“How lonely it is going to be now on the Yellow Brick Road.” — Ray Bolger
Ray Bolger was born on January 10th, 1904 near Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Today marks the anniversary of his death, at 83, in 1987.
Bolger, born Raymond Wallace Bulcao, was a song and dance man who won hearts on stage, in films and on TV. He is most famous for his role as the Scarecrow in the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz.
He started out in Vaudeville as one half of “Sanford & Bolger”. The duo became the top Vaudeville dance act in the country in the 1920’s. Here’s a clip of Ray doing a soft shoe number from Washington Square…
In 1926 he was discovered by show biz player and talent scout Gus Edwards. Edwards
… hired him for the Broadway show A Merry World. Numerous Broadway roles followed including the lead in the Rodgers and Hart 1936 classic On Your Toes. The strength of that performance earned him a movie contract from MGM. [findagrave.com]
Bolger played himself in 1936’s The Great Ziegfeld. He followed that with a movie a year for MGM (Rosalie in 1937 and Sweethearts in 1938). He was cast as the Tin Man for Oz, but when he realized that the character’s movements would be impaired by the “metal” costume Bolger convinced the producer to let me switch to the Scarecrow.
The Wizard of Oz was the last movie on his MGM contract (they opted not to re-sign him), though Bolger did come back to make the 1946 The Harvey Girls (again with Judy Garland). Bolger went over to RKO before heading back to Broadway. In 1948 he starred in Where’s Charley and won a Tony for “Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.”
On the small screen he had his own variety show (The Ray Bolger Show) and his own sit com (Where’s Raymond) along with a slew of guest and recurring roles on top rated network shows.
In all he starred in 14 Broadway shows and 18 major motion pictures in a career spanning over six decades.
He died of bladder cancer five days after his 83rd birthday. Bolger was the last surviving main cast member of the Wizard of Oz.
If you are a Wizard of Oz fan you might like Wendy’s Wizard of Oz page (There you’ll find cast bios, photos, a full script and lots more.)
Also if you are a Wizard of OZ collector you might want to check out the collectionary at http://thecollectionary.com/club/wizard-of-oz