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Ray Bolger

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b. Raymond Wallace Bolger, 10 January 1904, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, d. 15 January 1987, Los Angeles, California, USA. An eccentric, rubber-legged dancer with a style and image that had to be seen to be believed. He started out as a comedian in 1922 with the Bob Ott Musical Repertory Company and four years later gained a small part in a Broadway show called The Merry Whirl. After a spell in vaudeville, he returned to Broadway in the late 20s and 30s in shows such as Heads Up, George White’s Scandals, Life Begins At 8:40, and On Your Toes (1936). Bolger shot to stardom in the latter show in which he introduced the lovely ‘There’s A Small Hotel’, and performed an hilarious eccentric dance in Richard Rodgers’ famous ‘Slaughter On Tenth Avenue’ ballet. After leaving the show he moved to Hollywood and appeared in The Great Ziegfeld, Rosalie, Sweethearts, and one of the most memorable films of all time, The Wizard Of Oz (1939), in which he played the Scarecrow in search of a brain. After returning to New York for the short-lived musical Keep Off The Grass (1940), he made one more film, Sunny (1941), before leaving for the South Pacific where he entertained troops with the USO during World War II. He was back on Broadway in 1942 for By Jupiter, and then the revue Three To Make Ready, in which he stopped the show regularly with the charming ‘That Old Soft Shoe’, complete with straw hat and cane. Frank Loesser’s Where’s Charley? came along in 1948 and gave Bolger his greatest role; he introduced the gentle ‘Once In Love With Amy’, and it subsequently became his signature tune. During the 40s and 50s he made several more films including Stage Door Canteen, Four Jacks And A Jill, The Harvey Girls, Look For The Silver Lining, Where’s Charley?, and April In Paris. In 1962 and 1969 he appeared in two more stage musicals, All American and Come Summer, but mostly during the 60s and 70s he mixed feature films such as Babes In Toyland, The Daydreamer, The Runner Stumbles, and Just You And Me Kid, with television movies that included The Entertainer, The Captains And The Kings, and Only Heaven Knows. In the MGM extravaganza That’s Entertainment!, he looked back affectionately on a career that had spanned well over half a century. Three years later he died of cancer at the age of 83.

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