Sunday, January 10, 2016

Born Today January 10: Ray Bolger


Born Raymond Wallace Balcao in Dorchester area of Boston; he developed a yen for the entertainment industry by going to vaudeville shows when he was young.  He changed his Portuguese last name to the easier to pronounce "Bolger," and started an act called "Sanford & Bolger" with his dance partner.  By 1926 he had landed a dancing gig at the New York's prestigious Palace Theater, which at the time was the top of the line vaudeville destination in the country.  Technically speaking his film career did not begin until 1936 (well into the early talkies) when he appeared  in the still well known and respected film The Great Ziegfeld.  However, he did appear in a comedy short two reel film, based on a vaudeville theme, as a banker.  The film was The Berth Mark and dates from 1926.  He most definitely best known as The Scarecrow in the landmark 1939 film production of The Wizard Of Oz.  He had a long acting career afterward, a great deal of which of was on the stage.  Indeed, he spent much of his time during the "golden age" of film in prominent stage productions, many of which were on Broadway.  His later work came mostly in television appearances, rather than full length film.  His last acting appearance came in a episode of Different Strokes in 1984.  He passed away from bladder cancer on the 15th of January 1987, just five days after his 83rd birthday.  At the time of his death, he was the last surviving main cast member from The Wizard Of Oz.  Two days later, the Chicago Tribune ran a cartoon of the cast dancing into the emerald city, with only the scarecrow running to catch up with the rest of the cast.  He is interred, next to his wife, who survived him, at Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery, a Roman Catholic resting place.  Bolger/Balcao had been born into a devout Roman catholic family, and was Irish/Portuguese in ethnicity.

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