Dennis Morgan: One of Two Guys from Milwaukee

We are amused to to observe that tenor Dennis Morgan (1908-1994) was typecast as an Irishman in such movies as The Fighting 69th (1940), Three Cheers for the Irish (1940), and My Wild Irish Rose (1947, as Chauncey Olcott). For Morgan was actually a Swede from Wisconsin, born Earl Stanley Morner. In some of his earlier films he was billed as Stanley Morner or Richard Stanley. Having come across a number of stars who kept changing their screen name mid-career it seems to me that doing so was a terrible idea. It’s hard enough being remembered under ONE name, and trading his previous ones for “Dennis Morgan” was a lateral move at best, if not a step down. Dennis Morgan is in some famous Hollywood movies. Do you remember anything about him?

Morgan started out as a sports announcer and then a star on radio, His big break was getting to sing “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” in the 1936 classic The Great Ziegfeld — he wasn’t billed at ALL in that one. In 1944 he played Jack Norworth in Shine On Harvest Moon opposte Ann Sheridan, which also featured Jack Carson. For several years he was teamed with Carson in a series of pictures loosely modeled on the Hope and Crosby idea. These were One More Tomorrow (1946), Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946), The Time, the Place and the Girl (1946), Two Guys from Texas (1948) and It’s a Great Feeling (1949).

Morgan appeared opposite Ginger Rogers in her Oscar winning turn in Kitty Foyle (1940) and later in Perfect Strangers (1950). He’s in John Huston’s second film, the campy melodrama In This Our Life (1942) with Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland. Christmas in Connecticut (1945) with Barbara Stanwyck was another semi-classic. The wartime musical Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) was another high profile turn.

Morgan was also associated with war films and westerns. The former include: Men with Wings (1938), Captains of the Clouds (1942), and God is My Co-Pilot (1945); the latter, Bad Men of Missouri (1941), Cheyenne (1947) and Cattle Town (1952). Uranium Boom (1956) was his last starring film of the studio period. He went on to star in a short-lived TV show called 21 Beacon Street (1959), and to make a half dozen guest appearances on other shows, the last of which was a 1980 episode of The Love Boat.

For more on show business history please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous