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Jerry Maren, the last surviving adult Munchkin from The Wizard of Oz, has died. He was 98.
The actor, who stayed active in show business long after Dorothy had returned to her home in Kansas, died May 24 at an assisted-care facility in the San Diego area, his nephew Lloyd Decker confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter.
Maren now rests in the Court of Remembrance in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood, right below actress Sandra Dee, Decker said.
At age 19, Maren (at 3-foot-4) appeared as one of the three Lollipop Guild Munchkins (the green one in the middle) in the classic 1939 movie. He had been spotted by an MGM scout while performing in a show at the Bond Hotel in Connecticut and was the youngest of the 124 adult actors to suit up as a Munchkin. (A few children were used as a well.)
Maren sang, “We represent the Lollipop Guild/And we welcome you to Munchkinland,” and presented a oversized lollipop to Dorothy (Judy Garland). He was paid $50 a week; the dog that played Toto, meanwhile, got $125.
Also that year, the Boston native played the villainous Light-Fingered Lester in an Our Gang short film and appeared as Little Professor Atom in The Marx Brothers’ At the Circus. In 1951, he was a mole-man in the dark George Reeves movie Superman and the Mole-Men.
In 1973, Maren played as a child ape in the sequel Battle for the Planet of the Apes and starred in the comedy film Little Cigars opposite another former Munchkin, Billy Curtis.
He had a regular gig throwing confetti at the end of each Gong Show; had recurring roles on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Sid and Marty Krofft’s Lidsville; and guest-starred on such series as The Odd Couple, The Beverly Hillbillies, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West and Seinfeld (in the 1997 “The Yada Yada” episode).
And in the 2010 film Dahmer vs Gacy, he played a mime.
In commercials, Maren picked up a paycheck as Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar for McDonald’s. He also appeared as “Little Oscar” in Oscar Mayer ads and as Buster Brown for the shoe company. Offscreen, he was often seen with a cigar.
His wife, actress Elizabeth Barrington, died in 2011.
When a Los Angeles city councilman proclaimed Feb. 12, 2013, as “Jerry Maren Day,” the actor was asked to reveal his secret for longevity. “Just livin’ the good life,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “And I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. The cigar’s just for show.”
TMZ first reported the news of his death.
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