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).
- Set up the Ebsen School of Dance in Pacific Palisades, California. When Buddy was young, his father, a physical fitness advocate, taught dance in West Palm Beach, Florida. This is where Buddy and younger sister 'Vilma Ebsen' (qv) learned their craft and they appeared in local and school productions.
- 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.
- Attended Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida shortly before starting his film career.
- Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 161-163. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
- One of his last roles was a gag cameo in _The Beverly Hillbillies (1993)_ (qv) in which 'Jim Varney' (qv) played Jed. Ebsen showed up as Barnaby Jones.
- Almost all of his sisters lived long lives, just like Buddy himself. Both Helga and Norma died in the late 1990s. His sister, Vilma, died in 2007, just four years after her brother's own death.
- 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.