The 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” has truly withstood the test of time. A long-cherished favorite by both children and adults alike, the groundbreaking movie has become a classic in homes across the globe.
Fans of the movie learned this morning of the heartbreaking passing of actor Jerry Maren, the last surviving munchkin, at the age of 98.
At 18 years old, Maren was cast in the now-iconic film alongside over 100 other little people to play “munchkins.”
“I was just out of high school in Massachusetts and appearing in vaudeville Times Square with an act called Three and a Half Steps. I was approached by a casting agent who said, “We need little people who can sing and dance,”’ he said.
Maren had never met another little person before being cast in the movie.
“Whenever they needed a munchkin extra in another scene, I was in there. I loved Judy Garland. She was an angel to work with,” he said.
But more than just a face in the crowd, Maren also was cast as the green-wearing member of the 3-person Lollipop Guild.
Maren went on to have a successful acting career spanning nine decades, appearing in projects such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Get Smart” and “Seinfeld.”
But no matter where life took him, his role in the “Wizard of Oz” remained his most recognized claim to fame.
“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 said in 2011. “But then I realized, ‘Geez, it must have been a hell of a picture, because everyone remembers it everywhere I go.'”
Beloved by fans everywhere, Maren always enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life.
“Uncle Jerry loved his fans tremendously,” his niece Stacy Michelle Barrington said, “and he appreciated them.”
Maren passed away last week at a San Diego nursing home after years of battling dementia. He was laid to rest in Los Angeles’ Forest Lawn Memorial Park.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Maren’s family and friends during this difficult time.
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