Frank Morgan


Actor
Frank Morgan

About

Also Known As
Francis Phillip Wupperman, Frank Wupperman
Birth Place
New York City, New York, USA
Born
June 01, 1890
Died
September 18, 1949

Biography

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," exclaimed beloved character actor Frank Morgan during a key moment in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) and his beautifully conveyed expression of embarrassment and desperation perfectly exemplified the capacity he displayed in so much of his work. He first established himself on stage, making regular appearances on Broadway in such major produc...

Photos & Videos

Boom Town - Publicity Stills
The Wizard of Oz - Makeup Test Stills
Broadway Melody of 1940 - Behind-the-Scenes Stills

Biography

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," exclaimed beloved character actor Frank Morgan during a key moment in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) and his beautifully conveyed expression of embarrassment and desperation perfectly exemplified the capacity he displayed in so much of his work. He first established himself on stage, making regular appearances on Broadway in such major productions as "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1926-27) and "The Band Wagon" (1931-32). Morgan was already featured in movies by that point, but really hit his stride in the 1930s, earning an Academy Award nomination for "The Affairs of Cellini" (1934) and distinguishing himself in notable pictures like "The Good Fairy" (1935) and "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936). His most famous screen credit, however, was the musical/fantasy classic "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), where he was wonderfully memorable in no less than five roles. He displayed excellent dramatic form in "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940) and "The Mortal Storm" (1940), and a second Oscar nomination followed for "Tortilla Flat" (1942). MGM was so pleased with the consistency of Morgan's vibrant and delightful performances that he was with the company from the early 1930s right up until his premature death in 1949. Specializing in characters that were usually a bit befuddled and flustered, but motivated by honorable intentions, Morgan endeared himself to audiences everywhere and remained one of Hollywood's most beloved supporting players long after his passing.

A native of New York City, Frank Morgan was born Francis Philip Wuppermann on June 1, 1890. The youngest of 11 children in an affluent family that handled distribution of Angostura bitters in America and other countries, Morgan was a talented singer as a boy, but it would be a number of years before he became a professional performer. Following his initial schooling, Morgan attended Cornell University for a time, but spent the next few years bouncing between white- and blue-collar jobs in various parts of the country. In the meantime, Ralph Morgan had established himself as a desired stage actor and he persuaded his younger brother to give the profession a go. By late 1914, Morgan was working on the Great White Way and made many return trips in the years that followed. Most of his early credits were in shows that failed to connect, but a number were major hits and among the best remembered of the era. Concurrently, Morgan was also starting a career in movies with leads in such films as "A Modern Cinderella" (1917) and supporting assignments in fare like the John Barrymore vehicle "Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman" (1917).

However, Broadway was his main focus and Morgan further established his stage reputation in such successful productions as the musical farce "Rock-a-Bye-Baby" (1918), "My Lady Friends" (1919-20) and "Her Family Tree" (1920-21). He showed his diversity by playing an Italian count in the drama "The Lullaby" (1923-24) which led to his being cast in such major affairs as Anita Loos & John Emerson's smash "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (1926-27) and George S. Kaufman & Howard Dietz's "The Band Wagon" (1931-32). Morgan had another winner with the comedy smash "Topaze," which followed its1930 run on Broadway with a lengthy tour across the country. Although Morgan probably could have continued on the stage for many years to come, he soon switched his focus to motion pictures and had supporting outings in a series of fairly minor movies for Paramount and RKO. His viability rose considerably when he joined the contract player stable at leading studio MGM. Beginning with "Reunion in Vienna" (1933), Morgan graced several of the company's most memorable efforts from that period, including Jean Harlow's "Bombshell" (1933), and he earned an Academy Award nomination for "The Affairs of Cellini" (1934), the cinematic version of "The Firebrand of Florence." He also began to receive occasional leads in such productions as "There's Always Tomorrow" (1934), but Morgan's popularity and acclaim would come from his recurring turns as one of the most best character actors in the business.

