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Stage Name

Birth Name

Gower Champion

Gower Carlyle Champion

Marge Champion Marjorie Celeste (Margret Bell) Belcher
Jeanne Tyler Jeanne Tyler ( Gene)

    Champion was born in Geneva, Illinois, the son of divorced parents John W. Champion and Beatrice Carlisle and Brother of John Jr. Beatrice moved with her two sons to California in 1922. Marge and Gower were very popular dancers in the 1940s and 50s. Gower would choreograph many musicals for Film, TV and Broadway.

    Gower was winning dance contests ( Such as the Palladium) at the young age of twelve way before he met Marge with his first dance partner Jeanne Tyler. Jeanne resided in the San Fernando Valley and Gower in Los Angeles met at the Norma Gould dance studio in Los Angeles. After Gould's studio the pair went to Elisa Ryan's Beverly Hills dance studio. They both enrolled together in the drama dept. of the studio as well.

Marge Champion Autograph

In 1933, they did their first studio performance doing a Tango, and it was a hit.

    Marge and Gower went to Jr. High School together, but did not really notice each other until the school threw a talent contest where Marge and her father Ernest Belcher both took some notice of these two fine dancers. Belcher gave Gower a full sponsorship to his school of dance to Gower, but left Jeanne in the cold. Gower would continue his lessons with Jeanne at Ryan's studio as well as himself at Belcher's. On 2/25/1936: Jeanne and Gower entered and won the Veloz and Yolanda's Waltz To Fame Contest, taking 1st place. The prize was a weeks engagement at the Cocoanut Grove. Altho, Gower was still in school, this was the start of his career. Jeanne and Gower danced successfully in many more nightclubs and hotels with Beatrice in tow. They were billed as "Gower and Jeanne, America's Youngest Dance Team."

    After graduating High School, Gower and Jeanne toured what was left of the declining Vaudeville Circuit, just before most vaudeville theatre's became movie Theatres, they did achieve some success. Their dancing together was good, but hardly really good enough, it was the charisma and enthusiasm they shared together on the floor that the audience loved. Jeanne and Gower continued with much success dancing in Movie house, with Big Bands Like Eddie Duchin, Vaudeville stages, night clubs and more up untill Gower enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II. "America's Youngest Dance Team" would be no more.

    Upon gaining an honorable discharge from the service, Gower returned home and would be partnered with Marge Belcher. This teaming would prove to be a major success throughout both their lives. Marge and Gower's first professional engagement together was credited as "Gower and Bell" at Montreal's "Normandie Roof" in April, 1947. Marge and Gower's first big show was in the "Persian Room" of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Their first movie together was in "$ Mr. Music" with Bing Crosby and their first starring picture was in "Everything I Have is Yours." Marge danced with Herb Ross and Paul Glodkin in the Broadway Play "Beggars Holiday" in 1946. Success led to Dick Pribor who became the Champion's musical director. With all this success came sponsor advertisements, which they did many, such as Ipan Toothpaste, Camel Cigaettes, General Tire and Kroehler furniture Advertisements.

    Ernest Belcher was Marge's father, a ballet teacher who started his daughter at an early age of five months of age. Marge's first dance partner was Louis Hightower and her first screen appearance was in the film "Sorority House" in 1939. At age 14, Marge was used by Disney as the model for " Snow White," then later the "Blue Fairy" in Pinocchio and the "Hippopotamus Ballerina" in FANTASIA. Marge and Gower were wed on October 5, 1947 and divorced in 1973. Actress, Lina Basquette was Marge's half sister. Marge also appeared in various Westerns as Marjorie Bell.

    Gower was diagnosed with Waldenström macroglobulinemia, a rare form of blood cancer. He died in New York City at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 1980.

    Marge (90 in 2009,) partially resides in Stockbridge, Mass. She still dances twice a week with choreographer, actor, and original member of American Ballet Theatre... Donald Saddler, who first performed at Jacobs Pillow in 1941. The still-spry dance partners are making a documentary "Still Dancing," which chronicles their biweekly dance sessions.


Birth Place

Birth Date

Spouse

Offspring

Geneva, IL.( Gower) 6/21/1919 - 8/25/1980 Marge Belcher (1947-1973) Blake & Gregg Champion
    Karla Russell (1976-1980)  
----
  Los Angeles( Marge) b. 9/2/1919 Gower Champion, Boris Sagal Blake & Gregg Champion

Dance Types

Dance Partners

Music Titles

Ballroom Chita Rivera (Gower, Van Dyke) Let's Dance Album (Columbia B-1929)
Champion Strut (Swing) Debbie Reynolds      
Doin' The Chamberlain Ernest Belcher      
Mambo Herb Ross      
New Yorker (Swing) Jeanne Tyler      
Swing etc. Louis Hightower      
Tango Paul Glodkin      
Tap Dance          
Veolanda (taught to J/G by Yolanda)          
Waltz          
Dark Town Strutters Bal (Ben Bard's)          

