Margaret Pellegrini, one of the three surviving Munchkins from the 1939 production of The Wizard of Oz, died Wednesday. She was 89.
Pellegrini had been in declining health since suffering a stroke in March, according to Colleen Zimmer, one of the organizers of the Oz-Stravaganza held in Chittenango, New York. Pellegrini was named the grand marshal for this year’s event, but was unable to attend due to illness. Six Girl Scouts — three dressed as “flowerpot” Munchkins and three dressed as “sleepyheads” — marched in her place. The 4-foot-tall Pellegrini played both roles in the film.
According to The Los Angeles Times, Pellegrini made $50 a week for her work on The Wizard Of Oz. That was 10 times more than what her father made working at a hotel, but it was $75 less than Terry, the dog who played Toto.
“It’s like an end of era. Munchkins have been coming to Chittenango for over 20 years. Recently it got down to just [Pellegrini] coming,” Zimmer said. “She was more than somebody who came to Chittenango every year. She was my friend. My kids grew up with her. Everybody loved her. I’m going to miss her, dearly.”
Barbara Nesbitt Evans, co-director of Oz-Stravaganza, wrote on Facebook:
“Margaret was special to each and every one of us, and we all had a unique relationship with her. I know she loved so many of us. In this way we bond together to share this sorrow, but remember the joy of her life and the happiness she brought us all.”
Flowers were placed on The Munchkins star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Wednesday. The remaining Munchkins, seven at the time, were given the star in 2007. They arrived at the event in a white carriage pulled by a purple-dyed horse. They stepped out of the carriage onto a carpet that resembled the yellow brick road.
The two surviving Munchkins are 95-year-old Ruth Robinson Duccini and 93-year-old Jerry Marren. Duccini played a villager, but wasn’t credited for the role. Marren played a member of the Lollipop Guild.
When Margaret Thatcher died earlier this year, Duccini said she felt “ashamed” that Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead was being used to celebrate her death.
“Nobody deserves to be treated in such a way. When we were filming the movie no one intended it to be used in this way. I am ashamed, I really am,” she said.
Margaret Pellegrini is survived by her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.