Dennis Morgan

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Dennis Morgan
Dennis Morgan in The Hard Way trailer 2.jpg
in the trailer for the film
The Hard Way (1943)
Earl Stanley Morner

(1908-12-20)December 20, 1908
DiedSeptember 7, 1994(1994-09-07) (aged 85)
Alma materCarroll College
Years active1936–1980
Lillian Vedder
(m. 1933)

Dennis Morgan (born Earl Stanley Morner, December 20, 1908 – September 7, 1994) was an American actor-singer. He used the acting pseudonym Richard Stanley before adopting the name under which he gained his greatest fame.

According to one obituary, he was "a twinkly-eyed handsome charmer with a shy smile and a pleasant tenor voice in carefree and inconsequential Warner Bros musicals of the forties, accompanied by Jack Carson."[1] Another said, "for all his undoubted star potential, Morgan was perhaps cast once too often as the likeable, clean-cut, easy-going but essentially uncharismatic young man who typically loses his girl to someone more sexually magnetic."[2] David Shipman said he "was comfortable, good-looking, well-mannered: the antithesis of the gritty Bogart."[3]

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Morgan was born in the village of Prentice in Price County, in northern Wisconsin, the son of Grace J. (née Vandusen) and Frank Edward Morner.[4] He was of Swedish descent on his father's side.[5]

He enrolled at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin as a member of the 1930 graduating class. He was awarded the Carroll College Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1983.[6]

Early career[edit]

He began his career as a radio announcer in Milwaukee and went on to broadcast Green Bay Packers football games. He became a radio singer in Chicago.[7]

Stanley Morner at MGM[edit]

After relocating to Los Angeles, Morgan began appearing in films. He signed a contract with MGM as "Stanley Morner".[8]

Unbilled, he lip synced as Allan Jones sang the Irving Berlin song, A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody, in The Great Ziegfeld (1936).

He was billed as "Stanley Morner" in Suzy (1936) and could be seen in Piccadilly Jim (1936), and Old Hutch (1936).

He was given a decent role in Mama Steps Out (1937) and Song of the City (1937) but went back to small parts in Navy Blue and Gold (1937).[2]

Richard Stanley at Paramount[edit]

He signed with Paramount who billed him as "Richard Stanley". He was in Men with Wings (1938), King of Alcatraz (1938), Illegal Traffic (1938), and Persons in Hiding (1939).

Warner Bros.[edit]

Dennis Morgan and his wife Lillian Vedder at Ciro's, 1946

He went over to Warner Bros. who billed him as "Dennis Morgan". According to Shipman the studio "put him on the assembly-line with Wayne Morris, Arthur Kennedy, Jeffrey Lynn, Eddie Albert and Ronald Reagan – likeable young lugs squiring the heroine till Bogart, Cagney or Flynn came crashing down to sweep her up."[3]

He was given the lead in a B picture, Waterfront (1939), followed by No Place to Go (1939) and The Return of Doctor X (1939) with Humphrey Bogart.

Morgan was promoted to "A" films with The Fighting 69th (1940), supporting James Cagney and Pat O'Brien. He supported Priscilla Lane in Three Cheers for the Irish (1940) and went back to "B"s for Tear Gas Squad (1940), Flight Angels (1940), and River's End (1940).

Morgan's career received a boost when RKO borrowed him to play Ginger Rogers' love interest in Kitty Foyle (1940), a big hit.[2]

Warners put him in some comedies, Affectionately Yours (1941) and Kisses for Breakfast (1941), then a Western, Bad Men of Missouri (1941). He supported Cagney again in Captains of the Clouds (1942) and Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland in In This Our Life (1942).

Morgan co-starred with Ann Sheridan in Wings for the Eagle (1942) and Ida Lupino in The Hard Way (1943). He had the lead in some big Warners musicals: Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), full of cameos from Warner stars; The Desert Song (1943); Shine On, Harvest Moon (1944), with Sheridan. The latter also featured Jack Carson in a key role. He and Morgan were in The Hard Way together and would go on to be a notable team.[1]

Morgan was in The Very Thought of You (1944) and cameoed in Hollywood Canteen (1944). He had the lead in God Is My Co-Pilot (1945) and Christmas in Connecticut (1945) with Barbara Stanwyck.

Teamed with Jack Carson[edit]

Morgan was teamed with fellow Wisconsinite Jack Carson in One More Tomorrow (1946). Warners liked them as a combination, seeing them as similar to Bing Crosby and Bob Hope at Paramount. In the words of Shipman, the films would feature "Morgan as the easy-going singer who always got the girl and Carson as the loud-mouthed but cowardly braggard-comic who was given the air. No one thought they were Hope and Crosby, least of all themselves."[3]

They were reunited in Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946) and The Time, the Place and the Girl (1946).

Without Carson, Morgan made a Western, Cheyenne (1946), a musical My Wild Irish Rose (1947), and To the Victor (1948). In 1947 he was voted Singer of the Year.[9]

He was back with Carson for Two Guys from Texas (1948) then made One Sunday Afternoon (1948) with Janis Paige. He and Carson were in It's a Great Feeling (1949) with Doris Day. Exhibitors voted him the 21st most popular star in the US for 1948.[10]

Morgan made The Lady Takes a Sailor (1949) then Perfect Strangers (1950) with Rogers and Pretty Baby (1950) with Betsy Drake. He made a Western Raton Pass (1950), and a musical Painting the Clouds with Sunshine (1951). He supported Joan Crawford in This Woman Is Dangerous (1952) then went back to Westerns with Cattle Town (1952). After that his contract with Warners ended.

Morgan later said "my mistake was I stayed at one studio too long. Another mistake: I turned down early television, believing then... that people should pay to see us."[11]

Later career[edit]

Jean Willes and Morgan (1955)

He appeared in sporadic television guest roles in the 1950s, including the ABC religion anthology series, Crossroads, in the 1955 episode "The Gambler" and as Senator-designate Fairchild in an episode of the dramatic anthology series Stage 7, titled "Press Conference" in 1955.

Morgan made films for Sam Katzman, The Gun That Won the West (1955) and Uranium Boom (1956) and went to RKO for Pearl of the South Pacific (1956). He was cast as Dennis O'Finn in the 1958 episode "Bull in a China Shop" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

In 1959, Morgan appeared as a regular, Dennis Chase, in eleven episodes of the crime drama, 21 Beacon Street, with Joanna Barnes and Brian Kelly.[citation needed]


By 1956, he had retired from films but still made occasional appearances on television, such as the role of Chad Hamilton in the 1962 episode "Source of Information" of the short-lived NBC newspaper drama series, Saints and Sinners.[12] In 1963, he portrayed Dr. Clay Maitland in "The Old Man and the City" on NBC's The Dick Powell Theater. He would perform with the Milwaukee Symphony and on the summer stage circuit.[13]

He returned to films with Rogue's Gallery (1967).[11]

In 1968 he was cast as Dennis Roberts in the episode "Bye, Bye, Doctor" of the CBS sitcom, Petticoat Junction, and he played a cameo as a Hollywood tour guide in the all-star comedy Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood in 1976. His final screen performance was on March 1, 1980, as Steve Brian in the episode "Another Time, Another Place/Doctor Who/Gopher's Engagement" of ABC's The Love Boat. Jane Wyman and Audrey Meadows appeared in the same episode.[citation needed]

In 1983, Dennis Morgan, along with his film pal, Jack Carson, who had died in 1963, were inducted into the Wisconsin Performing Artists Hall of Fame.[14]

That year he was critically injured in a car crash.[15]

He was a staunch Republican and a member of the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church in Oakhurst, California.[16]


Morgan died in 1994 of respiratory failure.[citation needed]

Charity work: Two Strike Park[edit]

Morgan dedicated Two Strike Park on July 4, 1959, named for his belief that "a kid forced to play in the streets, with no place to play, already has two strikes against him".[17]

Starting in 1946, Morgan championed the cause of children with nowhere to play.[18] In 1949, as "honorary mayor" of La Crescenta, representing Two Strike Series, Inc., he "offered to donate five acres of land for the park if the County of Los Angeles would purchase two more adjoining acres to complete the initial parcel. In 1950, the Board of Supervisors responded with an additional 3.54 acres of parkland."[18] In 1958 Morgan spearheaded the drive to establish a new public park in La Crescenta in Los Angeles County. He raised funds for the park, at 5107 Rosemont Avenue, by "organizing exhibition baseball games featuring celebrity friends and professional athletes".[19]


Morgan (billed as "Stanley Morner") appeared as the singing bridegroom in the famous "Wedding Cake" musical number in The Great Ziegfeld (1936), but the voice singing "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody" was that of MGM contract player Allan Jones.[20]
Morgan was billed under his given name "Stanley Morner" early in his career, such as in Mama Steps Out (1937)


Short subjects[edit]

  • Annie Laurie (1936) as William Douglas
  • Ride, Cowboy, Ride (1939) as Dinny Logan
  • The Singing Dude (1940) as Rusty
  • March On, Marines (1940) as Bob Lansing
  • Stars on Horseback (1943) as himself (uncredited)
  • The Shining Future (1944) as himself
  • Road to Victory (1944) as himself (uncredited)
  • I Am an American (1944)[21] as himself (uncredited)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Goes to Bat (1950) as himself


