Ray Bolger (1904 - 1987)

ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM

Summary

Ray Bolger’s biography is built and maintained by people like you. Create an online profile of Ray so that his life is remembered forever. If any factual information is incorrect, please edit Ray’s biography.

Ray Bolger
Born January 10, 1904 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA
Died January 15, 1987 in Los Angeles, California, USA (cancer)
Birth Name Raymond Wallace Bolger
Height 5' 10½" (1.79 m)
Mini Bio (1)
Ray Bolger was born Raymond Wallace Bolger on January 10, 1904 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to Anne C. (Wallace) and James Edward Bolger, both Irish-Americans. Ray began his career in vaudeville. He was half of a team called "Sanford and Bolger" and also did numerous Broadway shows on his own. Like Gene Kelly, he was a song-and-dance man as well as an actor. He was signed to a contract with MGM and his first role was as himself in The Great Ziegfeld (1936). This was soon followed by a role opposite Eleanor Powell in the romantic comedy Rosalie (1937). His first dancing and singing role was in Sweethearts (1938), where he did the "wooden shoes" number with redheaded soprano/actress Jeanette MacDonald. This got him noticed by MGM producers and resulted in his being cast in his most famous role, the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Surprisingly, even though the film was a success, Bolger's contract with MGM ended. He went to RKO Radio Pictures to make the romantic comedy Four Jacks and a Jill (1942). After this, Bolger went to Broadway, where he received his greatest satisfaction. In 1953, he turned to television and received his own sitcom, Where's Raymond? (1953), later changed to "The Ray Bolger Show". After his series ended, Bolger guest starred on many television series such as Battlestar Galactica (1978) and Fantasy Island (1977), and had some small roles in movies. In 1985, he co-hosted the documentary film That's Dancing! (1985) with Liza Minnelli. Ray Bolger died of bladder cancer in Los Angeles, California on January 15, 1987, five days after his 83rd birthday.
Spouse (1)
Gwendolyn Bolger (9 July 1929 - 15 January 1987) ( his death)
Trade Mark (2)
His rubbery dancing style
His iconic role as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Trivia (13)
Great-uncle of actor John Bolger.
He was awarded 2 Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures at 6788 Hollywood Boulevard; and for Television at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
He was always closely identified with the Scarecrow. He once guest starred on the game show Password All-Stars (1961). When the word "Ray" came up, he said to his partner "Me!". His partner readily answered "Scarecrow!".
Following his death, he was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Was the last surviving cast member of The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Won Broadway's 1949 Tony Award as Best Actor (Musical) for "Where's Charley?", a role he recreated in the film version, Where's Charley? (1952). He was also nominated in the same Tony Award category in 1962 for "All American".
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 115-116. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Made his first Broadway stage appearance in 1926.
Bolger was among those entertainers who opened Manhattan's famed Radio City Music Hall on December 27, 1932. After the management realized that the public's taste for vaudeville had waned, it cut back on the live entertainment and supplemented it with movies.
He was a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California.
He was posthumously awarded a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in Palm Springs, California on January 10, 1998.
Inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame (1980) and the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame (2015).
Despite persistent web rumors, Ray was born Raymond Wallace Bolger, and the family's surname was never "Bulcao". His father, James Edward Bolger, was the son of Raymond Bolger and Maria Mahoney. His mother, Anne C. Wallace, was the daughter of William Wallace and Joanna Hassett. All of his grandparents were of Irish origin.
Personal Quotes (2)
[on playing the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939)] I knew that I was taking part in a strange kind of adventure.
[When asked how much money he made from the repeat showings of The Wizard of Oz (1939), he and his wife often responded] No residuals, just immortality.
Salary (1)
The Wizard of Oz (1939) $3,000 a week.

Ray Bolger Biography & Family History

This genealogy profile is dedicated to the life and ancestry of Ray Bolger and his immediate Bolger family. Add to Ray Bolger's genealogy page to share your memories & historical research with his family and other genealogy hobbyists.

Ray Bolger was also known as:

Raymond Wallace Bolger

Birth

in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts United States

Death

on in Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California United States

Cause of death

There is no cause of death listed for Ray.

Burial / Funeral

Do you know the final resting place - gravesite in a cemetery or location of cremation - of Ray Bolger? Add burial and funeral information.

Obituary

Last Known Residence

Did Ray move a lot? Did he emigrate from another country? Add Ray's last known location.

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Family

Add family members

Education

Did Ray finish grade school, get a GED, go to high school, get a college degree or masters? What schools or universities did Ray attend? Add education.

