Stars of the Silver Screen

Profile of Frank Morgan

Black and white photograph of Frank Morgan

Frank Phillip Wuppermann, known as Frank Morgan, was born on June 1, 1890. He was an American actor on stage, radio as well in films. He started appearing initially on silent films, then subsequently on several sound films in his 35 years in career. Among these films, he was most notable in his performance in The Wizard of Oz in 1939.

Frank Morgan in Hollywood

Born in New York City, Frank Morgan was the youngest among the eleven children of George Wuppermann and Josephine Wright. In the family, Morgan was not the only one who took the acting industry but as well as his brother, Ralph Morgan.

Frank Morgan’s first appearance was in a 1917s independent film Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman, alongside John Barrymore. It was an American silent film produced by L. Lawrence Weber and directed by George Irving. Following that, his career had expanded, and by the 1930s, MGM had signed Morgan a lifetime contract.

One of his most notable roles was as The Wizard in the film adaptation of the American children’s novel, The Wizard of Oz. Interestingly, it was not the only role he had played in the said film. Morgan also portrayed the characters of the carnival huckster named Professor Marvel, the coachman of the carriage with the horse of a different color, the gatekeeper at the Emerald City, the wizard’s scary face, as well as the Emerald City guard.  In September 1938, the role of The Wizard was supposedly given to W.C. Fields. However, the studio grew tired of haggling over his fee. Instead, they chose Frank Morgan.

While Morgan was an actor with a wide range of talents, he was also effective in portraying roles like a befuddled and comical man. In fact, he played such a role in films, including in the film Saratoga (1937), Casanova Brown (1944). In contrast to his previous comical characters, Morgan had also played a more serious role in the films The Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Mortal Storm (1940), The Human Comedy(1943), and The Great Morgan in 1946.

During the 1940s, Morgan had appeared in shows alongside actresses like Shirley Temple in Dimples, and Fanny Brice in Maxwell House Coffee Time, also known as The Frank Morgan-Fanny Brice Show. However, in 1944, the latter show was then named The Frank Morgan Show after Brice left for his own show. In 1949, he portrayed the role of Barney Wile in a biographical film, The Stratton. A year later, he played his last role in the Key to the City, which was released in 1950.

Aside from appearing as an actor for screen shows, Morgan had also hosted radio shows. He had starred as the title character of the 1947s radio series, The Fabulous Dr. Tweedy. In addition, he also recorded for the 1949s children’s records, Gossamer Wump by Capitol Records.

Frank Morgan’s Personal Life and Death

In 1914, Frank Morgan was married to Alma Muller, to whom he had a child named George. During his career, according to several co-workers, Morgan had been an alcoholic. In fact, he sometimes carried a black briefcase equipped with a small mini-bar.

Aside from his older brother, who took up the same industry, Morgan also had some relatives operating in the stage as well as in screen films. One of them was his niece, Claudia Morgan, who had played a role in the Agatha Christie’s, And Then There Were None. Also, his other older brother was a playwright and was known on his stage names, Carlyle Morgan or Carlos Wuppermann. However, Morgan’s brother was then killed while on duty in Rhineland with the Army of Occupation in 1919. Consequently, Carlyle had only one play produced on Broadway. However, the play The Triumph of X ran for thirty performances at Comedy Theatre in New York in 1921. During the production of the play written by Morgan’s brother, he was among the cast alongside Helen Menken as the female lead.

On September 18, 1949, Frank Morgan died on a heart attack. He was then currently filming Annie Get Your Gun when that happened. Because of the unfortunate event, Morgan was replaced by Louis Calhern. Also, he was the only cast of The Wizard of Oz who did not live to see the film’s popularity after it was televised on CBS in 1956. Frank Morgan was then buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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