Jerry Maren, the last surviving Munchkin from the 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz, has died at the age of 98. In addition to being the last of the troupe of little people actors who made up the famed residents of Munchkinland, Maren was also the last surviving cast member overall from the classic MGM musical.
Born Gerald Marenghi on January 24, 1920, Maren was just 18 when he secured a role in The Wizard Of Oz as the middle of the three members of the Lollipop Guild who welcome Dorothy to the land of Oz. It was not his first Hollywood role, however. He had previously appeared in the cult favorite, little people western Terror Of Tiny Town as a townperson and as a thief in the Our Gang short Tiny Troubles.
At four feet, three inches tall, Maren found himself restricted by the types of roles he was offered, though he still managed to continue his acting career after The Wizard Of Oz, appearing in such films as At The Circus (1939) with the Marx Brothers, the Ann Southern comedy Maisie Was A Lady (1941), Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1944), Duffy’s Tavern (1944) and Superman And The Mole-Men (1951).
As television began to increase in popularity in the 1950s, Maren’s career migrated to the new medium, where he appeared in a variety of shows and as a commercial spokesperson from Buster Brown shoes and Oscar Meyer hot dogs. He still managed to land the occasional film roles in such films as Planet Of The Apes (1968), Hello Dolly! (1969), Americathon (1979) and Where The Buffalo Roam (1980). In 1981 he appeared in Under The Rainbow, a comedy set around the making of The Wizard Of Oz. Later movie roles include House (1985), Spaceballs (1987) and The Great Outdoors (1988).