Ray Bolger was born and grew up in Dorchester, MA, a middle-class neighborhood. His father was a house-painter, his mother a homemaker. He was inspired by the vaudeville shows he attended when he was young to become an entertainer himself. He began his career as a dancer. His limber body and ability to ad lib movement won him many starring roles on Broadway in the 1930s.
His film career began when he signed a $3,000 a week contract with MGM in 1936. His best-known film prior to The Wizard of Oz was The Great Ziegfield (1936).
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's always had. Bolger's sympathy for Dorothy's plight, his cleverness and bravery in her rescue from the Wicked Witch of the West and his deep affection for her shone through, endearing the character -- and Bolger -- in the public mind forever.
Following Oz Bolger moved to RKO Studios. He starred in several more films and had a sitcom called Where's Raymond? 1953. 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 Jack Haley, Jr, the son of Tin Man actor Jack Haley.
Mr. Bolger died in Los Angeles, CA, in 1987 of cancer just five days after his eighty-third birthday and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. He was the last of the Oz principal actors to pass away.