Raabe as "Little Oscar", circa 1930s - 1940s.
|Born||Meinhardt Frank Raabe
September 2, 1915
|Died||April 9, 2010
Penney Farms, Florida
|Years active||1939; 1993–2009|
(m.1946–1997; her death)
Meinhardt Frank Raabe (September 2, 1915 – April 9, 2010) was an American actor. He was one of the last surviving Munchkin-actors in The Wizard of Oz, and was also the last surviving cast member with any dialogue in the film. He portrayed the coroner who certified the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.
Raabe did not hear the words "midget" or "dwarf" until young adulthood, and for a long time believed no one else might also be like him. After visiting the Midget Village at Chicago's Century of Progress in 1933, he realized he was not alone and took a summer job with the fair the next year. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, he was turned down for employment by one company after another until Oscar Mayer hired him as a salesman. Raabe took a leave of absence from his sales job to audition for a Wizard of Oz role.
At about 107 centimetres (42 in), or three feet, six inches, tall, he played the role of the coroner in The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Raabe, however, went uncredited in the role, which lasted only 13 seconds. In the film, the coroner confirms the death of the Wicked Witch of the East, with Raabe's lines being:
- As coroner, I must aver
- I thoroughly examined her
- And she's not only merely dead
- She's really, most sincerely dead!
These lines, unlike most of those delivered by the Munchkins, were not dubbed over with the speeded-up voices of other performers. In addition to his role in the film, Raabe worked for many decades as a spokesman for Oscar Mayer, where he was known as "Little Oscar, World's Smallest Chef". He traveled in the first Wienermobile, which was the idea of the company founder's nephew, Carl Mayer, in 1936. Because the vehicle had little space for any passengers, Mayer realized the spokesman would have to be small and Raabe got the job.
Raabe continued to work for Oscar Mayer, and claimed to have come up with the idea to sell canned sausages. As the idea was being commercialized, the Army realized that this product would aid in feeding American soldiers in the field and production was diverted to military consumption, as World War II was beginning for the US. Raabe joined the Civil Air Patrol during World War II. During this time, he served as a pilot, flying fire and lake patrol missions as well as serving as a ground instructor. In 1970, he earned a master's degree in business administration from Drexel University. He married a cigarette girl who was his height, Margaret Marie Raabe (1915–1997). They were married for 50 years until her death in a car accident in 1997, in which he was also injured.
Raabe published an autobiography, Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road. (ISBN 0-8230-9193-7). As of 2007, he lived alone at the Penney Retirement Community in Penney Farms, Florida.
Raabe appeared in an October 2005 episode of Entertainment Tonight with eight other surviving Munchkins, and he made a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on April 11, 2005. On November 21, 2007, he appeared with six other surviving Munchkin actors, including Jerry Maren, at the unveiling of a Hollywood Star for the Wizard of Oz Munchkins on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On September 19, 2009, he appeared on National Public Radio program Weekend Edition Saturday.
Raabe still made occasional appearances at Wizard of Oz conventions and celebrations across the country. In 2008 he was honored by the International Wizard of Oz Club with the organization's L. Frank Baum Memorial Award.
In later life Raabe resided at Penney Retirement Community in Penney Farms, Florida. He died at a medical center in nearby Orange Park, Florida, on April 9, 2010, at the age of 94 after going into cardiac arrest. He is buried in Farmington, Wisconsin's Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery.
On May 2, 2011, John Darkow, an editorial cartoonist at the Columbia Daily Tribune in Columbia, Missouri, created a cartoon using a nearly-verbatim version of the lines spoken by Raabe's coroner character to announce the death of Osama bin Laden the previous day.
- Fox, Margalit (9 April 2010). "Meinhardt Raabe, Famous Munchkin, Is Dead at 94". New York Times. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
- "Meinhardt Raabe dies at 94; one of the Munchkins in 'The Wizard of Oz'". Los Angeles Times. 10 April 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
- 'Wizard of Oz' Munchkin Meinhardt Raabe Dead at 94
- Oliver, Myrna (2 May 2005). "George Molchan, 82; Toured the Nation as 'Little Oscar'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 November 2011.
- Solomon, Steven (November–December 2009). " CAP's Smallest WWII Pilot" (PDF). Civil Air Patrol Volunteer Magazine. Retrieved 2010-04-12.
- Margaret Marie Raabe (1915–1997) was born on February 25, 1915, and died on October 22, 1997, according to the Florida Death Index.
- "Hollywood mourns Munchkin actor". BBC News. April 11, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-11.
- Barry, Dan (February 18, 2007). "He Confirmed It, Yes He Did: The Wicked Witch Was Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
- Barry, Dan (February 18, 2007). "No Ordinary Coroner, No Ordinary Life". Seattle Times. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- "It's The Wonderful 'Wizard Of Oz' At 70". National Public Radio. September 19, 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
- "Meinhardt Raabe, Known for His Role in 'The Wizard of Oz', Dies". First Coast News. April 10, 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-10.
- Cagletoons web page with copy of Darkow cartoon Retrieved 2011-11-22