Jerry Maren was the last surviving munchkin from the classic film, “The Wizard of Oz.” He died on May 24th at the age of 98 due to complications from congestive heart failure.
Maren died in his sleep at a private home care residence in La Jolla, California. He had been under Hospice care for six months.
Maren was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burbank and is interred in the mausoleum at the Court of Remembrance.
Jerry stood at 4 foot 3. He acted in over 100 movies and TV shows over the past 75 years. But he is best remembered for his role in the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”
Being Short Never Stopped Him From Doing Anything
“My uncle was a hardworking professional who led a very full life,” Maren’s nephew, Lloyd Decker, told CNN. “Being short never stopped him from doing anything.”
Maren’s name at his birth on January 24, 1920 was Gerard Marenghi. He was the youngest of 11 children and took dancing and acting classes, his nephew said. After Maren graduated from high school, he met with a group of actors bound for California.
“He was a ‘song and dance man,’ which is how he got the Munchkin job,” his nephew said.
Maren was a part of the group in the film called the Lollipop Guild. They danced and sang in front of Judy Garland’s character, Dorothy. Then she went to see the Wizard. In the classic scene, Maren hands Garland a large lollipop and welcomes her to Munchkinland.
“Making the film was the greatest fun I ever had in my life,” he said.
“It’s given me a good life, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
Throughout the years, Mareen had roles on episodes of TV shows “Seinfeld,” “The Twilight Zone,” and “Bewitched,” among others. He was on the big screen in other movies like “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” and “Under the Rainbow.”
He was also featured in marketing campaigns as he portrayed McDonald’s Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese, as well as Oscar Mayer’s Little Oscar. But he never escaped the recognition of his role in Oz.
It Takes People’s Breath Away
“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. ”But then I realized,” he added, “geez, it must have been a hell of a picture, because everyone remembers it everywhere I go.”
Over the years, Maren attended conventions and Oz reunions with a giant lollipop in tow. In 2007, Maren, along with six other Munchkin actors, were honored with a Hollywood star for the “Wizard of Oz” Munchkins on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2013, he placed his handprints in cement outside Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre.