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).
- Wrote a half dozen plays, five of which were produced, including a farce called Honest John in 1948 and Champagne General in 1973, a Civil War story. Also a part-time songwriter, he became a newly-published author of a romantic novel at the age of 93, entitled Kelly's Quest.
- 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.
- He and sister 'Vilma Ebsen' (qv) performed in vaudeville doing variations on the same theme -- with Vilma playing a dancing instructor who teaches the seemingly uncoordinated country doofas Buddy how to dance. A vaudeville showstopper in such shows as "Whoopee!," "Flying Colors" and "The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934," they were known for a time as "The Baby Astaires."
- Appeared in three musical film extravaganzas starring tap great 'Eleanor Powell (I)' (qv).
- In the 1930s, Disney animators filmed him dancing in front of a grid to "choreograph" 'Mickey Mouse' (qv)'s dance steps for the Silly Symphony cartoons.
- 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).
- After seeing Ebsen in _Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)_ (qv), the creator of _"The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962)_ (qv) wanted him to play family patriarch Jed Clampett. At the time, Ebsen was thinking of retiring, but the producers sent him a copy of the script, and he changed his mind.
- His first wife, Ruth, was originally 'Walter Winchell' (qv)'s secretary/Girl Friday.