Ray Bolger (1904 - 1987)



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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

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Ray Bolger was also known as:

Raymond Wallace Bolger


in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts United States


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

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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


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

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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%).

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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, 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.


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