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Ray Bolger

The Scarecrow, Hunk Andrews

Ray Bolger's [1904–1987] (Hunk Andrews / Scarecrow) 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. 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."

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.

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.