June 1, 1890 - September 18, 1949


1952 Gold Fever
1950 Key to the City
1949 The Stratton Story
1949 Any Number Can Play
1949 The Great Sinner
1948 Summer Holiday
1948 The Three Musketeers
1947 Green Dolphin Street
1946 The Cockeyed Miracle
aka Mr. Griggs Returns
aka The Return of Mr. Griggs
(USA: promotional title)
1946 Courage of Lassie
aka Blue Sierra
The Great Morgan
1946 Lady Luck
1945 Yolanda and the Thief
1944 The White Cliffs of Dover
1944 Casanova Brown
1943 Thousands Cheer
1943 The Human Comedy
1943 A Stranger in Town
1942 Tortilla Flat
1942 The Vanishing Virginian
1942 White Cargo
1941 The Wild Man of Borneo
1941 Honky Tonk
1941 Washington Melodrama
1940 Keeping Company
1940 Boom Town
1940 The Mortal Storm
1940 Broadway Melody of 1940
1940 Henry Goes Arizona
aka Spats To Spurs
1940 The Shop Around the Corner
1940 The Ghost Comes Home
1940 Hullabaloo
1939 Balalaika
1939 The Wizard of Oz
1939 Broadway Serenade
aka Serenade
1938 Sweethearts
1938 The Crowd Roars
1938 Mother Carey's Chickens
1938 Paradise for Three
aka Romance for Three
1938 Port of Seven Seas
1938 Sunday Night at the
Trocadero (himself)
1937 Rosalie
1937 Saratoga
1937 The Emperor's Candlesticks
1937 Beg, Borrow or Steal
1937 Last of Mrs. Cheyney
1936 Piccadilly Jim
1936 The Great Ziegfeld
1936 Dancing Pirate
1936 Dimples
1936 Trouble for Two
aka The Suicide Club
1935 I Live My Life
1935 Lazybones
1935 Naughty Marietta
1935 Enchanted April
1935 Escapade
aka Masquerade
1935 The Good Fairy
1935 The Perfect Gentleman
aka The Imperfect Lady
1934 There's Always Tomorrow
aka Too Late for Love
1934 A Lost Lady
1934 The Affairs of Cellini
aka The Firebrand
The Cat and the Fiddle
1934 By Your Leave
1934 Sisters Under the Skin
1934 Success at Any Price
1933 Broadway to Hollywood
aka Ring Up the Curtain
1933 Bombshell
aka Blonde Bombshell (UK)
1933 When Ladies Meet
aka Strange Skirts
aka Truth Is Stranger
1933 The Nuisance
1933 The Kiss Before the Mirror
1933 Best of Enemies
1933 Billion Dollar Scandal
1933 Hallelujah, I'm a Bum
aka Hallelujah, I'm a Tramp (UK)
aka Happy Go Lucky
aka The Heart of New York
aka Lazy Bones
(USA: reissue title - 1953)
aka New York
aka The Optimist
1933 Luxury Liner
1933 Reunion in Vienna
1932 The Half Naked Truth
1932 Secrets of the French Police
1930 Laughter
1930 Dangerous Nan McGrew
1930 Fast and Loose
1930 Queen High
1927 Love's Greatest Mistake
1925 Scarlet Saint
1925 The Man Who Found Himself
1925 The Crowded Hour
1924 Born Rich
1924 Manhandled
1919 The Golden Shower
1919 The Gray Towers Mystery
1918 At the Mercy of Men
1918 The Knife
1917 Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman
aka Raffles
1917 Baby Mine
1917 The Light in Darkness
1917 A Child of the Wild
1917 A Modern Cinderella
1917 Who's Your Neighbor?
1916 The Daring of Diana
1916 The Suspect
1916 The Girl Philippa

Born Francis Philip Wuppermann in New York City in 1890 to Josephine Wright Hancox Wuppermann of New York and George Diogracia Wuppermann, Frank already had quite a family to look up to. His father, George, was born in Venezuela but grew up in Hamburg, Germany. He moved to Trinidad where he founded the banking firm of J.W. Harriman & Co. He met Josphine in Trinidad, and they were married. George, at the time of his marriage, was employed by the son of Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert (who developed Anostura Bitters). When George went to New York, he had secured the sole right to distribute the Bitters in the U.S. and adjacent countries. Frank's maternal grandfather, Commodore Joseph Wright Hancox, operated a famous fleet of Hudson River boats before the Civil War.

Like McHugh, Frank Morgan was the baby of a large family. Eliza Hancox (b. 1871) was born first and was Frank's favorite sister. Adolph Edward Wuppermann (b. 1872), "Edward," would go on to run the family business, the "Angostura-Wuppermann Corporation (the only North American distributor of Angostura Bitters). Although he did not act, he too delved into show business by writing at least four plays (co-written with brother Ralph). Next came George (died shortly after), Zoyla Dolores (b. 1874 - died shortly after), Marguerite Georgine (b. 1875), Josephine Wright (b. 1878), Zoyla Gomez (b. 1882), Raphael Kuhner, "Ralph" (b. 1883), George Herbert (died shortly after birth), Carlos Domaso Siegert "Carlyle" (b. 1887), and finally Frank.

Ralph, Carlos, and Frank would go on to change their last names to "Morgan" and go into show business (namely the stage). Ralph chose to change to Morgan first, Carlos followed in suit, and Frank followed only after first dropping one 'n' to become Wupperman, and then some time later changing to Morgan.

Frank began his career by singing as a choir boy at Holy Trinity and Saint Thomas' in New York. He would later attend a boarding school in New York City and then Cornell. The New York Times said "His soft, musical voice, so well adapted for the sage and screen in after years, had its first training in a choir. At the time, he was called the best boy soprano in New York and he was a solist at St. Thomas and All Angela Churches." In 1913 - 1914, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for the stage.

He worked in the advertising department of "The Boston Traveler," and then worked on a ranch near Las Vegas, New Mexico before his brother, Ralph, visited him on the ranch and persuaded him to try acting as a profession.

He would play four seasons in Jesse Boestelle's stock company, including leading man. Because he was a slender youth, he played mostly juvenile roles. He caught the attention of the New York & Chicago drama critics in 1923 in "Lullaby" with Florence Reed where he played the part of Count Carlo Beretti. The play ran 18 weeks on Broadway.

His first successful part was in a vaudeville skit. His first appearance on the legitimate stage occurred in 1914 at the Lyceum Theatre in a revival of "A Woman Killed With Kindness." He also played that year as the juvenile lead in "Mr. Wu" with Walker Whiteside, a family friend and distinguished actor.He also played in "Rock-a-Bye Baby" in 1918 and was received well. He would soon play as Anita Stewart's leading man. A year later, being bored with silent pictures, he returned to the stage. His early roles would culminate in a leading role as an officer on the stage in "Seventh Heaven." He then went on to star in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," and "Tenth Avenue." In the fall of 1924, he originated the role of the Duke of Florence in "The Firebrand," which was originally written as a romantic comedy; but it was transformed into a farce during rehearsals -- and it was received as "a hit" according to the New York Times.

Other New York plays in which he appeared were "Her Family Tree," "My Lady Friends," "Hey Nonny Nonny," and "The Band Wagon."

In 1930, he played in "Topaze" on the stage. He thought his role in it was his best role because, he said, it led him to Hollywood. While he was playing in "Topaz," he traveled to the Paramount Astorio (Queens) studio to appear in his first featured film. His first talking film there was "Queen High."

Carlos acted under the stage name "Carlyle Morgan." He replaced brother Ralph as "Monty Vaughn" in the NY stage hit "Under Cover" in 1915. Carlos toured with Walker Whiteside in a production of the play "The Typhoon." Tragically, Carlos was murdered in 1919 -- George Morgan, Frank's son, said that Carlos was "...the only *man* my father ever really loved." The incident might well have contributed to Frank's drinking problem.

Incidently, Ralph was the first president of the Screen Actor's Guild (SAG) in 1933; and he served another term from 1938-1940.

 
Both boys were born into into a fairly well-to-do family that distributed the condiment "Angostura Aromatic Bitters" (which is still distributed today).

The approximately 5'10 actor had the earliest film career of all the Irish Mafia boys, dating back to 1916 when he sometimes used the screen name Francis Wupperman.

His father died in 1915, when his eldest brother took over the family company. However, Frank was elected vice president of the Angostura-Wuppermann Corporation (his mother, at the time 82 years old, was president). Frank handled the company's affairs in the West while he was there playing in motion pictures.

