Regardless of how many films the cast members of The Wizard of Oz were in, they’re most often best remembered from their roles in this glorious film. And John Joseph “Jack” Haley who played both the Tin Man and the Kansas farmworker, Hickory, is no exception.
Long before being cast as the Tin Man, Jack starred in vaudeville as a song-and-dance comedian. In the early 1930s, Jack was featured in numerous comedy shorts that were produced by Warner Bros. and its sister studio First National, using Vitaphone, the last and most successful of the sound-on-disc processes employed by the film industry back then.
Thanks to his wide-eyed, good-natured facial expression, Jack was chosen to appear in various musical feature films, including Poor Little Rich Girl with Shirley Temple, Higher and Higher with Frank Sinatra, and the Irving Berlin musical Alexander’s Ragtime Band.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hired Jack for The Wizard of Oz after another song-and-dance man, Buddy Ebsen, who was originally set to play the Tin Man, nearly died from inhaling the aluminum dust makeup, which was used to help create the character. Jack’s natural voice, which he used for the part of Hickory, was on the rough side. But for the Tin Man, he spoke more softly, which he later said was the tone of voice he used when reading stories to his children.
Jack who hailed from Boston, Massachusetts, married Florence McFadden, a native of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania on February 25, 1921, and they remained together until his death in 1979. The couple had a son, Jack Haley, Jr. who grew up to be a film director, producer and writer, and a daughter, Gloria. In 1972, Haley made her, the sole owner of his written memoirs, and six years later she published them in the form of the hardcover book Heart of the Tin Man.
Jack died of a heart attack on June 6, 1979, in Los Angeles, California at the age of 80. Just a couple of months before his passing, Jack made an appearance at that year’s Academy Awards® ceremony with his fellow actor and fellow Bostonian, Ray Bolger who had played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.