Saturday, October 24, 2009

Morgan Residence in Rancho Mirage

This romantic old West style home in Rancho Mirage was purchased in 1939 by Frank Morgan (1890-1949) who was born as Francis Phillip Wuppermann in New York City. His 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. 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 man. Like Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch of the West, his characters only appear onscreen 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. 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.

Morgan married Alma Muller in 1914; they had one son. Morgan died after suffering a heart attack in 1949 while filming Annie Get Your Gun. His widow, Alma still resided here as late as 1953. 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 in Brooklyn. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1708 Vine Street.