and five sisters. The elder Mr. Wuppermann was born in Venezuela, but was brought up in Hamburg, Germany, and was of German and Spanish ancestry.[2][3][4] His mother was born in the United States, of English ancestry. His brother, Ralph Morgan, was also an actor of stage and screen. The family earned their wealth distributing Angostura bitters, allowing Wuppermann to attend Cornell University and join Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and the Glee Club.[5][6]

CareerEdit

 
Morgan and Madge Kennedy in Baby Mine (1917)

Morgan starred with John Barrymore in Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (1917), an independent film produced in and about New York City. His 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 is best remembered for his performance in The Wizard of Oz (1939) where he played the Wizard and five other roles: 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 Emerald City guard (who initially refuses to let Dorothy and her friends in to see the Wizard), and the Wizard's scary face projection. 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), Professor Roth in The Mortal Storm (1940) and Willie Grogan in The Human Comedy (1943). MGM's comedy film The Great Morgan (1946), was written with the story centering on the latter.

In 1936 Morgan played alongside Shirley Temple as Professor Appleby in Dimples. 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 to star in her own program in 1944, Morgan continued solo for a year with The Frank Morgan Show.[7] 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 popular character actors of the studio era, Morgan was sought out for numerous supporting roles. He played Barney Wile in The Stratton Story (1949), which follows a baseball player (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.

Personal life and deathEdit

Morgan married Alma Muller (1895–1970) in 1914; they had one son, George (1916–2003). They were married until Frank's death in 1949. Morgan was widely known to have been an alcoholic, according to several who worked with him, including Margaret Hamilton and Aljean Harmetz. Morgan sometimes carried a black briefcase to work fully equipped with a small mini-bar.[4] 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 Wuppermann (1887–1919, stage/pen names Carlyle Morgan and Carlos Wupperman), who was killed in the Rhineland in 1919 while on duty there with the Army of Occupation. Wuppermann 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,[8] 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.[9]

Morgan died of a heart attack on September 18, 1949, while filming Annie Get Your Gun. He was replaced by Louis Calhern for the film.[10] His death came before the 1956 premiere televised broadcast on CBS of The Wizard of Oz, which made him the only major cast member from the film who did not live to see the film's revived popularity and how it would become an annual American television institution.[11] Morgan is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. His tombstone carries his real name, Wuppermann, as well as his stage name.

Awards and honorsEdit

Morgan was nominated for two Academy Awards, one for Best Actor in The Affairs of Cellini (1934) and one for Best Supporting Actor in Tortilla Flat (1942). He has two stars dedicated to him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California: one for his films at 1708 Vine Street and one for his work in radio at 6700 Hollywood Boulevard. Both were dedicated on February 8, 1960.

FilmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1916 The Suspect Sir Richard Film debut, as Frank Wupperman
The Daring of Diana John Briscoe As Francis Morgan
The Girl Philippa Halkett As Francis Morgan
1917 A Modern Cinderella Tom
A Child of the Wild Frank Trent
The Light in Darkness Ramsey Latham
Baby Mine Alfred
Who's Your Neighbor? Dudley Carlton
Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman Bunny Manders
1918 The Knife Dr. Robert Manning
At the Mercy of Men Count Nicho
The Gray Towers Mystery Billy Durland
1919 The Golden Shower Lester
1924 Manhandled Arno Riccardi
Born Rich Eugene Magnin
1925 The Crowded Hour Bert Caswell
The Man Who Found Himself Lon Morris
Scarlet Saint Baron Badeau
1927 Love's Greatest Mistake William Ogden
1930 Belle of the Night Short
Dangerous Nan McGrew Muldoon
Queen High Mr. Nettleton
Laughter C. Mortimer Gibson
Fast and Loose Bronson Lenox
1932 Secrets of the French Police François St. Cyr
The Half-Naked Truth Merle Farrell
1933 The Billion Dollar Scandal John Dudley Masterson
Luxury Liner Alex Stevenson
Hallelujah, I'm a Bum Mayor John Hastings
Reunion in Vienna Dr. Anton Krug
The Kiss Before the Mirror Paul Held
The Nuisance Dr. Buchanan Prescott
Best of Enemies William Hartman
When Ladies Meet Rogers Woodruf
Broadway to Hollywood Ted Hackett
Bombshell Pops Burns
1934 The Cat and the Fiddle Daudet
Success at Any Price Merritt
Sisters Under the Skin John Hunter Yates
The Affairs of Cellini Alessandro – Duke of Florence Academy Award nomination - Best Actor
A Lost Lady Forrester
There's Always Tomorrow Joseph White
By Your Leave Henry Smith
The Mighty Barnum Joe Uncredited
1935 The Good Fairy Konrad
Enchanted April Mellersh Wilkins
Naughty Marietta Governor d'Annard
Escapade Karl
I Live My Life G.P. Bentley
The Perfect Gentleman Major Horatio Chatteris
1936 The Great Ziegfeld Jack Billings
Dancing Pirate Mayor Don Emilio Perena
Trouble for Two Colonel Geraldine
Piccadilly Jim James Crocker – Sr./Count Olav Osric
Dimples Prof. Eustace Appleby
1937 The Last of Mrs. Cheyney Lord Kelton
The Emperor's Candlesticks Col. Baron Suroff
Saratoga Jesse Kiffmeyer
Sunday Night at the Trocadero Himself Short
Beg, Borrow or Steal Ingraham Steward
Rosalie King
1938 Paradise for Three Rudolph Tobler
Port of Seven Seas Panisse
The Crowd Roars Brian McCoy
Sweethearts Felix Lehman
1939 Broadway Serenade Cornelius Collier, Jr.
The Wizard of Oz The Wizard of Oz/Professor Marvel/The Gatekeeper/The Carriage Driver/The Guard
Henry Goes Arizona Henry Conroy
Balalaika Ivan Danchenoff
1940 The Shop Around the Corner Hugo Matuschek
Broadway Melody of 1940 Bob Casey
The Ghost Comes Home Vern Adams
The Mortal Storm Professor Viktor Roth
Boom Town Luther Aldrich
Hullabaloo Frankie Merriweather
Keeping Company Harry C. Thomas
1941 The Wild Man of Borneo J. Daniel Thompson
Washington Melodrama Calvin Claymore
Honky Tonk Judge Cotton
1942 The Vanishing Virginian Robert Yancey
Tortilla Flat The Pirate Academy Award nomination - Best Supporting Actor
White Cargo The Doctor
1943 The Human Comedy Willie Grogan
A Stranger in Town John Josephus Grant
Thousands Cheer Dr. Frank Morgan
1944 The White Cliffs of Dover Hiram Porter Dunn
Kismet Narrator Voice, Uncredited
Casanova Brown Mr. Ferris
1945 Yolanda and the Thief Victor Budlow Trout
1946 Courage of Lassie Harry MacBain
The Cockeyed Miracle Sam Griggs
Lady Luck William Audrey
The Great Morgan Himself
1947 Green Dolphin Street Dr. Edmond Ozanne
1948 Summer Holiday Uncle Sid
The Three Musketeers King Louis XIII
1949 The Stratton Story Barney Wile
The Great Sinner Aristide Pitard
Any Number Can Play Jim Kurstyn
1950 Key to the City Fire Chief Duggan Final film

Radio appearancesEdit

Year Program Episode/source
1940 Screen Guild Players The Shop Around the Corner[12]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, September 21, 1949, page 63.
  2. ^ White, James Terry, ed. (1967). Frank Morgan Wuppermann. The National cyclopaedia of American biography. University Microfilms. p. 26. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  3. ^ New England Vintage Film Inc Society (December 1, 2010). Playbills to Photoplays. pp. 488–523. ISBN 978-1453587751. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Frank Morgan". Hollywood's Irish Mafia. Archived from the original on 5 August 2009. Retrieved 18 September 2009.
  5. ^ Grand Catalogue of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity (Twelfth ed.). Bernard C. Harris. 1985. p. 377.
  6. ^ Slon, Michael (January 1, 1998). Songs from the Hill: A History of the Cornell University Glee Club. Cornell University Glee Club. ISBN 978-0962010316.
  7. ^ Dunning, John (1998). The Frank Morgan Show, comedy-variety. On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (Revised ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 259–260. ISBN 978-0-19-507678-3. Retrieved 2019-09-16.
  8. ^ Woollcot, Alexander (August 25, 1921). "THE PLAY; Helen Menken's Evening". The New York Times. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  9. ^ "The Triumph of X". Internet Broadway Database.
  10. ^ "Frank Morgan, Local Property Owner, Dies". The Desert Sun. Palm Springs, Calif. September 20, 1949. p. 8 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.
  11. ^ Fuhrmann, Doug. "Pop Culture History: Wizard of Oz televised (1950s)". The Daily Journal. Vineland, NJ. Archived from the original on August 24, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  12. ^ "Those Were The Days". Nostalgia Digest. 41 (3): 32–39. Summer 2015.

Further readingEdit

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Frank Morgan". The Name Below the Title: 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 180–184. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External linksEdit