Frank Morgan (June 1, 1890 – September 18, 1949) was an American character actor best known for his portrayal of the title character in the film The Wizard of Oz.
Born as Francis Phillip Wuppermann
in New York City, the youngest of eleven children (six boys and five girls) to the wealthy family which distributed Angostura bitters
, he attended Cornell University
where he was a member of Phi Kappa Psi
fraternity. He then followed his older brother Ralph Morgan
into show business, first on the Broadway
stage and then into theaters.
His first film was The Suspect
in 1916. His career expanded when talkies began, his most stereotypical role being that of a befuddled but good-hearted middle-aged man. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor
in 1934's The Affairs of Cellini
, where he played the cuckolded Duke of Florence
and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
in 1942's Tortilla Flat
, where he played a simple Hispanic
Morgan's most famous performance was in The Wizard of Oz (1939), in which he played the carnival huckster "Professor Marvel", the gatekeeper of the Emerald City, the driver of the carriage drawn by "The Horse of a Different Color", the armed guard leading to the wizard's hall, and the Wizard himself. Like Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West, his characters only appear on-screen for a few minutes in total, but they are show-stoppers. He was so popular that MGM gave him a lifetime contract. Other movies of note include The Shop Around the Corner, The Human Comedy, The Mortal Storm, The White Cliffs of Dover and his last movie, Key to the City, which was released after his death, in Beverly Hills, California.
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 Frank Morgan had numerous roles in many motion pictures. One of his last roles was as a key supporting player in The Stratton Story, a true story about a ballplayer (played by James Stewart) who makes a comeback after losing a leg in a hunting accident.
Frank Morgan, Cheryl Ladd, and Robin Williams
The three guest stars were conversated with Disney's The Aristocats
. In the play, Frank Morgan played the voice of Georges Hautecourt
, and Robin Williams played Edgar the Butler
, and Cheryl Ladd played Madame Adelaide Boumnfaille
, the rich old lady for Edgar and her lawyer, fond of Duchess (Judy Garland
), and Thomas O'Malley (Ray Bolger
Morgan married Alma Muller in 1914; they had one son. They were married until his death in 1949.
Frank Morgan's niece, Claudia Morgan (neé Claudia Wuppermann) was a stage and film actress, most notable for creating the role of Vera Claythorne in the original production of And Then There Were None.
Morgan died after suffering a heart attack
in 1949 (while filming Annie Get Your Gun
). He was the one major player from The Wizard of Oz
who did not live to see the film become both a television fixture and an American institution. He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery
He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1708 Vine Street.