At 98-years-old, Jerry Maren, the oldest living actor who portrayed a munchkin in the 1939 classic film, The Wizard of Oz, has died.
As reported by TMZ, Maren apparently died over a week ago in a San Diego nursing facility with no specific cause of death being mentioned in the statement, although he reportedly suffered from dementia.
There were multiple reports that the actor had passed away back in March 2016 after a tough battle with pancreatic cancer, but at the time, a close friend of Jerry’s issued a statement that those reports were false.
Maren’s role in the legendary film was as a member of the Lollipop Guild in Oz, the group that initially welcomed Dorothy and her accomplices to Munchkinland.
The Wizard of Oz was Maren’s first film, one that he had never expected to achieve the fame it has all these years later. Although being one of many little people cast to fill Munchkinland, which was a bit part in most descriptions, the experience was apparently eye-opening for Maren. The actor said in an interview nearly a decade ago that up until the filming of The Wizard of Oz, he had actually never even met another little person.
He also stated that the actors were put up in a hotel named The Culver for the duration of filming.
According to the lore surrounding the film, the hotel immediately became well known for its rambunctious activity and debauchery, all committed by castmembers while they were staying there.
He had also stated how the experience was influential to him as an actor overall, aside from meeting other individuals with his condition. He cited, specifically, the instance when he met Judy Garland, saying “She was an angel, she was a movie star and I’d figured she’d be a pain in the neck. But she was glad to meet us, and we were glad to meet her.”
After filming The Wizard of Oz, the actor continued pursuing roles, scoring positions on a variety of different films and television shows, like Planet of the Apes and Seinfeld.
In 1975, he married Elizabeth Barrington, who was also an actress in her own right, and the pair were together until she passed away in 2011.
Though Maren retired from acting in 2010, he continued to actively be a part of various different Wizard of Oz-themed gatherings, festivals, and other assorted events.
The Oz actor’s career was finally recognized in 2013 when he was acknowledged for his significant contributions to film with a handprint and signature ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles.