OBITUARIES : E. Meglin, 93; ‘Meglin Kiddies’ Dance Instructor

Times Staff Writer

Ethel Meglin, whose thousands of dancing “Meglin Kiddies” once included Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Gwen Verdon, Gloria Lynn and Shirley Temple, is dead at the age of 98.

Her daughter, Marilyn Peitz, said her mother had died Tuesday at her home in the Orange County city of Dana Point.

At one point, in 1936, when she merged her studios with those of the Fanchon and Marco organization, Ethel Meglin presided over what was believed the largest dance organization in the nation--137 schools.


And although she later backed away from that affiliation, claiming that Fanchon and Marco did not devote enough time to teaching her beloved moppets, her name remained synonymous with performing youth until her retirement in 1962.

Her name was Moegling, which she simplified to Meglin when she moved to New York from Cincinnati, where she had taught dance. She performed for Florenz Ziegfeld in his Follies and came to Los Angeles about 1920, her daughter said.

“They lived near Aimee Semple McPherson’s church (northwest of downtown Los Angeles) and Mack Sennett (the legendary producer of silent comedies) had an office nearby that she rented.

“She started teaching with about 30 kids and was looking around for a show to put them in. A producer was interested but wanted 100 kids. So she had her 30 bring in their brothers and sisters and that’s how it all started.”

June Lang, an actress and longtime friend who studied with Meglin, said the affiliation gave many children their first show business opportunity.

“It gave them the incentive to continue on and decide whether they wanted to be an actor, actress or dancer. It gave them an interest in pursuing a career in the theatrical world.”

The Meglin Kiddies sang on local radio stations and appeared in several movies, including “An American in Paris” with Gene Kelly and, in the early 1950s, on Meglin’s local television show, “The Meglin Review.”

In the 1930s and ‘40s, her youngsters were also seen on most of the stages of downtown Los Angeles--either in their own productions or as a variety act between film double features.

“The fact that she franchised her studios made the country aware of the talent of children (and that) parents should give their children dance lessons, teach them to do something other than sitting around after school,” Lang said.

The last Meglin Studio in Hollywood closed in 1962, after the death of Richard Meglin, her husband. Ethel Meglin retired because of illness.

She is survived by her daughter. Mass is scheduled Saturday at St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Dana Point followed by burial at Ascension Cemetery in El Toro.