June 6 (UPI) — Jerry Maren, the actor who played a member of the Lollipop Guild in The Wizard of Oz and was the last surviving adult Munchkin from the classic film, has died at the age of 98.
Maren died last month, his niece and nephew reported in separate Facebook posts. He had been living at an assisted-care facility in San Diego, Steve Cox, co-author of Short and Sweet: The Life and Times of the Lollipop Munchkin told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I wish I had grown up with him and had spent more time and being around him growing up,” Marren’s niece Stacy Michelle Barrington told Fox News. “I’m grateful to have had such important people in my family. Uncle Jerry would want the legacy of the Wizard of Oz to continue.”
Maren appeared in the iconic 1939 movie as one of the three Lollipop Guild Munchkins who handed a lollipop to Dorothy, played by Judy Garland. There were 124 adult actors who portrayed Munchkins in the film.
“I believe the scene where Dorothy lands in Munchkinland is one of the finest sequences in the history of motion pictures,” Maren told UPI in a 1996 interview.
Maren also decried the Munchkins’ characterization as drunken partiers in the 1981 Chevy Chase comedy Under The Rainbow, about the making of the MGM movie classic — and by Garland and producer Mervyn LeRoy in The Munchkins of Oz by author Stephen Cox.
“Nobody swung from the chandeliers,” Maren said. “There wasn’t much hell-raising because we worked from 6 in the morning to 8 at night. No time for joviality.”
Maren enjoyed a successful career in show business, also appearing in films such as At the Circus, Superman and the Mole-Men, Battle for the Planet of the Apes and in Little Cigars, where he appeared alongside fellow Munchkin actor Billy Curtis.
Television roles included a regular appearance on the Gong Show and recurring roles on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Lidsville. Other roles included guest appearances on The Odd Couple, The Beverly Hillbillies, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West and Seinfeld.
The Munchkins received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. Maren attended the ceremony alongside seven others, including Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini, Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover and Clarence Swensen.
“It’s taken a long time,” he said of getting the star. “We have a lot of fans. I can understand that now.”
Maren’s wife, Elizabeth Barrington, died at age 69 in 2011.