Munchkin Actor Jerry Maren, Who Handed Lollipop to Dorothy, Dies At 98
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
This week, we learned of the death of a munchkin.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE WIZARD OF OZ")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) We represent the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild. And in the name of the Lollipop Guild, we wish to welcome you to Munchkinland.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
You remember the scene from "The Wizard Of Oz." Three little people go up to Dorothy, played by Judy Garland. The one in the middle hands her an outsized lollipop. That was Jerry Maren, who was born as Gerard Marenghi. He died late last month at the age of 98.
SHAPIRO: Maren was lip-synching in the movie. Later in 1993, he sang the tune himself in a documentary called "We're Off To See The Munchkins."
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "WE'RE OFF TO SEE THE MUNCHKINS")
JERRY MAREN: (Singing) We represent the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild. And in the name of the Lollipop Guild, we wish to welcome you to Munchkinland.
KELLY: "Wizard Of Oz" historian John Fricke interviewed Maren for that film. He says like other little people at the time, Maren saw acting as one of the few opportunities for work.
JOHN FRICKE: Because of their size, they were limited in the regular jobs they could get or for which they'd be considered. So a lot of them were in show business. And when MGM sent out the call for 124 little people to play munchkins, they were delighted to get the jobs.
SHAPIRO: Maren had a long showbiz career, appearing in about a hundred films, TV shows and commercials. In the 1950s, he also helped establish the group Little People of America.
FRICKE: He and his friend Billy Barty, another little person, it was their idea to band the little people together on a social basis, on a professional basis, just a support basis. And Jerry was very proud of his work in organizing that.
KELLY: Despite all his achievements, though, Maren said his fans only cared about one role.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MAREN: I told them I was Buster Brown, Little Oscar, Andy Williams, they said - then when I tell them I was in "The Wizard Of Oz," you were in "The Wizard Of Oz"? Forget everything else. That's it. That's how important this picture is.
KELLY: Actor Jerry Maren, said to be the last of the little people who portrayed munchkins in "The Wizard Of Oz." He died May 24 at the age of 98.
(SOUNDBITE OF JAKE SHIMABUKURO'S "OVER THE RAINBOW")
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Correction June 8, 2018
A previous headline and Web introduction to this story said that Jerry Maren was the last living actor to portray a munchkin. It is not known for sure whether that is the case.