Professions

Stage work
Broadway productions
Year Title Role Theatre
1926 The Merry World Performer Imperial Theatre
1926 A Night in Paris Performer 44th Street Theatre
1929 Heads Up Georgie Alvin Theatre
1931 George White's Scandals of 1931 Performer Apollo Theatre
1934 Life Begins at 8:40 Performer Winter Garden Theatre
1936 On Your Toes Phil Dolan III, Hoofer Imperial Theatre
1940 Keep Off the Grass Performer Broadhurst Theatre
1942 By Jupiter Sapiens Shubert Theatre
1946 Three to Make Ready Performer Adelphi Theatre
1948 Where's Charley? Charley Wykeham St. James Theatre
1951 Where's Charley? (revival) Charley Wykeham Broadway Theatre
1962 All-American Professor Fodorski Winter Garden Theatre
1969 Come Summer Phineas Sharp Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

Organizations

Add organizations, groups and memberships.

Military Service

During World War II he organized U.S.O. shows that toured American military and naval bases around the world.

Middle name

Unknown. Add middle name

Surnames

Ethnicity

Unknown. Add Ray's ethnicity.

Nationality

Unknown. Add Ray's nationality.

Religion

Unknown. Was Ray a religious man? Add Ray’s religion

Gender

Male

Timeline

1904 - In the year that Ray Bolger was born, the "Teddy's Bear" was first produced. After seeing a political cartoon of President Teddy Roosevelt refusing to kill a clubbed and tied up bear, Jewish Russian immigrant Morris Michtom - who owned a candy shop and sold stuffed animals that he and his wife made at night at the store - made a "Teddy's Bear" and put it in his shop's window. The stuffed bears were an immediate success and Michtom and his wife went on to found the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co.

1934 - By the time he was 30 years old, on June 6th, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was formed as a response to the stock market crash of 1929 and the continuing Great Depression. Previously, the states regulated the offering and sales of stocks - called "blue sky" laws. They were largely ineffective. Roosevelt created a group (one member was Joseph Kennedy, father of the future President Kennedy) who knew Wall Street well and they defined the mission and operating mode for the SEC. The new organization had broad and stringent rules and oversight and restored public confidence in the stock market in the United States.

1940 - Ray was 36 years old when on November 5th, President Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a third term, defeating Wendell Willkie of Indiana (a corporate lawyer). Roosevelt running for a third term was controversial. But the U.S. was emerging from the Great Recession and he promised that he would not involve the country in any foreign war (which of course changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor). Roosevelt defeated Willkie in the popular vote by 54.7 to 44.8% and in the Electoral College 449 to 82.

1946 - He was 42 years old when on July 4th, the Philippines gained independence from the United States. In 1964, Independence Day in the Philippines was moved from July 4th to June 12th at the insistence of nationalists and historians.

1987 - In the year of Ray Bolger's passing, on October 19th, stock exchanges around the world crashed. Beginning in Hong Kong then spreading to Europe, the crash then hit the United States. It was called Black Monday. The Dow Jones fell 508 points to 1,738.74 (22.61%).

Ray Bolger Family Tree

Who was Ray’s parents? Did he get married and did they have children? Share Ray’s family tree to share his legacy and genealogy pedigree.

Ray's Family
Add a parent
Add a parent
Ray Bolger
Add a partner
Add a child
Add a sibling

You can add or remove people from Ray's family tree by clicking here.

Obituary

This obit of Ray Bolger is updated by the community. Edit this biography to contribute to his obituary. Include details such as cemetery, burial, newspaper obituary and grave or marker inscription if available.

