Marc Platt dies at 100; performed with Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and on Broadway


Dancers Marc Platt and Katherine Sergava in a scene from Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "Oklahoma!" at the St. James Theatre on Broadway in 1943. Mr. Platt died March 29 at 100. (Gjon Mili/LIFE©Time Inc.)

Marc Platt, a dancer who crisscrossed the country in the 1930s with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo before bringing his buoyant charm to such musicals as the original Broadway production of “Oklahoma!” and the film “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” died March 29 in San Rafael, Calif. He was 100.

The cause was complications from pneumonia, said a daughter, Donna Platt.

Mr. Platt was one of a small number of Americans to earn a spot in the esteemed ballet troupe that played a critical role in introducing ballet to U.S. audiences. At a time when many of the dance greats were Russian-trained, the Ballet Russe required the California-born Mr. Platt to Russify his name. As Marc Platoff, he rose to the rank of soloist with the Ballet Russe before decamping in 1942 to dance on Broadway and in Hollywood.

He drew wide acclaim with the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II musical “Oklahoma!” (1943). The musical ran five years on Broadway, introduced such standards as the title song and “People Will Say We’re in Love,” and launched the careers of many of its featured players, including Alfred Drake and Celeste Holm.

In a long balletic dream sequence choreographed by Agnes de Mille, Mr. Platt played the dancing alter ego of the cowboy hero (“Dream Curly”) opposite Katherine Sergava as the object of his affection (“Dream Laurey”). In the New York Times, dance critic John Martin praised Mr. Platt’s work in the “difficult assignment of sheer romantic maleness defeated by sinister forces.”


Agnes de Mille introduces Army Lt. Walter Prude to Marc Platt, left, and Katherine Sergava, second from right, featured dancers, backstage at the St. James Theater in New York on Nov. 29, 1943. Prude married de Mille, who designed and directed the dances in "Oklahoma!" (Anonymous/AP)

After signing with Columbia Pictures, Mr. Platt’s greatest showcase was the 1945 movie musical “Tonight and Every Night,” which starred Rita Hayworth as a theater performer in London during World War II.

In his solo dance sequence, Mr. Platt displays great versatility. He makes jaunty, athletic jumps and clean, balletic pirouettes that give way to sizzling flamenco-inspired footwork. Times film critic Bosley Crowther singled out Mr. Platt’s “brilliant solo dance” and noted that his “flying leaps in this picture should carry him to Hollywood heights.”

Leading parts eluded him, but Mr. Platt appeared in a series of low-budget musicals in the late 1940s opposite Hayworth (“Down to Earth”), Janet Blair (“Tars and Spars”) and Adele Jergens (“When a Girl’s Beautiful”).

In director Stanley Donen’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954), Mr. Platt plays Daniel, the fourth brother in a back-country Oregon brood. In a romp of a dance that takes place at a barn-raising party, he and five of his brothers (played by such professional dancers as Matt Mattox, Tommy Rall and Jacques d’Amboise) attempt to woo the ladies on the dance floor with a fast-moving barrage of acrobatics, twirls and overhead lifts.

In the 1955 film version of “Oklahoma!,” Mr. Platt appears in a small role as one of Curly’s pals. He retired not long afterward.

“With a few notable exceptions, a dancer’s career is a relatively brief one,” he told interviewer Richard Lamparski. “Mine was shortened considerably by what [choreographer] Jack Cole put me through in three pictures. He loved people sliding all over the floors on their knees, and mine were bothering me a lot when I quit.”

Mr. Platt, whose father was a classical violinist and whose mother was a soprano, was born Marcel Emile Gaston Leplat on Dec. 2, 1913, in Pasadena, Calif. He grew up in Seattle and began dancing at 11, following a girl he liked to the dance studio.

As he grew to enjoy dance, he studied under the prominent pedagogue Mary Ann Wells and danced with companies in the Pacific Northwest before joining the Ballet Russe in the late 1930s.

The schedule was grueling, with rehearsals often scheduled to begin at 11 p.m. or midnight if the troupe had just wrapped up a show. He told the Seattle Times that he and other dancers saved money by “ghosting” in hotels as the company toured the country. One dancer would register for a room, and several others would sneak in.

“We’d toss coins to see who would sleep on the box spring or the mattress,” he said.

After his initial burst of movie fame, Mr. Platt toured in road companies and nightclub productions. He also lost out to Alan Young for the role of Wilbur in the talking-horse sitcom “Mr. Ed.”

He was a stage producer and ballet director at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in the 1960s, then settled in Florida to help his second wife, Jean Goodall, run a ballet studio. She died in 1994.

Mr. Platt’s first marriage, to dancer Eleanor Marra, ended in divorce. Survivors include a son from his first marriage; two children from his second marriage; and a granddaughter.

Through his 90s, Mr. Platt continued to take the stage in small cameo roles, including as a toymaker in the Marin Dance Theatre’s production of “The Nutcracker.” But in a 2005 documentary about the Ballet Russe, he admitted that the steps didn’t feel quite the same as they did decades earlier.

“A plié hurts,” Mr. Platt lamented. “And a pas de basque would kill me.”

Sarah Halzack is a reporter and Web editor for Capital Business. She covers the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She occasionally writes for other sections at the Post, most frequently in the form of dance reviews, dance features, book reviews and obituaries.
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