Today, Frank is probably best known for his triple role (principally as the Wizard) in "The Wizard of Oz." Morgan was not the first choice for the role, following after both Ed Wynn and W.C. Fields turned it down. Fields turned it down for lack of money (and other complications). According to Noel Langley, screenwriter, Frank wasn't being considered for third choice -- but he had gotten ahold of the script and knew it backwards and forwards. Langley says "He 'begged for it. He said, 'Let me go onto a stage and do an ad-lib test.' He did all the scenes as they were in the script. He knew the script backward. He did it all by himself with nobody there but himself and an assistnat director. Harburg and Arlen and Freed and I watched the test afterward.l And it was marvelous, as funny as Buster Keaton."

Two of the writers for the project initially suggested it, "If we establish the character in the prologue (perhaps as a quaint old medicine man), then some way should be devised to introduce him in the later sequences. Perhaps he appears as the gateman who lets them into Oz (wearing green whiskers). As the man who drives the 'horse of a different color' (wearing purple whiskers). And again . . . as the guard at the door of the audience chamber (wearing red whiskers). . . . This would give us a chance to use a man like Frank Morgan without having the audience feel cheated because they didn't see enough of him . . . which would certainly happen if he is used only once . . . as in the present script."

Ray Bolger said Frank was, "a divine man."

Margaret Hamilton said, "He always knew his lines and he was always ready. But he did like his drink. The second or third picture I made with him was "By Your Leave" at RKO. And I said, 'I bet you can.' And he said, 'I understand you can't.' He looked so miserable. I said, 'Do you want me to go and ask somebody?' So I went to the assistant director and said, 'Frank's got a little problem out there. He'd liuke to have a drink, but he doesn't think it's permissible.' And the assistand director said, 'Oh, hell, what does he want?' And so he got his drink. It just tickled me to pieces because he was important and I was just starting out, and all he had to say was 'Let's have a snifter.' But he was so pleased and so appreciative. He was very lovable, very sweet, very considerate, one fo the nicest people I ever knew."

During this time, Morgan had a small black briefcase he would bring to work everyday fully equipped with a small mini bar. The suitcase would remain in his dressing room, however; and he never muffed his lines because of it or let it affect his work in any way. Author Aljean Harmetz said, "He was never less than a gentleman, although when he attempted to stop drinking, he was often short-tempered and irritable. Morgan's wardrobe man, John B. Scura, remembers Victor Fleming asking Morgan to 'get back on your champagne kick so we can live together.'"

Mary Mayer, a publicity department employee assigned to "The Wizard of Oz" was only aware of Morgan's drinking once -- and only because it was pointed out to her. Said Mayer, "He was standing in that guard box--it was when he was playing the soldier -- singing a rather risque song. And someone said it was lucky he had the guard box to stand in or he'd fall down."

Francis Wupperman, alias Francis Morgan, alias Frank Morgan, also had another name. The boys of the Irish Mafia, in order to distinguish Frank Morgan from Frank McHugh called Morgan "Big Frank" and McHugh "Little Frank" probably more because of Morgan's elder status than anything else.

Morgan made $2,500 a week for his work on the film (the second highest paid actor after Ray Bolger's $3,000 -- Judy Garland only made $500 a week for her work on the film).

Overall, Morgan spent just a few weeks making "The Wizard of Oz." He appeared in women's magazine jelly ads with Judy Gardland for Certo to publicize the Wizard. The captions read "Anybody can be a wizard at jelly-making."

Notably, Frank was involved in the most astonishing thing on the Wizard of Oz's set -- something so off the wall, it was dismissed as a publicity stunt. It was even published once with a comment about the lies that press agents are willing to tell in order to get a story into print. Hal Rosson, Helen Bowman, and Mary Mayer (all connected with the film) vouch for its authenticity. Mary Mayer said, "For Professor Marvel's coat, they wanted grandeur gone to seed. A nice-looking coat but very tattered. So the Wardrobe Department went down to an old second-hand store on Main Street and bought a whole rack of coats. And Frank Morgan and the wardrobe man and Victor Fleming got together and chose one. It was kind of a Prince Albert coat. It was black broadcloth and it had a velvet collar, but the nap was all worn off the velvet." Helen Bowman said the coat was "ratty with age, a Prince Albert jacket wtih a green look." Needless to say, the coat fitted Morgan and had just the right look. One afternoon, Morgan turned out the pocket -- inside was the name "Frank L. Baum." -- for those of you who don't know, that happens to be the original author's name of The Wizard of Oz. Mayer said "We wired the taylor in Chicago and sent pictures. And the tailor sent back a notarized letter saying that the coat had been made for Frank Baum. Baum's widow identified the coat, too, and after the picture was finished we presented it to her. But I could never get anyone to believe the story."

