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Ray Bolger, Scarecrow in ‘Wizard of Oz,’ Dies

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Ray Bolger, Scarecrow in ‘Wizard of Oz,’ Dies

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Ray Bolger, who portrayed the rubber-legged Scarecrow in the 1939 film ′′Wizard of Oz,′′ died of cancer on Thursday. He was 83 years old.

He lived in Beverly Hills and celebrated his 83rd birthday on Saturday.

According to family spokesperson Barry Greenberg, the last survivor of that committed and desperate band of travelers who made filmdom’s fabled trek down the Yellow Brick Road to see “The Wizard of Oz” died at a Los Angeles nursing facility.

Mr. Bolger was a dynamo of a tap dancer and a maestro of the old soft shoe, recognized for his feverish energy and inventive movements that wowed Broadway audiences in 1936 in the marathon “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue Ballet” in the play “On Your Toes.”

Bolger’s stage, movie, and television career spanned six decades, and he liked to think of himself as a comic rather than a dancer.

Among his many roles, none captivated audiences more than his role as the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) and the Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) in the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, which 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 Kansas girl uprooted (Frank Morgan).

But all of this happened years after a timid Raymond Wallace Bolger worked as a bank clerk, vacuum cleaner salesman, and accountant in his hometown of Dorchester, Massachusetts, while also taking dance classes on the side.

Mr. Bolger went on to create another especially memorable moment on the Broadway musical stage in the late 1940s as the star of “Where’s Charley?” endowed with an irrepressible spontaneity and an infectious grin that gave him a special rapport with his audiences.

Judy Garland appeared as Dorothy, Jack Haley as the Tin Man, and Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in the picture, which is still a perennial television favorite.

Producer Jack Haley Jr., whose father played the Tin Man, described Ray Bolger as a gentleman, a scholar, a tremendous wit, and a terrific performer.

″In 1979, Ray spoke at my father’s funeral,″ said Haley. ″We were all touched when he mentioned how lonely it was to be finally all by himself on the Yellow Brick Road. Now, Dorothy and her friends are back together again.″

Mr. Bolger also outlived Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, who died in 1985.

He took those lessons, according to biographers and press agents, after his mother assured him that a few waltz moves she had shown him were all he needed to know for his high school prom. His evening’s date was not impressed.

The audience was attracted irresistibly to join him as he launched into the show-stopping song “Once in Love with Amy.” He had guided 890 audiences through countless sing-along choruses by the end of the run.

Bolger subsequently admitted that he had no clue the film would go on to become a Hollywood classic.

″I knew that I was taking part in a strange kind of adventure,″ he said. ″Everything had to be invented for the picture – the effects, the sound, the Technicolor. It was all new. But when the reviews came out, it was a terrific disappointment. The picture got terrible notices.

″It was only when ‘The Wizard of Oz’ came into the home with television that it redeemed itself. Then it was no longer a picture, it was an institution. After all, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ carries the message that there’s no place like home.″

Mr. Bolger’s first and greatest love was the Broadway theater. Raymond Wallace Bolger was born on January 10, 1904, in Boston, Massachusetts. He began acting in amateur theatricals and was once fired from an insurance company after being caught dancing in a hallway. He Started at 19.

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