Holly Van Leuven


Ray Bolger:
More Than a Scarecrow

with an introduction by MEGAN MARSHALL

This event includes a book signing


March 1, 2019
7:00 PM


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning local writer HOLLY VAN LEUVEN for a discussion of her debut book, Ray Bolger: More Than a Scarecrow. She will be introduced by MEGAN MARSHALL, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.

About Ray Bolger

Best remembered for his role as the Scarecrow in the 1939 MGM musical The Wizard of Oz, Ray Bolger led a rich and extraordinary career in the decade before and more than four decades after the creation of the film. Ray Bolger: More Than a Scarecrow is the first biography of this classic American entertainer, covering the luminous and forgotten career of the eccentric dancer outside of his burlap mask.

The product of a fragmented, working-class Boston Irish family, Bolger learned tap and eccentric dance steps as solace for a difficult life before running away to repertory theater and Vaudeville. From there, he would go on to become a Broadway star, a contract player at Hollywood's major studios, one of the first performers to tour the South Pacific for the USO, a Tony Award winner, an early sitcom star, and the opening headliner of the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas. 

Using unprecedented access to Bolger's papers and many never-before-published photographs, Ray Bolger: More Than a Scarecrow pieces together the lost story of an itinerant hoofer who survived and thrived during the major media changes of the twentieth century and established himself as a staple of American pop culture.


"Deftly written and astutely researched, Holly Van Leuven's Ray Bolger: More Than a Scarecrow is as enchanting as her subject. Van Leuven skillfully places the beloved hoofer at the center of a history of the American entertainment industry—from Vaudeville to Broadway to Hollywood—that reads as vividly as Ray Bolger danced." —Megan Marshall, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life and Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast

"Holly Van Leuven transfigures Ray Bolger from a tall and gangling man of straw, with a long face and sad-drooping eyelids over bulging eyes, tripping over his steps in wobbling legomania, to an elegant and ever-so-smooth soft-shoe dancer whose entwining slides, crossover steps, and graceful tapping turns ennobled him as one of the greatest stylists of all. Why has it taken three decades from Bolger's death to write about this dancing vaudevillian who was dubbed the Jazz Nijinsky? A terrifically entertaining and insightful read." —Constance Valis Hill, author of Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History

"Holly Van Leuven has written an outstanding book about Ray Bolger, which tells the compelling story of his career at the same time as it powerfully places him in the greater narrative of American show business in the 20th century. The tales of Bolger's legendary career are filled with fascinating, meticulously researched details, and simultaneously feel personal and emotionally engaging." —Jennifer Ashley Tepper, author of The Untold Stories of Broadway, volumes 1, 2, and 3

Holly Van Leuven
Holly Van Leuven

Holly Van Leuven

Holly Van Leuven is a writer based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Los Angeles, California. She is the first researcher to access the personal papers of Ray Bolger. She is the inaugural winner of the Biographers International Organization's Hazel Rowley Prize for first-time authors.

Megan Marshall
Megan Marshall

Megan Marshall

Megan Marshall is the author of Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, The Peabody Sisters, and Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, which received the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Biography. She is the Charles Wesley Emerson College Professor at Emerson College.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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