The last of the Munchkins from the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz” has died. The New York Times reports that Jerry Maren died May 24 at a care facility in La Jolla, Calif. His death was first reported today.
Maren reportedly died of congestive heart failure. He was 98.
As a leader of the movie’s “Lollipop Guild,” Maren handed a lollipop to Dorothy, played by Judy Garland. While he was always best remembered for his role in “The Wizard of Oz,” he worked throughout his life to bring dignity to dwarfs, The Times reports.
“Mr. Maren was the last survivor of the more than 100 dwarfs who performed as Munchkins in numbers like ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard’ and ‘Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,’ according to Stephen Cox, the author of ‘The Munchkins of Oz,'” The Times reports, quoting Cox in a telephone interview saying: “In many ways, with his humble charm, he became the most beloved of all of them.”
The Times adds: “Most of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ dwarfs went on to lead non-Hollywood lives, returning to the spotlight only occasionally for studio-organized publicity stunts and fan events. But Mr. Maren spent his life as a performer, including doing stunt work for child actors like Jodie Foster and Ron Howard. He appeared in more than 60 films and television series, among them ‘Bewitched,’ the satirical soap opera ‘Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman’ and ‘The Gong Show,’ where his job was to merrily scatter confetti.”
Maren commented on that job in his 2006 memoir, “Short and Sweet: The Life and Times of the Lollipop Munchkin,” writing: “It wasn’t much, but it was steady.”