Gower Champion

Active - 1946 - 1974  |   Born - Jun 22, 1919 in Geneva, Illinois, United States  |   Died - Aug 25, 1980   |   Genres - Musical, Drama, Comedy

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Gower Champion was a lean, lithe American dancer, actor, and choreographer, one half of the "Gower and Marge Champion" dance team. At 15 he began dancing professionally in Los Angeles night clubs; by 18 he was on Broadway. He returned from World War II service and teamed with Marge Bell (Belcher), a former high-school friend, to form the Gower and Bell dance team. He first made two films without her, Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) and Words and Music (1948). In 1947 they were married and, as Gower and Marge Champion, appeared together as a dance team in Paramount's Mr. Music (1950), becoming the screen's most appealing and popular dance team since Astaire and Rogers. They went on to appear in a number of MGM musicals, Gower often doing the choreography; their last appearance was in Columbia's Three for the Show (1955). Meanwhile, since the late '40s Gower Champion had been doing choreography for stage and TV; he went on to direct and choreograph several Broadway musical hits in the '60s and '70s, including Carnival, Hello Dolly!, and Bye Bye Birdie. In 1963 he directed his first film, My Six Loves. The couple was divorced in 1973. He died just hours before the opening of the Broadway musical 42nd Street, which went on to be the longest-running hit he'd been involved in.

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Factsheet

  • Grew up in Los Angeles, California.
  • At age 15, after winning a dance contest with Jeanne Tyler, toured nightclubs as Gower and Jeanne, America's Youngest Dance Team.
  • Served during WWII in the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • One half of the dance team Gower and Bell, with Marjorie Belcher (aka Marjorie Bell), later renamed after their marriage as Marge and Gower Champion.
  • Won 8 Tony Awards out of 15 nominations.
  • Died the day of the opening-night curtain of the Broadway musical 42nd Street, which he directed and ended up running for 9 years.