R.I.P. The Last Munchkin

Though he passed away on May 24, it was widely reported only yesterday that Jerry Maren (Gerard Marenghi, 1920-2018) had passed away at the age of 98. Maren is best remembered for one of his very first credits, as the middle member of the Munchkin Lollipop Guild, the one who hands a lollipop to Dorothy in the The Wizard of Oz. Maren was the last surviving of the Munchkin “principals” — apparently some of the extras and stunt people from The Wizard of Oz still survive.

But we would be especially remiss if didn’t talk about Maren’s copious other credits here. We have paid tribute to many performing Little People, and Marin’s middle aged, mustached visage was well-known on screens big and small into my day. Originally from Boston, Maren began taking dance lessons at age 13, and toured the New England vaudeville circuit with an act called “Three Steps and a Hop”. He was spotted by MGM scouts and bused to Hollywood to appear in The Wizard of Oz in 1938. Meantime, while that film was in production, he managed to appear in two rapidly produced films that beat the children’s classic into cinemas: the legendary all-midget western The Terror of Tiny Town, and the Our Gang short Tiny Troubles, both 1938. Maren stood just three and a half feet tall at the time (he would eventually grow another foot). His cohorts in the film included Singers Midgets and Harry Earles. Immediately after this, he got an even better role as “Little Professor Atom” in the Marx Brothers’ At the Circus (1939).

As Buster Brown

Some of his other credits include: Maisie Was a Lady (1941), Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942), The Great John L. (1945, a John L. Sullivan biopic), Duffy’s Tavern (1945), Superman and the Mole-Men (1951), Andy’s Gang (1955– he played Buster Brown), Planet of the Apes (1968), Lidsville (1971), The Odd Couple (1975), The Gong Show (1976-80), Mary Hartman Mary Hartman (1977), Under the Rainbow (1981), and much else. His last credit was the camp horror film Dahmer vs. Gacy (2010). He was also instrumental in establishing the Little People of America with Billy Barty. 

For more on performing little people please check out Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People in Vaudeville.