Jerry Maren, ‘Wizard of Oz’s Last Living Munchkin, Dies at 98
They have been a key part of the lore of The Wizard of Oz since the L. Frank Baum books and then the 1939 film: The Munchkins, the lovable, diminutive residents of Munchkinland. They even have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Throughout the years, the surviving actors who played Munchkins have made public appearances and remained famous as key cast members in one of the most beloved movies of all time. Sadly, last week the last surviving member of the Munchkins, Jerry Maren, passed away. He was 98 years old.
According to TMZ, Maren’s cause of death “is unknown” but he was suffering from dementia and ultimately passed away in a nursing home in San Diego. He was born Gerard Marenghi in Boston in 1920; everyone else in his family was of average height. Maren played the member of the Lollipop Guild wearing green clothing in the scene where they present Dorothy with a lollipop. (That’s him in the center during this clip.)
Maren had a long career in Hollywood beyond his most famous role. He appeared in Battle for the Planet of the Apes and the Marx Brothers’ At the Circus. According to Wikipedia, he even played Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar in McDonald’s commercials.
In a 2011 interview, Maren said that Wizard of Oz may have made him famous, but it wasn’t an easy gig:
It took two weeks of makeup preparation. It was a pain in the a-s-s. I'm tellin' you. They’d have these barber chairs down below street level on one of the stages, and we'd go from chair to chair – wigs, fake cheeks, noses, chins. It was not fun.
In another interview, Maren revealed his pay: Just $50 a week. The result, however, was a signature moment in one of Hollywood’s most enduring classics.