Stealing scenes became a regular part of Morgan's routine, but he did it in a way that was invariably agreeable and probably also amused the big name players on set. His comedic skills had a workout in William Wyler's "The Good Fairy" (1935), which cast Morgan as a wealthy businessman who has his eye on Margaret Sullivan, and he made a humorous friend/rival for William Powell as "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936). 20th Century Fox also borrowed Morgan to play the double-dealing grandfather of child superstar Shirley Temple in the charming musical "Dimples" (1936). Meanwhile, assignments like "The Crowd Roars" (1938), which cast Morgan as the no-good father of rising boxer Robert Taylor, reminded ticket buyers that he could also dominate the screen in darker roles. The final year of the decade featured Morgan in the project for which he would be best remembered. Something of a disappointment in its original release, "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) went on to become one of the most adored movies of all time, and while main players Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley had much to do with its success, Morgan also deserved a significant measure of credit. He played five parts in the picture, including Professor Marvel, the stern Gatekeeper who is reduced to torrents of tears, and the fraudulent wizard of The Emerald City, whose reveal as a cowardly little man was beautifully conveyed by Morgan with equal measures of humor and pathos. While it was well-nigh impossible to imagine the film without him, Morgan was only given the job after it had been turned down by both W.C. Fields and Ed Wynn.

In additional to regularly winning over the sympathies of audience members, Morgan ranked as one of the most esteemed performers in Hollywood, with many co-stars praising his amiability and professionalism. He was also a popular member of the "Irish Mafia," whose hard-drinking ranks included Spencer Tracy, Pat O'Brien, James Cagney and Louis Calhern. By all accounts, Morgan was a highly-functional alcoholic who dipped into his private stash whenever convenient, but still managed to avoid falling into the sort of scandalous situations that plagued several of his elbow-bending colleagues. While he may not have commanded the top money, Morgan's services were valued by MGM and that, plus the Wuppermann family's considerable assets, ensured that he was able to lead an affluent lifestyle that included a large cattle ranch and yachts. The 1940s proved to be equally busy for Morgan, who again impressed in more serious parts, including Ernst Lubitsch's charming confection "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940) and "The Mortal Storm" (1940), one of the first Hollywood movies to unflinchingly criticize the rise of Nazism. There were also no shortage of more typical Morgan characterizations, like his semi-slippery oilman in "Boom Town" (1940) and the alcoholic, but principled judge in "Honky Tonk" (1941), but he garnered a second Oscar nomination for his touching performance as a poor wood salesman with unbreakable religious faith in the John Steinbeck adaptation "Tortilla Flat" (1942).

In addition to his busy MGM production schedule, Morgan also had an ongoing career in radio, where he was often utilized as a guest replacement for regular hosts. However, "The Frank Morgan Show" (NBC, 1944-45) and summer replacement series "The Fabulous Dr. Thaddeus Q. Tweedy" (NBC, 1946-47) also provided regular vehicles for Morgan's comedic vocal talents. Unfortunately, as he approached age 60, Morgan's copious consumption of alcohol and cigars finally caught up with him. He was assigned to play Buffalo Bill Cody in "Annie Get Your Gun" (1950), but only appeared before the cameras for the shooting of a single scene. Sometime during the evening of Sept. 18, 1949, Morgan experienced a fatal heart attack while he was sleeping. His role was subsequently portrayed by old friend Louis Calhern, and Morgan's final complete film, "Key to the City" (1950), opened close to a year after his passing. He was posthumously honored with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his motion picture and radio work. While "The Wizard of Oz" ensured him a lasting place in cinema history, Morgan also left behind a remarkable filmography that revealed his mastery of virtually all aspects of acting.

By John Charles

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

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

Music (Feature Film)

40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)
Song Performer ("Neil'S Blues")
40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)
Song

Cast (Short)

Sunday Night at the Trocadero (1937)
Himself

Life Events

Photo Collections

Boom Town - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Boom Town (1940). Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
The Wizard of Oz - Makeup Test Stills
Here are a few Makeup and wardrobe test stills taken during production of MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939). Such test stills were taken prior to principal photography to approve the look and design of makeup and costumes.
Broadway Melody of 1940 - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a number of photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of MGM's Broadway Melody of 1940, starring Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, and George Murphy and directed by Norman Taurog.
The Wizard of Oz - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters from MGM's The Wizard of Oz (1939), starring Judy Garland.

