Ebsen also starred on the 1970s TV detective series Barnaby Jones and in a number of films, including Breakfast at Tiffany's, Attack, and The Interns. He was the original choice for the role of the Tin Man in the all-time classic film The Wizard of Oz but had to be replaced (by Jack Haley) when he suffered an allergic reaction to aluminum powder used in the makeup for the character. Ebsen's voice may still be heard on the film's soundtrack in two choruses of "We're Off to See the Wizard."
Ebsen was born in Illinois on April 2, 1908, and was taught how to dance by his father. He briefly studied medicine before moving to New York at 20 to find work as a dancer. This led him to early opportunities on Broadway -- in such shows as Flying Colors, The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934, and Yokel Boy -- and in many films, including The Broadway Melody of 1936 and Born to Dance. After serving in the Coast Guard for three years during World War II, Ebsen played Frank in the landmark 1946 Broadway revival of Show Boat.
In addition to writing musical shows (Turn to the Right, Champagne Dada) and a play (The Champagne General), Ebsen penned the romance novel Kelly's Quest, which became a best-seller in 2001. His autobiography is titled The Other Side of Oz.