Frank Morgan (1 June 1890 – 18 September 1949), born Francis Wupperman, was the actor who portrayed several related roles in MGM's 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. These roles included Professor Marvel, the Doorman, Cabby, Guard, and, most notably, the Wizard of Oz.
In the gossip columns that reported on the Oz project during much of 1938, various other possibilities for the role of the Wizard were discussed, including Ed Wynn, W.C. Fields, Hugh Herbert, Victor Moore, and Robert Benchley. Morgan campaigned for the role vigorously, however. He solicited a screen test for himself, sometime around 20 September; screenwriter Noel Langley later called it "one of the funniest things I ever saw."
Morgan had a long career on stage and screen before coming to the Oz film. This background led him into conflict with the movie's director, Victor Fleming. Fleming would reject comic bits by Morgan (and by Bert Lahr too) that he judged to be too broad, too much in the style of Burlesque, for the film. Morgan protested this type of control by Fleming, repeatedly and loudly, throughout the shooting of the picture. (Morgan was normally a gentle individual, though he became short-tempered when he was trying to stop drinking. Victor Fleming once asked Morgan to "get back on your champagne kick so we can live together.")
Over his career, Morgan had extensive experience with his Oz castmates. He played:
- with Charley Grapewin in The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933)
- with Clara Blandick in Sisters Under the Skin (1934) and Key to the City (1950)
- with Judy Garland in Thousands Cheer (1943) and Some of the Best (1949)
- with Margaret Hamilton in three films in 1934–37
- with Ray Bolger in three films in 1936–38
- with Billie Burke in three films in 1936–40.
Morgan was twice nominated for Academy Awards as Best Supporting Actor, for The Affairs of Cellini (1934) and Tortilla Flat (1942). The latter film was also directed by Victor Fleming.
Margaret Hamilton said of Morgan, "He was very lovable, very sweet, very considerate, one of the nicest people I ever knew." Ray Bolger called Morgan "a divine man."
Morgan died in his sleep on September 18 1949 at the age of 59
- Harmetz, p. 180.
- Harmetz, p. 180.
- John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History. Warner Books, 1989.
- Aljean Harmetz. The Making of the Wizard of Oz. New York, Delta edition, 1989.