‘The Wizard of Oz’ munchkin Jerry Maren, the last one to survive, has died at the age of 98. Maren was famous for the scene where he welcomed Dorothy to Munchkin Land in the 1939 film.
Maren’s niece Stacy Michelle Barrington told the Associated Press that her uncle passed away May 24 at a San Diego nursing home.
Aside from his big break in the Academy-winning film, Maren also portrayed The Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese in McDonald’s commercials as well as Little Oscar for Oscar Mayer hot dogs. He has appeared in various films and TV shows in a span of 70 years.
But it was his role as one of the Lollipop Kids in The Wizard of Oz that always held a special place in his heart. He would show up regularly at film conventions, munchkin gatherings and other events honoring the cast over the years.
But for Maren, being one of the Lollipop Kids in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is the most special role in his heart. He was always present during film conventions, munchkin gatherings and other special events for the cast through the years.
"I've done so many things in show business but people say, 'You were in The Wizard of Oz?' It takes people's breath away," he told writer Paul Zollo for North Hollywood Patch in 2011. "But then I realized, geez, it must have been a hell of a picture, because everyone remembers it everywhere I go."
Maren (middle) in the 'Wizard of Oz'FilmBuffOnline
Maren, whose height is 4-feet-3 (1.3 meters), was among the 100 plus little people recruited to play munchkins in the film. But he stood out as the "Lollipop Kid" who got to sing and dance his way to the spotlight before Dorothy (Judy Garland) as he handed her an oversized lollipop.
Maren said he improvised that lollipop handoff in an early take. The director was impressed so he told him to go on.
More than 50 years later he'd adlib the song's lyrics, concluding, "We wish to welcome you to Smithsonian Institute," as the cast led the unveiling of a 2006 exhibition of the movie's memorabilia at Washington's Smithsonian Institution.
"He was a very sweet person and he was very approachable if you were a fan," his niece spoke of him. “He was the kind of person who would always take time to talk to you.”
Maren was born Gerald Marenghi in Boston on Jan. 24, 1919. He was singing and dancing at a show at a Connecticut hotel in 1938 when MGM talent scouts spotted him and invited him to Hollywood to join the munchkin cast.
Realizing his long-time dream, Maren was paid $50 a week for the role, twice what his father was making.
Jerry Maren (left) as a copper skinned alien in an episode of ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’Memory Alpha
Other films he starred in include The Terror of Tiny Town, Under the Rainbow, the 1981 sendup of the making of The Wizard of Oz, and Hello, Dolly!
Also, he appeared in episodes of TV shows Seinfeld, The Twilight Zone, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, The Wild Wild West, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, Lou Grant and Julia, among others.
Based On Materials From Shared.Com