Maren attending the premiere of Dahmer Vs. Gacy in Hollywood on January 15, 2010
January 24, 1920
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
May 24, 2018 (aged 98)|
La Jolla, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills|
|Known for||Last surviving Munchkin of The Wizard of Oz|
(m. 1975; d. 2011)
Gerard Marenghi (January 24, 1920 – May 24, 2018), known as Jerry Maren, was an American actor who played a Munchkin member of the Lollipop Guild in the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, The Wizard of Oz. He became the last surviving Munchkin following the death of Ruth Duccini on January 16, 2014, and was also the last surviving cast member with a speaking or singing role.
Life and career
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Gerard Marenghi, eventually known as Jerry Maren, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of eleven or twelve children. His father, Emil Marenghi, worked at a shoe factory. His four brothers and five sisters were six feet or taller by 1939.
At the age of 12, Maren started taking dancing lessons with his sister. He toured around New England with his dance instructor with an act called Three Steps and a Hop and was noticed by MGM scouts who were looking for three little guys who could sing and dance. Maren received a telegram, just after graduating from High school, asking him to come to California to work on a movie. He was offered nearly $100 per week plus expenses.
In The Wizard of Oz, he played the green-garbed member of the Lollipop Guild (between Jakob "Jackie" Gerlich and Harry Earles), handing a lollipop to Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland). Maren was eighteen/nineteen years old when he shot his scenes for The Wizard of Oz in the latter part of 1938 and early 1939. At that time he stood just three feet six inches (107 cm). (Hormone treatments would allow Maren to grow to a height of four feet six inches (137 cm) later in life.)
The reason behind his talents for performing stemmed from a persona he had built up years earlier as a thirteen-year-old during school vacations. He began attending lessons for singing and dancing in his early teens and enjoyed them so much that he opted to band together with his teacher in order to create an act known as "Three Steps and a Hop." This idea proved to be a small success on stage that toured the New England circuit for a considerable length of time thereafter. In the same year as The Wizard of Oz, he appeared in an Our Gang feature, Tiny Troubles, playing criminal "Light-Fingered Lester", and also appeared as an extra in the Western film The Terror of Tiny Town.
After The Wizard of Oz, Maren continued acting, and appeared in many movies and television shows. Some of these appearances were in the Our Gang comedy shorts, in At The Circus (1939), starring the Marx Brothers and as an ape in Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). He is also featured, along with fellow Munchkin Billy Curtis, in American International Pictures' release Little Cigars (1973), about a gang of "midgets" on a crime spree.
In the 1950s Maren worked as a Little Oscar for the Oscar Mayer Company and as Buster Brown in television and radio commercials. Later he joined his friend Billy Barty in organizing Little People of America. Maren has also portrayed Mayor McCheese and The Hamburglar in commercials for McDonald's.
In the late 1970s, Maren was the dapper little man in top hat and tuxedo on The Gong Show, heralding each show's big finish with an onslaught of confetti as Milton DeLugg's band played "Hoop Dee Doo". He made a notable appearance in the episode "Felix the Horseplayer" of The Odd Couple as Harry Tallman, a racehorse exerciser who gives Oscar tips on winning horses. In 1982 he played Morris the bellboy, a regular character in the ABC sitcom No Soap, Radio.
Maren had a walk-on role in an episode of Seinfeld ("The Yada Yada") and played a mime in the 2010-released comedy horror movie Dahmer Vs. Gacy. Maren also starred in the Eric Swelstad-directed horror movie Frankenstein Rising (2009). In February 2009, Maren performed in Project Lodestar Sagas as "Thaddeus", appearing opposite former MGM child actress Margaret O'Brien, who played the lead role of Livia Wells.
On November 21, 2007, Maren appeared with six other Munchkin actors at the unveiling of a Hollywood Star for the Wizard of Oz Munchkins on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The other actors were Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini, Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover, and Clarence Swensen.
