Marion Morgan (choreographer)

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Marion Morgan
Miss Dorothy Arzner and Marion Morgan, 1927.jpg
Morgan with Dorothy Arzner, 1927
Marion R. Cahill

(1881-01-04)January 4, 1881
DiedNovember 10, 1971(1971-11-10) (aged 90)
Burial placeForest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale), U.S
Partner(s)Matthew A. Morgan (m.1900-div.1905)
Dorothy Arzner (1927-1971)
ChildrenRoderick D. Morgan (1901 - 1929)
Parent(s)John F. Cahill (Father)
Emily Cahill (Mother)

Marion Morgan (January 4, 1881 –November 10, 1971) was an American choreographer and motion picture screenwriter and the longtime companion of motion picture director Dorothy Arzner. Arzner lived for the last 40 years of her life with Morgan.

Early life[]

Marion R. Cahill was born on January 4, 1881 in Paterson, New Jersey,[1] to Emily and John F. Cahill, who was an attorney.[2][3] She married Matthew A. Morgan in 1900, and the next year the couple had a son, Roderick, before separating by 1905.[4][5] By 1910, Marion and her son had relocated to Long Beach, California,[6] where she was employed as a physical education teacher at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles.[7] Later, when she was hired as a dance instructor for the summer program at the University of California, Berkeley, she began recruiting girls for a dance troupe to perform in vaudeville on the Orpheum Circuit.[7][8] In 1915 she also staged a publicity dance in the snow in Manhattan's Central Park.[9] Initially, Morgan featured six young women who had studied together in California. The group then grew to up to twenty-five members, and at times would employ a male dancer.[7][9] They performed interpretive dances, bare-armed and sometimes bare-footed, in filmy costumes, with a repertoire based on Egyptian and classical Greek and Roman themes.[7]

Morgan had specific requirements for her dancers to remain fit. They were required to be vegetarians, at one point all were practicing Christian Scientists, and they all had to study classic literature to understand their roles.[10] The group toured throughout the country, creating a sensation wherever they appeared.[11][12][13] In 1921, Morgan met Dorothy Arzner on the set of the movie Man-Woman-Marriage directed by Allen Holubar. The meeting prompted a passionate personal relationship which would later blossom into a business relationship as well.[7] After more than a decade of performances on the vaudeville stage, Morgan began to create choreography for movies, such as Paris at Midnight (1926).[14] She also created choreography for movies like A Night of Love (1926), The Masked Woman (1927), and Up in Mabel’s Room (1926), in which the Mabel Morgan Dancers performed.[15]

Arzner and Morgan first worked together in 1927 on the set of Fashions for Women, when Arzner, in her directorial debut film, hired Morgan to choreograph the fashion show.[7] That same year, in Azner’s Get Your Man, Morgan created a tableau featuring her dancers in a wax museum, which Variety called the highlight of the film. In Manhattan Cocktail, (1928) the couple paired again, with Morgan choreographing the opening prologue with the tale of Ariadne and Theseus,[16] which her dancers had previously performed on stage. In 1930, the couple moved into a house they named "Armor", giving nod to Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbank's "Pickfair", which was located on Mountain Oak Drive in the Hollywood Hills.[7][15]

During the 1930s, Morgan frequently traveled to the East Coast and Europe and in 1934, she graduated from the Yale School of Drama.[17][18] In the mid 1930s, Morgan teamed with George B. Dowell and wrote several short stories. Mae West co-scripted both Goin' to Town (1935) and Klondike Annie (1936) with the duo.[18][19][20] In 1951, the pair moved to the desert of Palm Springs, where they lived until Morgan's death.[7][21]

Death and legacy[]

Morgan died on November 10, 1971, at Los Angeles.[22] Morgan is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) together with her son, Roderick D. Morgan (1901–1929).

Her dance archives are preserved at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.[2]



  1. ^ "Passport Applications: Marion R. Morgan". FamilySearch. Washington, D. C.: National Archives and Records Administration. 24 February 1919. NARA microfilm series M1490, Roll 710, image #206–208. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Fluker, Kit (2014). "Marion Morgan papers 1909-1930s". Archives: The New York Public Library. New York City, New York: Jerome Robbins Dance Division. Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  3. ^ "Passport Applications: Emily Cahill". FamilySearch. Washington, D. C.: National Archives and Records Administration. 14 August 1919. NARA microfilm series M1490, Roll 780, image #80–81. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  4. ^ "1900 U. S. Census: Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey". FamilySearch. Washington, D. C.: National Archives and Records Administration. 6 June 1900. p. 4A. NARA microfilm series T623, roll 992. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  5. ^ "1905 New Jersey State Census: Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey". FamilySearch. Trenton, New Jersey: Department of State. June 1905. p. 6A. FHL microfilm #1688623. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  6. ^ "1910 US Census: Long Beach Ward 4, Los Angeles County, California". FamilySearch. Washington, D. C.: National Archives and Records Administration. 19 April 1910. p. 4B. NARA microfilm series T624, roll 85, image 8. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Mann 2001, p. 72.
  8. ^ Mayne 1994, p. 41.
  9. ^ a b "Morgan Dancers". The Pittsburgh Daily Post. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 30 October 1916. p. 9. Retrieved 22 July 2017 – via open access
  10. ^ Boyden, Eddie (4 September 1921). "Art? It Means Work, Mostly, if You're a Dancer Here's Formula for a Terpsichore in Training". The San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco, California. p. 5. Retrieved 22 July 2017 – via open access
  11. ^ "The Marion Morgan Dancers Have a Masterpiece this Season". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore, Maryland. 30 September 1917. p. 18. Retrieved 22 July 2017 – via open access
  12. ^ "The Marion Morgan Dancers Have a Masterpiece this Season". Lincoln, Nebraska: The Lincoln Star. 17 December 1922. p. 30. Retrieved 22 July 2017 – via open access
  13. ^ "Marion Morgan Dancers in Greatest of All Spectacles Tops Orpheum Theater Bill". Salt Lake City, Utah: The Salt Lake Telegram. 6 December 1922. p. 10. Retrieved 22 July 2017 – via open access
  14. ^ "Good Picture To Be Shown At the Yazoo Theatre Wed". Yazoo City, Mississippi: The Yazoo Herald. 19 October 1926. p. 5. Retrieved 22 July 2017 – via open access
  15. ^ a b Mayne 1994, p. 42.
  16. ^ Mayne 1994, p. 45.
  17. ^ Mann 2001, p. 73.
  18. ^ a b Mayne 1994, p. 66.
  19. ^ Curry 1996, p. 209.
  20. ^ Senwald, Andre (May 11, 1935). "The Paramount Presents Mae West in 'Goin' to Town'—'Bride of Frankenstein', at the Roxy". The New York Times. New York City, New York. Retrieved 22 July 2017.
  21. ^ Mayne 1994, p. 3.
  22. ^ "California Death Index: Marion R Morgan". FamilySearch. Sacramento, California: Department of Public Health Services. 10 November 1971. Retrieved 23 July 2017.


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