John Joseph "Jack" Haley (August 10, 1898 – June 6, 1979) was an American stage, radio, and film actor best known for his portrayal of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. In the same film, he also played Hickory, one of the three farmhands that Dorothy, in her "dream", imagines as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion.
Haley was born in Boston to Irish Americans John Joseph Haley and his wife Ellen Curley. He was one of six children. The family left Boston soon after Jack's birth, settling first in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and finally in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Haley (far left) in a trailer for Alexander's Ragtime Band
Haley starred in vaudeville as a song-and-dance comedian. One of his closest friends was Fred Allen, who would frequently mention "Mr. Jacob Haley of Newton Highlands, Massachusetts" on the air. In the early 1930s, Haley starred in comedy shorts for Vitaphone inBrooklyn, New York. His wide-eyed, good-natured expression gained him supporting roles in 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. Both Poor Little Rich Girl and Alexander's Ragtime Band were released by Twentieth Century-Fox. Haley was under contract to them and appeared in the Fox films Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Pigskin Parade, marking his first appearance with Judy Garland.
Haley returned to musical comedies in the 1940s. Most of his '40s work was for RKO Radio Pictures. He surrendered the job in 1947 when he refused to appear in a remake of RKO's old story property Seven Keys to Baldpate; Phillip Terry took the role.
"The Tin Man" in The Wizard of Oz
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer hired Haley for The Wizard of Oz after another song-and-dance comic, Buddy Ebsen, who was originally set to play the Tin Man, suffered a nearly fatal reaction from inhaling the aluminium dust makeup. The makeup was switched to a paste, to avoid causing the same reaction for Haley. The makeup did cause an eye infection, which caused Haley to miss four days of filming, but treatment prevented permanent damage. Haley did not remember the makeup or the costume very kindly. Interviewed about the film years later by Tom Snyder, he said that many have commented that making the film must have been fun. Haley said, "Like hell it was; it was work!" Haley's natural voice (which he used for the "Hickory" character) was moderately gruff. For the Tin Woodman, he spoke more softly, which was the tone of voice he used reading stories to his children. Oz was one of only two films Haley made for MGM. The other was Pick a Star, a 1937 Hal Roachproduction distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Haley (second from left) on May 30, 1979, one week before his death
Haley was raised Roman Catholic. He was a member of the Good Shepherd Parish and the Catholic Motion Picture Guild in Beverly Hills, California. He married Florence McFadden, a native of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania on February 25, 1921, and they were married until his death. Flo Haley opened a successful beauty shop and had many film personalities among her customers.
They had a son, Jack Haley, Jr., a successful film producer, and a daughter, Gloria. Jack Haley, Jr. married Liza Minnelli, daughter ofOz co-star Judy Garland, in 1974. However, the marriage ended in divorce in 1979. Jack Haley, Jr. died in 2001.
In 1972, Haley made his daughter, Gloria, the sole owner of his written memoirs. She published them in 1978 as Heart of the Tin Man. Gloria Haley-Parnassus died on May 1, 2010. She was survived by her children Adrienne and Barry.
Haley and his wife were the Godparents to Miel Roman, daughter of singer Dick Roman and model Honey Merrill Roman. Haley was also Republican congressman Bob Dornan's uncle.
Jack Haley died of a heart attack at the age of 80 in 1979 in Los Angeles, California. A short time previously, he had appeared at theAcademy Awards ceremony with Ray Bolger, who had played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Haley was still active until a week before his death. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, California.