After September 2011 he stopped traveling or appearing at any of the Oz Festivals held throughout the country but did appear for a handprint and footprint ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on September 18, 2013.
Maren was married to Elizabeth Barrington from 1975 until her death at age 69 on January 27, 2011. He lived in southern California.
On February 29, 2016, it was reported that Maren had died of pancreatic cancer, but these reports were false. He posted a video on Instagram to say that he was alive and well, and according to friend Steve Cox, he didn't have cancer.
When The Hollywood Reporter attempted to contact Maren for a story on little people in Hollywood in August 2016, Maren's caretakers informed the reporter that he was too frail to make further appearances or conduct interviews.
Maren died in San Diego, California, at a nursing facility center in La Jolla, California on May 24, 2018, aged 98, from a combination of old age-related diseases including cachexia, heart failure and senile dementia. Maren left no immediate survivors.
He was the last survivor of The Wizard of Oz's adult Munchkin cast; his death left stunt doubles (Caren Marsh Doll and Ambrose Schindler) as the last two known people to appear on-screen during the film. A small number of anonymous female extras are also reported to survive, but they were children, rather than adults with dwarfism. He outlived all the major cast members of the film, as well as Buddy Ebsen, who originally played the Tin-Man. He was also the last surviving actor who co-starred in a film starring the Marx Brothers.
- "Jerry Maren, Who Sang and Danced as a Munchkin in Oz, Dies at 98". NYTimes.com. June 6, 2018.
- "Last surviving 'Wizard of Oz,' munchkin Jerry Maren dies".
- "Final female 'Oz' Munchkin Ruth Duccini dead at 95". nwitimes.com.
- "Trouble in 'Oz': the Munchkins' dirty secret". Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "Motherly Women Big Pain To Jerry, A Midget Actor". The Pittsburgh Press. June 21, 1939. p. 15. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- "Pays to Be a Midget". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. December 10, 1939. p. 34. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- Harmetz, Aljean (2013). The Making of The Wizard of Oz (illustrated, reprint ed.). Chicago Review Press. p. 196. ISBN 978-1613748329.
- Gore Filled Trailer: Frankenstein Rising, dreadcentral.com; accessed June 6, 2018.
- Munchkin Star on the Walk of Fame, usatoday.com; accessed June 6, 2018.
- "Munchkin Lollipop Guild Member visits Turning Stone during Oz-Stravaganza". Wktv.com. June 4, 2010. Archived from the original on March 21, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- "Jerry Maren places hands in wet cement at TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles - Photos". UPI. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
- Potempa, Philip (2011-01-31). "'Wizard of Oz' Munchkin's wife, Elizabeth Maren, dead at 69". nwi.com. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
- "Last 'Wizard of Oz' Munchkin: Jerry Maren NOT Dead ... Just Laying Low". tmz.com. March 1, 2016.
- "Munchkin Actor Jerry Maren Dead? 'Oz' Star Sets Record Straight At 96". inquisitr.com. March 2, 2016. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Abramovitch, Seth (August 25, 2016). "Little People, Big Woes in Hollywood: Low Pay, Degrading Jobs and a Tragic Death". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
- "Oldest 'Wizard of Oz' Munchkin Jerry Maren's Heart Gave Out".
- Saunders, Emmeline (June 6, 2018). "Wizard Of Oz star Jerry Maren dies aged 98". mirror.co.uk. Retrieved June 7, 2018.
- "Last 'Wizard of Oz' Munchkin Jerry Maren Dead at 98". tmz.com. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- "Jerry Maren, last surviving "Wizard of Oz" munchkin, dead at 98". cbsnews.com. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- Stephen Cox, "The Munchkins of Oz" Cumberland House ISBN 1-58182-269-3
- Short and Sweet: The Life and Times of the Lollipop Munchkin (Paperback) by Jerry Maren (Author) Pub. Date: June 2008 ISBN 978-1-58182-543-5