Boris Karloff related the following story, " [ Ralph and Frank Morgan were ] as unalike in appearance and temperment as any two human beings could possibly be, but united in one thing at least ... their devotion to the cause of thier fellow actors, great or small. I remember a special board meeting called by telegram for a Sunday afternoon for some reason or other. In the middle of the meeting the door was flung open and Frank Morgan, hot, breathless and dishevelled, burst into the room yelling 'What's the beef? When do we strike?' On being told that nothing like that was in the wind, he retired in a fury, muttering something about having been dragged away from his pool and a cold drink on a hot afternoon under false pretences. But when the real heat was on in the frantic week in 1937 leading up to the Sunday night deadline in the classic halls of the American Legion Stadium -- when we either had the producers' written agreement to a contract or we struck the next day -- I don't believe that either Frank or Ralph saw their beds, let alone their pools."

Ralph Bellamy decided to make the move from New York to Hollywood, but Frank confronted him. "My friend Frank Morgan, who was playing in 'Topaze' in Chicago, came to the Santa Fe station calling me a prostitute, selling out for money. Six months later, at the end of the road tour of 'Topaze,' Frank was in Hollywood, under contract to M-G-M."

One night with the IR boys, Frank sounded off. McHugh recounts, "Were you present the night Frank Morgan, after having partaken of a frew gills of the demon rum, sounded off vociferously about certain actos changing their family names to better than more pleasantly sounding names for the stage? Principally, Edward G. Robinson (Rabinowitch) and John Garfield (Garfinkel). He stressed that hteir family names were old, respectable and historical names that they should be pround of. "I paused long enough to let Frank be completely satisfied with his oration, then I leaned forward and said, very quietly, 'Frank, what's your real name?' His educated eyebrows shot up to his hair line, his eyes blaxed, he stammered, he stuttered and finally shouted, 'Goddamn you, Frankie, you're a-you're a--' Then he simmered down and came out with the old reliable stage alugh. But he never told me what he though I was. Frank Morgan's family name was Wuppermann."

Frank and his wife, Alma, had one son, George, who lives in California today.

Fun fact: Frank *loved* champagne. It was his favorite drink, and he often gave it as a gift.

Frank died in his sleep (at the age of 59) in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California in 1949, seven years before his elder brother Ralph (who died in New York City on June 11, 1956). His secretary, Marguerite Cherry, said the actor was apparently in good health the day before his death. He had just finished a film with Clark Gable and Loretta Young ("Keys to the City") less than a week before his death.

Frank is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, USA, in section #168, plot #14447. Also in the family plot are the rest of the Wuppermanns with the exception of the four sisters.

Jim Cagney would later say in regards to Morgan, "What a wonderful man! What fun to be with!" Then, in anger, "Absolutely refused to take care of himself. Unbelieable. It upsets me to this day. Used to stash liquor all over his house so he could take quiet nips whenever he wanted to; then, feeling quite juiced, he'd go down to the local high school and play a vigorous game of basketball someone was promoting among his pals. He did his friends the outrage of dying at fifty-nine. Unforgivable."

On Morgan's passing, Bellamy says, "I'd known Frank for a long time, and very well. We'd been friends back in New York. I'd sailed with him on several of his boats. I'd spent much time with him over the years. He was always spirited, animated and spry -- very much alive. I was a pallbearer at his funeral in Brooklyn. I helped lower him into his fmily-plot grave. But for some time afterward I had an experience that I'm sure is not uncommon to those who've been close to someone who was always so alive but who has died. I'd find myself going to the phone to call Frank, momentarily forgetting he was no longer with us. He was a man to remember."

Much thanks to Valerie Yaros -- a fountain of information on the Morgan family. Also thanks to "The Making of THE WIZARD OF OZ" by Aljean Harmetz for quotations and much of the information about Morgan on the set.

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