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  • Joe O'Connell

Prince Charming and Snow White


I wonder how many people remembered Marge Champion when her death was noted at the Oscars? Hint: she was Snow White. My writing mentor at the Book Project talked about first level, second level and third level characters. Marge is third or maybe even fourth level in The Contortionists. Betsy Ross would marry dancer Bunny Hightower knowing little of his past. Bunny was born and raised in Florida, but he and his two brothers and one sister were raised with constant dance lessons. Mom Hightower left her ship boat captain at home and took the kids to Hollywood where British transplant Ernest Belcher was the dance teacher for Hollywood films. Belcher took one look at Bunny's older brother Lewis (often spelled Louis) and quickly paired the 16 year old with Marge, 13, leaving Bunny feeling doubly rejected The pair performed around L.A. waiting for their breakout moment. It came when Walt Disney decided to film an animated Snow White.

Disney sent artists to draw Marge as Snow White and Lewis as Prince Charming. The dancers' relationship was platonic. Instead Marge caught the eye of artist Art Babbitt, who was 18 years her senior. They were married for four years, until Marge got restless and ran off to Broadway and into the arms of her childhood sweetheart, fellow dancer Gower Champion.

Lewis ended up on Broadway, too, and was later joined there by Bunny. Lewis' drama-filled marriage to teenage dancer Audrey Westphal led him to enlist in WWII.

Puffy news reports had him dying in combat in the South Pacific. He was actually in the UK as a second lieutenant in an all-white group of officers leading the all African-American 194th Quartermaster Battalion Truck Company, which gassed airplanes for the Eighth Air Force in Ashdown Park. His death was an accident, the details murky. Marge died in October at age 101.

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