RAY BOLGER, SCARECROW IN 'OZ,' DIES
By GLENN FOWLER JAN. 16, 1987
Ray Bolger, the looselimbed song-and-dance man who became known to millions as the Scarecrow in ''The Wizard of Oz,'' died yesterday of cancer in Los Angeles. He had his 83rd birthday last Saturday and lived in Beverly Hills.
Among his many roles on stage, screen and television in a career than spanned six decades, none captured the public imagination more than his appearance in the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland that sent him, along with the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) and the Tin Woodman (Jack Haley), on a journey along the Yellow Brick Road with Dorothy, the girl from Kansas uprooted by a cyclone, in her search for the Wizard (Frank Morgan).
The last survivor of the four, Mr. Bolger also outlived their nemesis, Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, who died in 1985. The film, in which the Scarecrow's lean, seemingly straw-filled body is propelled by long legs that bend with the wind, is a perennial favorite on television, being shown worldwide at least once a year.
The Broadway stage was Mr. Bolger's first and abiding love. Born Raymond Wallace Bolger in Boston on Jan. 10, 1904, he began acting in amateur theatricals and at one point was dismissed by an insurance company after being caught dancing in a hallway. He Started at 19
His got his first paid acting job at the age of 19 with a repertory company and soon was appearing in vaudeville with Gus Edwards. There followed Broadway appearances in ''George White's Scandals'' (1931), ''Life Begins at 8:40'' (1934) and, in 1936, the musical ''On Your Toes,'' in which he won acclaim for his dancing in the number ''Slaughter on 10th Avenue,'' choreographed by George Balanchine.
Soon he was in Hollywood appearing in such musicals as ''The Great Ziegfeld,'' ''Rosalie'' and ''Sweethearts'' as well as ''The Wizard of Oz.'' But he was inevitably drawn back to the Broadway stage and in the years after World War II he was a regular in the Little Bar at Sardi's, where show-business luminaries gathered.
In 1948 he opened in the musical ''Where's Charley,'' a vehicle that made him as celebrated on the stage as he had already become in film. In the remake of the hoary stage play ''Charley's Aunt,'' he created his most memorable singing number, ''Once in Love With Amy.'' Long after the three-year run of ''Where's Charley,'' he was called upon to sing the lilting ballad and to perform the soft-shoe-dance routine accompanying it almost every time he appeared on television. A Comedian First and Last
Mr. Bolger, who was 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall, was so thin that in his solo performances in the spotlight he appeared to be much taller. His legs were so flexible he appeared to be disjointed - even disembodied - as he leapt into the air to punctuate a song-and-dance number. Indeed, many who watched him in later years were unable to shake the image of the straw-stuffed Scarecrow flopping about on boneless legs as he lurched down the Yellow Brick Road.
Although he won his greatest acclaim as a dancer, Mr. Bolger considered himself first of all a comedian. For that reason, he was particularly gratified by the success of the farce, ''Charley's Aunt,'' the starring vehicle that was produced by his wife, Gwen Rickard, whom he had met in 1924 and married five years later. She remained a strong force in his career until it ended less than three years ago with an injury that removed him from the performing stage.
In mid-1984 he suffered an injury to his right hip that necessitated his receiving an artificial joint. ''I stepped down from the stage and there was nothing there,'' he said afterward. ''I tried to do another show, but I was not up to par and I had to cancel.'' A 'Dancer in Self-Defense'
His last performance was in 1985 as a narrator in ''That's Dancing,'' an anthology that included a Scarecrow dance that had been cut from the final version of ''The Wizard of Oz.''
Early in his career he decided that comedy was his metier and that his gift for dancing was mainly a vehicle to enable him to win the comic roles he sought.
''I was hired as a comedian in my first show,'' he said many years later. ''I became a dancer in self-defense. I was doing a comedy monologue and didn't know how else to get off, so I danced off. I've been dancing ever since, but I'm still a comedian.''
Over the years he danced and sang his way into many shows, including ''Keep Off the Grass'' (1940), ''By Jupiter'' (1942) and ''Three to Make Ready''(1946) During World War II he organized U.S.O. shows that toured American military and naval bases around the world.
Among his films were ''The Harvey Girls'' (1945), ''April in Paris'' (1952) and ''Babes in Toy Land'' (1961).
He became a familiar figure on television, beginning in 1952 with his debut on ''The Comedy Hour,'' followed in 1953 by ''The Ray Bolger Show,'' which appeared weekly on ABC. In 1956 he did the NBC-TV series ''Washington Square.''
In 1979, departing from his lighthearted appearances, he made a dramatic appearances as a somber dignitary of the Roman Catholic Church in ''The Runner Stumbles.''
With all his work in film and television, he continually returned to the stage, appearing in one-man shows and song-and-dance concerts.
In a sense, these concerts were a return to his first attempts in show business. As a teen-ager in Boston, where he attended public schools, he danced on street corners. After brief jobs as an insurance agent and a vacuum-cleaner salesman, he got a job dusting the studio of a noted ballet instructor of the time, Senia Rusakoff. But he was not drawn to classical dance.
He learned the acting craft with a repertory company headed by Bob Ott, to whom he later gave credit for schooling him in the comedy. Soon his long, rubbery legs propelled him into a style of dance that he was later to make his own, characterized by the swooping steps that seemed to carry him across a stage in one or two bounds.
Leaving the Ott troupe, he went into vaudeville on his own, playing small towns in New England and the mid-Atlantic states before he finally arrived in New York, where he landed a job dancing at movie houses in the Paramount chain between films. It was there that Gus Edwards found him in 1926 and put him on the Broadway stage.
Among the awards Mr. Bolger received were the Tony award in the 1948-49 season and two Donaldson awards for best performance. In 1980 he was elected to the Theater Hall of Fame.
Surviving is Mr. Bolger's wife, the former Gwen Rickard. The couple had no children.
Mr. Bolger died at the Nazareth Nursing Home in Los Angeles. A funeral service will be held on Monday at the Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills.

Memories

What do you remember about Ray Bolger? Share your memories of special moments and stories you have heard about him. Or just leave a comment to show the world that Ray is remembered.

