Marge and Gower Champion have been referred to as the Vernon and Irene Castle of the 1950s. They were an immensely popular husband-and-wife dance team, creating some of the most memorable dance scenes in movie musicals of the 1950s. Their dance numbers were not only visually stunning, but they were ground-breaking for telling a story that fit into the plot of the film.
Marge Champion was born Marjorie Celeste Belcher in Los Angeles, California on September 2, 1923. Her father, Ernest Belcher, was a master ballet teacher, working with many of the top Hollywood stars of the day. Needless to say, Marge began learning dance at a very tender age, and by the time she was in her teens, she was teaching students of her own age group. She modeled for Disney for Snow White, Fantasia and Pinocchio, and found some small parts in films during the late 1930s and early ’40s. Marge found better parts on stage, and was on Broadway in the early ’40s.
Gower Champion was born in Geneva, Illinois on June 22, 1921. His parents divorced, and Gower and his mother moved to Los Angeles. He and his high-school dance partner, Jeanne Tyler, won a dance contest at the Coconut Grove which landed them a thirteen week engagement. From there they went on to New York, performing at the Waldorf-Astoria and Radio City Music Hall.
When Gower returned from war duty, he found Jeanne Tyler had given up dancing. Mr. Belcher (Marge’s father) suggested Gower might talk to Marge, and so he did. They formed a professional partnership, and were married on October 5, 1947. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Gower passed away in 1980. Marge now lives in New York and works as a dance teacher and choreographer.