|Cause of death Bladder cancer|
Height 1.79 m
|Name Ray Bolger|
Years active 1922–1985
|Full Name Raymond Wallace Bulcao|
Born January 10, 1904 (1904-01-10) Dorchester, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City
Occupation vaudevillian actor singer dancer
Known for Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz
Died January 15, 1987, Los Angeles, California, United States
Spouse Gwendolyn Bolger (m. 1929–1987)
TV shows Where's Raymond?, The Colgate Comedy Hour, Captains and the Kings, The Entertainer
Movies The Wizard of Oz, Babes in Toyland, The Harvey Girls, The Great Ziegfeld, April in Paris
Similar People Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Margaret Hamilton, Judy Garland
Death on the Nile Wins Costume Design: 1979 Oscars
Raymond Wallace "Ray" Bolger (January 10, 1904 – January 15, 1987) was an American actor, singer, and dancer (particularly of tap) of vaudeville, stage (particularly musical theatre) and screen, who started in the silent film era. He is best known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow in what is widely considered among the best films of all time, MGM's The Wizard of Oz. He was also the host of his own television show, The Ray Bolger Show.
- Death on the Nile Wins Costume Design 1979 Oscars
- Early life
- Early career
- The Wizard of Oz
- Post Oz film career
- Broadway and television
- Death and legacy
Raymond Wallace Bolger was born into a Roman Catholic family of Irish descent in Dorchester, Boston, the son of James Edward and Anne C. (née Wallace) Bolger.
His entertainment aspirations evolved from the vaudeville shows of his youth. He began his career in a vaudeville tap show, creating the act "Sanford & Bolger" with his dance partner. In 1926, he danced at New York City's legendary Palace Theatre, the premier vaudeville theatre in the United States. His limber body and improvisational dance movement won him many leading roles on Broadway in the 1930s. Eventually, his career would also encompass film, television and nightclub work. In 1932 he was elected to the famous theater club, The Lambs.
Bolger signed his first cinema contract with MGM in 1936, and although The Wizard of Oz was early in his film career, he appeared in other movies of note. His best known pre-Oz appearance was The Great Ziegfeld (1936), in which he portrayed himself. He also appeared in Sweethearts (1938), the first MGM film in Technicolor, starring Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald, and Frank Morgan. He also appeared in the Eleanor Powell vehicle Rosalie (1937), which also starred Eddy and Morgan.
The Wizard of Oz
Bolger's MGM contract stipulated that he would play any part the studio chose. However, he was unhappy when he was originally cast as the Tin Woodman in the studio's 1939 feature film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. The role of the Scarecrow had already been assigned to another lean and limber dancing studio contract player, Buddy Ebsen. In time, the roles were switched. While Bolger was pleased with his role as the Scarecrow, Ebsen was struck ill by the powdered aluminum make-up used to complete the Tin Woodman costume. The powdered aluminum badly coated Ebsen's lungs, leaving him near death. While Ebsen recuperated from his illness, Jack Haley was instead cast in the role of the Tin Woodman. Meanwhile, Bolger's face was permanently lined by wearing the Scarecrow's makeup.
Post-Oz film career
Following Oz, Bolger moved to RKO Pictures. In 1941, he was a featured act at the Paramount Theatre in New York, working with the Harry James Band. He would do tap dance routines, sometimes in a mock-challenge dance with the band's pianist, Al Lerner. One day during this period, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and Bolger's performance was interrupted by President Roosevelt's announcement of the news of the attack. Bolger toured in USO shows with Joe E. Lewis in the Pacific Theater during World War II, and was featured in the United Artists wartime film Stage Door Canteen.
In 1946, he returned to MGM for a featured role in The Harvey Girls. Also that year, he recorded a children's album, The Churkendoose, featuring the story of a misfit fowl ("part chicken, turkey, duck, and goose") which teaches children that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it "all depends on how you look at things".
Broadway and television
Bolger's Broadway credits included Life Begins at 8:40 (1934), On Your Toes (1936), By Jupiter (1942), All American (1962) and Where's Charley? (1948), for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical and in which he introduced "Once in Love with Amy", the song often connected with him. He repeated his stage role in the 1952 film version of the musical. He also made April in Paris (1952) with Doris Day.
Bolger appeared in his own ABC television sitcom with a variety show theme, Where's Raymond? (1953–1954), renamed the second year as The Ray Bolger Show (1954–55). He continued to star in several films, including Walt Disney's remake of Babes in Toyland (1961).
Bolger made frequent guest appearances on television, including the episode "Rich Man, Poor Man" of the short-lived The Jean Arthur Show in 1966. In the 1970s, he had a recurring role as the father of Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones) on The Partridge Family, and appeared in Little House on the Prairie as Toby Noe and also guest starred on other television series such as Battlestar Galactica and Fantasy Island. His last television appearance was on Diff'rent Strokes in 1984, three years before his death.
In his later years, he danced in a Dr Pepper television commercial, and in 1985, he and Liza Minnelli, the daughter of his Oz co-star Judy Garland, starred in That's Dancing!, a film also written by Jack Haley, Jr., the son of Jack Haley, who portrayed the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.
In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
He was a Roman Catholic, and a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California.
Bolger was a staunch Republican who campaigned for Richard Nixon in 1968.
Death and legacy
Bolger died of bladder cancer on January 15, 1987 in Los Angeles, five days after his 83rd birthday. He was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City in the Mausoleum, Crypt F2, Block 35. He was survived by his wife of over 57 years, Gwendolyn Rickard. They had no children.
At the time of his death, he was the last surviving main credited cast member of The Wizard of Oz. At Judy Garland's funeral, Bolger was the only one of her Oz co-stars to be present. He joined Harold Arlen, the composer of "Over the Rainbow", and his wife Anya Taranda. They were reported as among the last remaining guests at the conclusion of the service.
Whenever asked whether he received any residuals from telecasts of the 1939 classic, Bolger would reply: "No, just immortality. I'll settle for that." Bolger is ranked among the "most beloved movie characters of all time" by AMC and the American Film Institute.