95 (passed away Jul. 6th, 2003)
Apr. 2nd, 1908
Belleville, Illinois, USA
Buddy Ebsen's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Buddy Ebsen began his career as a dancer in the late 1920s in a Broadway chorus. He later formed a vaudeville act with his sister Vilma Ebsen, which also appeared on Broadway. In 1935 he and his sister went to Hollywood, where they were signed for the first of MGM's Eleanor Powell (I) movies, Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935). While Vilma retired from stage and screen shortly after this, Buddy starred in two further MGM movies with Powell. Two of his dancing partners were Frances Langford in Born to Dance (1936) and Judy Garland (I) in Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937). They were a little bit taller than Shirley Temple, with whom he danced in Captain January (1936). MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer offered him an exclusive contract in 1938, but Ebsen turned it down. In spite of Mayer's warning that he would never get a job in Hollywood again, he was offered the role of the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Ebsen agreed to change roles with Ray Bolger, who was cast as the Tin Man. Ebsen subsequently became ill from the silver make-up, however, and was replaced by Jack Haley (I). He returned to the stage, making only a few pictures before he got a role in the Disney production of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955). After this, he became a straight actor, and later won more fame in his own hit series, "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962) and "Barnaby Jones" (1973).
- Was initiated into DeMolay at the John M. Cheney Chapter in Orlando Florida, in 1926. DeMolay is a Masonic youth organization for young men between 12 and 21. Was inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on June 21st, 1996.
- Attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida shortly before starting his film career.
- His father owned a dance studio, and when Ebsen was a young boy insisted that he take dance lessons.
- Director 'Norman Foster (I)' (qv) first recommended Ebsen to 'Walt Disney' (qv) to play Davy Crockett, and Disney was "half sold" on the idea. Then Disney saw 'Fess Parker (I)' (qv) in the sci-fi film _Them! (1954)_ (qv) and cast the strapping actor as the famed frontiersman. Ebsen was crestfallen because he knew how big the picture would be. The next day the studio signed Ebsen on as Crockett's weatherbeaten sidekick, Georgie Russel. The part helped to turn his career around and arguably played a part in Ebsen's getting the role of the equally equally grizzled and popular Jed Clampett.
- Originally cast as the Tin Man in _The Wizard of Oz (1939)_ (qv), Buddy was hospitalized as a result of inhaling aluminum powder used as part of his make-up. One chorus of "We're Off to See the Wizard" in the movie and soundtrack album retain Ebsen's original vocals as the Tin Man, recorded before he was forced to leave the production. Because of the prolonged hospitalization, he was replaced by 'Jack Haley (I)' (qv) (whose reformulated make-up used pre-mixed aluminium dust), and Ebsen's scenes were re-shot using Haley. Footage of Ebsen as the Tin Man still exists, and was included as an extra with the U.S. 50th anniversary video release of _The Wizard of Oz (1939)_ (qv).
- Taught 'Judy Garland (I)' (qv) the shim-sham shimmy while they were at MGM.
- In the last two years of his life, he recorded his first CD in which he sang some of his own songs.
- In 1938 MGM offered him a seven-year contract, starting at $2,000 a week but requiring him to give the studio absolute control over his career. He rejected it. MGM blackballed him and his film career went into eclipse for nearly 20 years, until 'Walt Disney' (qv) hired him to play Georgie Russel, Davy Crockett's sidekick, in _Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955)_ (qv).