Night Clubs

Theaters

Stage

Cocoanut Grove (w/ Jeanne) 44th Street Theater (1942) 1935 - Ben Bard Dramatic Group
Gold Coast Room (Drake Hotel (w/ Jeanne) 46th Street Theater (1966) 1935 - Ben Bard Dramatic Group
Mural Room (Hotel St. Francis (w/ Jeanne) Broadhurst Theater (1939) 1939 - Streets of Paris(w/ Jeanne)
Mocombo Room ( NY) Broadway Theater (1968) 1955 - Three For Tonight
Normandie Roof ( Montrea L) Coronet Theater (1948) 1942 - Portrait of a Lady
Persian Room & Roof ( NY Plaza) Henry Miller's (1966) 1942 - The Lady Comes Across
The Sert Room Imperial Theater (1961) 1944 - Count Me In

Awards

Lunt-Fontaine ( 1978) 1945 - Dark of the Moon
1949 Tony Award (Choreo) – Lend an Ear National Theater (1949) 1946 - Beggars Holiday
1961 Tony Award (Choreo) – Bye Bye Birdie Majestic Theater (1948 & 1972) 1948 - Small Wonder(Gower Choreo)
1961 Tony Award (Direction) – Bye Bye Birdie Martin Beck Theater (1960) 1954 - Something to Rave About
1964 Tony Award for (Choreo) – Hello, Dolly! Minskoff Theater (1973) 1964 & 1975 - Hello Dolly(Gower Choreo)
1964 Tony Award (Direction) – Hello, Dolly!   1948 - Lend An Ear(Gower Choreo)
1968 Tony Award (Choreo) – The Happy Time Plymouth Theater (1955) 1948 - Small Wonder
1968 Tony Award (Direction) – The Happy Time St. James Theater (1964) 1951 - Make A Wish
1981 Tony Award (Choreo) – 42nd Street Winter Garden (1951) 1955 - 3 For Tonight(Gower Staged)
1981 Drama Desk Award (Choreo) – 42nd St.     1960 - Bye Bye Birdie
Antoinette Perry Awards       1961 - Carnival
Donaldson Awards       1963 - My Mother, Father & Me
1975 - Emmy Award (Marge)       1966 - I Do, I Do
... (Nominated for other Tony Awards as well.)       1966 - Three Bags Full

Contests

      1968 - The Happy Time
Harvest Moon Ball (LA)       1969 - A Flea in her Ear
1936 - L.A. Dance To Fame Contest       1972 - Sugar
2/25/1936: Veloz and Yolanda's Waltz To Fame
Contest (Gower & Jeanne) 1st place
      1973 - Irene
        1974 - Mack and Mabel

Misc.

      1977 - Rockabye Hamlet
1950s - Krohler Furniture Ad.       1977 - The Act
            1978 - A Broadway Musical
            1980 - 42nd Street
            Grover's Corners
        Lovely To Look At
            Showboat
        Stepping Out
        Still Dancing
        Three For The Show

Films

Television

1939 - Streets Of Paris 1949 - Admiral Broadway Revue
1939 - Sorority House ( Marge) 1957 - Marge and Gower Champion Show
$ 1939 - The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle 1958 - USO All Star Xmas
$ 1942 - Fantasia ( Marge - Chor) 1975 - Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (Marge Choreog.)
$ 1947 - Till the Clouds Roll By [ DVD]
$ 1950 - Mr. Music ( Chor) Broadway Rhythms
$ 1951 - Show Boat [ DVD]

Publications

$ 1952 - Lovely To Look At 11/1940 - American Dancer Magazine(Gower & Jeanne)
1952 - Everything I Have Is Yours 3/7/1949 - Life Magazine ( Cover)
$ 1953 - Give a Girl a Break 1/7/1952 - Quick Magazine
$ 1954 - Three For The Show 5/1952 - Motion Picture Magazine
$ 1955 - Three For the Show 6/23/1952 - Newsweek Magazine
$ 1955 - Jupiter's Darling 10/27 & 1/7/1952 - Quick Mag
1957 - Girl Most Likely ( Chor) 2/1953 - Movie Star Parade
1961 - My Six Loves 4/1953 - Photoplay Magazine
1967 - The Summer 7/1953 - Cosmopolitan Magazine(on Cover)
$ 1967 - The Party [ DVD] 8/1953 - Redbook Magazine
$ 1968 - The Swimmer [ DVD] ( Marge) 8/24/1953 - Life Magazine
$ 1974 - Bank Shot [ DVD] 9/1953 - Screenland Magazine
$ 1975 - The Day of the Locust 11/1953 - Modern Screen Mag
1978 - Ike: The Awakening Years II ( Marge- Chor) 1954 - Let's Dance Instructional Book(Co- Author & Bob Thomas)
1978 - The Awakening Land (Marge- Chor ) 1954 - Screen Stories
$ 1981 - Who's Life Is It Anyway ( Marge- Chor) 6/26/1954 - Picturegoer Magazine (on Cover)
$ 1985 - That's Dancing 9/5/1954 - Lima News(New Dance Introduced)
$ 1990 - Short Time( Gregg Champion) 10/28/1954 - Oakland Tribune(Champion Tour)
  4/1955 - Theater Arts Magazine(on Cover)
  1/1956 - TV People Magazine
  6/1957 - TV Star Parade
  7/1958 - Dance Magazine ( Cover)
      4/10/1962 - CB Times & TV Guide
      8/26/1980 - NY Times(Gower Dies)
      $1999 - Gower Champion: Dance and Musical...
      $1999 - Gower Champion(Payne-Carter, David)
      2005 - Before the Parade Passes by(Gilvey, John Anthony)
      $ Catch the New Wind( Marge: author)
      God is a Verb( Marge: author)

NOTE: