RAY BOLGER Biography - Famous Poets and dancers


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Name: Ray Bolger                                                                     
Birth name: Raymond Wallace Bolger                                                   
Born: 10 January 1904 Dorchester, Massachusetts, U.S.                               
Died: 15 January 1987 Los Angeles, California                                       
Ray Bolger (January 10, 1904 - January 15, 1987) was an American entertainer of     
stage and screen, best known for his portrayal of the Scarecrow and Kansas           
farmworker Hunk in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.                                 
Bolger was born Raymond Wallace Bulcao and spent his early life in a                 
predominantly Irish neighborhood in Dorchester, Massachusetts. His father, James     
Edward Bulcao, was a Portuguese-American house-painter; his mother, Anne             
Wallace, an Irish-American, was a homemaker. Both parents were Roman Catholics.     
Raymond was inspired by the vaudeville shows he attended when he was young to       
become an entertainer himself. He began his career as a dancer. His limber body     
and ability to ad lib movement won him many starring roles on Broadway in the       
1930s. Eventually, his career would also encompass film, television and             
nightclub work.                                                                     
His film career began when he signed a contract with MGM in 1936. His best-known     
film prior to The Wizard of Oz was The Great Ziegfeld (1936), in which he           
portrayed himself.                                                                   
Bolger's studio contract stipulated that he would play any part the studio chose;   
however, he was unhappy when he was cast as the Tin Man. The Scarecrow part 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 Man costume. (The powdered aluminum had been inhaled and coated     
Ebsen's lungs, leaving him near death. Ironically, Ebsen would outlive all the       
principal players of Oz.) Ebsen's illness paved the way for the Tin Man role to     
be filled by Jack Haley.                                                             
Bolger's performance in Oz was a tour de force. He displayed the full range of       
his physical, comedic, and dramatic talents playing the character searching for     
the brain that he has always had. The Scarecrow's sympathy for Dorothy Gale's       
plight, his cleverness and bravery in rescuing her from the Wicked Witch of the     
West (played by Margaret Hamilton) and his deep affection for her shone through,     
endearing the character — and Bolger — in the public mind forever. Whenever     
queried as to whether he received any residuals from telecasts of the 1939           
classic, Bolger would reply: "No, just immortality. I'll settle for that."           
Ray toured in the USO shows with Joe E. Lewis in the Pacific Theater during WWII.   
Following Oz, Bolger moved to RKO. In 1946, he recorded a memorable children's       
album, "The Churkendoose", featuring the story of a misfit fowl ("part chicken,     
turkey, duck, and goose") who teaches kids that beauty is in the eye of the         
beholder and it all "depends on how you look at things".                             
Bolger also starred in several more films, including Walt Disney's 1961 remake       
of Babes in Toyland, and had a sitcom called Where's Raymond? from 1953-1955 (also   
known as The Ray Bolger Show). He also made frequent guest appearances on           
television. 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 Tin Man actor Jack Haley. Minnelli and Haley, Jr. would have a brief         
marriage some years later.                                                           
He also appeared in Little House On The Prairie as Toby Noe.                         
Bolger's Broadway credits included On Your Toes, By Jupiter, All American, and       
Where's Charley?, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical       
and in which he introduced "Once in Love with Amy," the song most often             
connected with him (next to "If I Only Had a Brain"). He repeated his stage role     
in the 1952 Technicolor film version of the musical.                                 
In his later years, he danced in a Dr. Pepper advert.                               
Bolger died of bladder cancer on January 15, 1987 (five days after his 83rd         
birthday) in Los Angeles, California. He was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery,       
Culver City, California, in the Mausoleum, Crypt F2, Block 35.                       
He was survived by his wife of over 57 years, Gwendolyn Rickard. At the time         
of his death, he was the last surviving member of the main Oz cast. An editorial     
cartoon on January 17, by Chicago Tribune artist Dick Locher, featured the Oz       
cast dancing off into the setting sun and toward the Emerald City, with the         
Scarecrow running to catch up.