Roland Dupree, an actor, choreographer and dancer who served as the live-action model for Disney’s 1953 animated classic Peter Pan, has died. He was 89.
Dupree, who played Shirley Temple’s boyfriend in Miss Annie Rooney (1942), died June 21 of natural causes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, his friend told the Albuquerque Journal this week.
A native of Fall River, Massachusetts, Dupree was one of the young dancers in a group known as “Jivin’ Jacks and Jills” when he was signed by Universal, where he appeared in musicals with The Andrews Sisters and Donald O’Connor.
He later signed a contract with MGM and portrayed Ann Sothern’s lovesick bellhop in Maisie Goes to Reno (1944).
When Walt Disney Studios was looking for someone to perform Peter Pan’s dance moves — in those days, actors had to be filmed so that animators could then use the images to make their characters look real — Dupree answered the call.
Dupree later choreographed a dance act called The Dupree Trio that played in nightclubs and on TV variety shows; developed a “West Coast jazz” style of dance that featured elements of ballet, modern and tap; and opened the Dupree Dance Academy in Los Angeles.
His students included actresses Juliet Prowse, Barbara Eden, Lesley Ann Warren, Olympic figure-skating champion Peggy Fleming and Marine Jahan, who doubled for Jennifer Beals in Flashdance (1983).
Survivors include his adopted sister Judy, nephew Cory and niece Joy. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested for the Watermelon Mountain Ranch pet rescue organization.