Write a comment

Other Records of Ray Bolger

ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM

Success Stories from Biographies like Ray Bolger

I have to tell you a VERY special story about how AncientFaces helped to reunite our family. For 13 years, I have been searching for my grandmother's missing sister. She just disappeared from the family in the 1930s without a trace. No one ever knew where or when she died or where she was buried. My years of searching have just run into dead ends, so I had given up. Today, out-of-the-blue, a young lady called me and said that she had seen a photograph on AncientFaces and one of the women in the photo was her grandmother! Little did I know that she had left a small child behind when she died so young of TB. You can imagine our shock and excitement at finding each other and a whole new family that we never knew existed. We only live one state away from each other and very soon plan to have all family members meet to share our sides of "the story" and of course, many, many more picturesl AncientFaces...... without you, this family may never have been complete and Aunt Grace would have been lost to us forever. I hope you realize what a valuable service you provide and how grateful we are to have found you. Thank you!!!! -Lynda B.
I never knew my biological family. My family is my mother and father who raised me. But, as I got older I got curious about my heritage. It took me years of investigation to finally discover my parents’ names. Well, I get goosebumps just writing this, I have found my biological family because of AncientFaces. Yes!! I did a search for my [parents' names] and was shocked to find a photo of them on AncientFaces! I cannot tell you the feeling that came over me when I saw this photo - to see the faces of my biological parents…JUST LIKE THAT. I left a comment on the photo and you won’t believe this - the owner of the photo is MY SISTER!!! Yes, I have a LITTLE sister! It turns out my parents were too young when they had me and had to give me up. My little sister knew I existed and wanted to find me but had no way of doing it. Thanks to you I am meeting my little sister for the first time next month. GOD BLESS YOU ANCIENTFACES. -Anonymous
We have found our missing relative entirely thanks to AncientFaces. We have received a much clearer photo of Captain Grant from his Son. The picture we on AncientFaces is an old yellowed newspaper photo. I am attaching the new photo and ask that you take the old one out and put the new clear picture in its place. With our Canadian Remembrance Day here in 2 days - the timing could not be better. Thank You, AncientFaces. My long lost Aunt is now 86 years old and her Son and I are talking by phone and e-mails. Captain Grant was his Father and died in France in 1944 and is buried there. By posting pictures of the visit to his gravesite - we connected through one of his brothers. Amazing that our prayers have been answered. Thank you -Beth B.
I came home for lunch yesterday and decided to look at my email before going back to work. The weekly newsletter that I subscribe to from the Logan Family History Center had this message in it about AncientFaces. I clicked on the link and the first search I did was for Woodruff, and Mamie was the first picture that came up. I could hardly stand it. I was late getting back to work. I had to add comments and write to you. Thank you for noticing her in the store and for the website. I can't help but wonder how many other family pictures may have ended up in that store and why. I also can't help but feel that it was meant to be and that there is a purpose that this picture is coming home as you say. What are the chances of this all just happening? It's amazing that you even picked it up at the store and then went to all the extra effort to post it. It makes me feel as though you have been my friend forever. It certainly has given me a connection to you, and I have a love for what you do. I just can't tell you how excited I am. I can't even hold it in. -Cathy K., Utah
I have previously submitted several pictures of my grandfather August Zemidat. I have tried for many years to find anyone with that name, and I have searched many genealogy web sites to no avail. Recently I was contacted by someone who saw my pictures on AncientFaces who may well be a cousin. She also provided me with information that seems to indicate her grandparents were my grandfather’s siblings. Considering the many years I have been searching for the name Zemidat, I find this is absolutely amazing that I have finally found a family member. Thank you AncientFaces -Ron D.
I love AncientFaces, a while back I saw that you had labeled Garcia surname pictures. At the time I didn’t have all my family facts for my research. Anyway, I wandered into your site just to check it out AND NOW 1 YEAR LATER I received a picture from an 87 year old aunt and guess what you had this very same picture on your site!! (They were my great aunts and my great-grandmother!). Thank you… -Angela M.
I have loved AncientFaces since I first found it, it's the first thing I check when I turn on the computer. There was a time when even in the most modest households there were three cherished possessions, a family Bible. a family album and a fancy lamp. It was usual for the family to gather in the parlour, generally on Sunday and talk, tell stories of family and friends with the photos in the albums as illustration. Sadly in our modern electronic age we have fallen away from the oral tradition and interest in history has waned. I was quite shocked on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic to see so many comments from younger people who were surprised to learn that the Titanic wasn't just a movie. This is why AncientFaces is so important, to me it's the electronic age version of the oral tradition on a global scale and the sheer volume of people who follow, comment and contribute seems to prove the point. We are all grateful to you all for providing us with this wonderful site. - Arba M.