Year Program Episode/source
1941 Lux Radio Theatre Kitty Foyle[22]
1942 Cavalcade of America Captains of the Clouds[22]
1943 Cavalcade of America Soldiers of the Tide[22]
1943 Screen Guild Theater Thank Your Lucky Stars[22]
1944 Lux Radio Theatre The Vagabond King[22]
1945 Lux Radio Theatre Swanee River[22]
1945 Screen Guild Theater The Desert Song[22]
1946 The Jack Carson Show Christmas Gift for Jack[23]
1947 Lux Radio Theatre One More Tomorrow[22]
1947 Family Theater Top Man[24]
1948 Screen Guild Theater Cheyenne[25]
1949 Screen Guild Theater One Sunday Afternoon[25]
1950 Lux Radio Theatre The Lady Takes a Sailor[26]
1950 Lux Radio Theatre One Sunday Afternoon[26]
1951 Family Theater Shadow on the Mountain[27]
1951 The Martin and Lewis Show The case of the battled bird watcher
1953 Lux Radio Theatre This Woman Is Dangerous[28]
1953 Family Theater 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea[24]


  1. ^ a b Too slick to play Rick Obituary:Dennis Morgan Bergan, Ronald. The Guardian October 18, 1994.
  2. ^ a b c "Dennis Morgan; ObituaryZwork=The Times". September 16, 1994.
  3. ^ a b c Shipman, David (September 10, 1994). "Obituary: Dennis Morgan". The Independent (3 ed.).
  4. ^ The Searcher. Vol. 35–36. Southern California Genealogical Society. 1998. p. 283. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  5. ^ Lamparinski, Richard (1982). Whatever Became Of... Crown Publishers. p. 283. ISBN 9780517543467. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  6. ^ Carroll University, "Distinguished Alumni Awards, Stanley Morner '30", retrieved December 29, 2014
  7. ^ "Dennis Morgan; Singer and Movie Actor". Los Angeles Times (Home ed.). September 9, 1994. p. 22.
  8. ^ "The Life Story of DENNIS MORGAN". Picture Show. Vol. 45, no. 1153. London. May 31, 1941. p. 13.
  9. ^ "Dennis Morgan Wins Singer-of-Year Honors". Los Angeles Times. December 20, 1947. p. A2.
  10. ^ Schallert, Edwin (December 31, 1948). "Old Guard' Holds Fort With Crosby Leading Big Box-Office Survey". Los Angeles Times. p. 9.
  11. ^ a b Scott, John L (October 16, 1967). "'RETIRED' NEARLY 10 YEARS: Dennis Morgan Back in Pictures DENNIS MORGAN BACK". Los Angeles Times. p. c1.
  12. ^ "Dennis Morgan Cast". Los Angeles Times. September 4, 1962. p. C17.
  13. ^ "Actor Dennis Morgan Dies; Leading Man in the 1940s". The Washington Post (FINAL ed.). September 9, 1994. p. b07.
  14. ^ "Hall of Fame a gala premiere". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Let's Go section, page 2. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  15. ^ "Actor Dennis Morgan, 72, hurt in crash". Chicago Tribune. January 25, 1983. p. a5.
  16. ^ "Archives".
  17. ^ Shelton, Charly (September 5, 2008). "An evening with Dennis Morgan". Glendale News-Press. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  18. ^ a b Two Strikes Park, programme for Memorial Day, 2012. Accessed March 15, 2015. Gives the history of the park.
  19. ^ Mike Lawler and Robert Newcombe, Images of America: la Crescenta (Charleston, Chicago, Portsmouth NH, San Francisco: Arcadia, 2005), p. 105
  20. ^ The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Notes, from Turner Classic Movies.
  21. ^ The 16 minute film, I Am an American, was featured in American theaters as a short feature in connection with "I Am an American Day" (now called Constitution Day). I Am an American was produced by Gordon Hollingshead, written and directed by Crane Wilbur. Besides Morgan, it featured Humphrey Bogart, Gary Gray, Dick Haymes, Danny Kaye, Joan Leslie, Knute Rockne, and Jay Silverheels. See: I Am An American at the TCM Movie Database and I Am an American at IMDb.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h "Old Time Radio Catalogue". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  23. ^ "The Jack Carson Show". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  24. ^ a b "Family Theater Episodes". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  25. ^ a b "Screen Guild Theater". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  26. ^ a b "Lux Radio Theatre". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  27. ^ "Otrnetwork Library". {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  28. ^ Kirby, Walter (March 15, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 46. Retrieved June 25, 2015 – via open access

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