Videos

Movie Clip

Half Naked Truth, The (1933) - Douse The Haberdashery Crafty agent Jimmy (Lee Tracy) stops Broadway producer Farrell (Frank Morgan) from dropping the curtain, interrupting the fake Turkish princess act so Teresita (Lupe Velez) can do her saucy "Carpenter" number (by Edward Eliscu and Harry Akst), in Gregory La Cava's The Half Naked Truth, 1932.
When Ladies Meet (1933) - One Of My Horses First scene, golfing, for Ann Harding (as "Claire"), being schmoozed by Jimmy (Robert Young), unhappy that his not-girlfriend, novelist Mary (Myrna Loy) is staying with her amorous publisher, Claire's husband (Frank Morgan), at the home of Bridget (Alice Brady), in When Ladies Meet, 1933.
Summer Holiday (1948) - Our Home Town From the top, Walter Huston as dad Nat Miller introduces the gimmick, original tunes by Harry Warren and Ralph Blane serving as exposition in the musical adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness, bringing in Butch Jenkins, Michael Kirby, Marilyn Maxwell, Selena Royle, Frank Morgan and Agnes Moorehead, in Summer Holiday, 1948, produced by Arthur Freed for MGM.
Summer Holiday (1948) - The Stanley Steamer Graduation from Danville, CT High School, June 1906, Mickey Rooney as ebullient Richard hears first from Gloria De Haven as girlfriend Muriel, then joins Agnes Moorehed (“Cousin Lily”) and his dad (Walter Huston) as they board the genuine car, with another original song by Harry Warren and Ralph Blane, in the musical adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness!, from MGM’s Arthur Freed unit, Summer Holiday, 1948.
Great Ziegfeld, The (1936) - Trying To Lose Weight Flo (William Powell, title character, who would become the legendary impresario) works a scam with a London doorman and beats rival Billings (Frank Morgan) to French singer Anna Held (Luise Rainer, her first scene), in MGM's The Great Ziegfeld, 1936.
Balalaika (1939) - Tanya With grumbling from her brother and father (Dalies Frantz, Lionel Atwill), both musicians and secret anti-Czarist revolutionaries, Hungarian-born Ilona Massey’s first song (an original by Bob Wright and Chet Forrest for MGM) in her first starring role as singer Lydia, in a Petersburg cabaret, in Balalaika, 1939, also starring Nelson Eddy.
Balalaika (1939) - Song Of The Volga Boatmen Posing as a student to gain access to Ilona Massey and her revolutionary friends and family, well-meaning Czarist prince Peter (Nelson Eddy) offers the traditional Russian song, with support from Dalies Frantz (on piano), Lionel Atwill, Abner Biberman et al, in MGM’s Balalaika, 1939.
I Live My Life (1935) - Brigands Are Men, Aren't They? Early business on a cruise liner off Greece, Frank Morgan is Bentley, playing cards badly, Eric Blore the servant Grove, Fred Keating the fiancè to leading lady Joan Crawford, making her first appearance as Kay, various bits of exposition, in MGM’s I LIve My Life, 1935, also starring Brian Aherne.
Cat And The Fiddle, The (1934) - She Didn't Say Yes Daffy Brussels music patron Charles (Butterworth) caught a bouquet tossed out by American Shirley (Jeanette MacDonald), who’s both arguing and celebrating a new gig with new friend Victor (Ramon Novarro), whose friends turn up, for a Jerome Kern-Otto Harbach song, in MGM’s The Cat And The Fiddle, 1934.
Sweethearts (1938) - Wooden Shoes After supporting players are introduced in elaborate exposition of the sixth anniversary performance of their Broadway performance, Ray Bolger dances and Jeanette MacDonald sings, Nelson Eddy coming in the next number, in MGM’s Technicolor Sweethearts, 1938, lyrics by Bob Wright and Chet Forrest to the original Victor Herbert tune.
Sweethearts (1938) - Pretty As A Picture Frank Morgan is the Broadway producer for musical stars, Ernest Lane and Gwen Marlowe (Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald), now doing a radio show celebrating six years in their hit show, in MGM’s first three-strip Technicolor feature, Sweethearts, 1938.
Naughty Marietta (1935) - Chansonette We’ve just met Jeanette MacDonald as flighty French princess Marie, visiting with her musical mentor Herr Schuman (Joseph Cawthorne), then joining his rowdy students for a song from the original operetta by Victor Herbert and Rida Johnson Young, in her first MGM feature with Nelson Eddy, Naughty Marietta, 1935.

Trailer

Family

Ralph Morgan
Brother
Actor.

Bibliography