Lights will be dimmed in the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theatre Wednesday evening in memory of Jerry Maren, who was the last surviving member of the diminutive group of Munchkins from the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” until his death last month at age 98.
The website TMZ broke the news of Maren’s death, reporting that he was quietly buried over the weekend in Hollywood. Lloyd Decker, Maren’s nephew, told the New York Times that Maren died May 24 in San Diego of congestive heart failure.
Maren, who made dozens of television and film appearances over the years, many in uncredited roles, is best remembered as a member of the Munchkins, who greeted Dorothy (Judy Garland) when she lands in the mythical kingdom of Oz in the classic 1939 film. Maren portrayed one of three members of the Munchkins’ “Lollipop Guild,” and he hands Garland an oversized lollipop to welcome her.
In 2013 — at age 93 — Maren sank his hands and feet into cement in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre, celebrating an IMAX run of “The Wizard of Oz” at the theater and the film’s then-pending 75th anniversary. In 2007, Maren was one of seven then-surviving Munchkins attending the unveiling of a star for the group on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Maren was born in Boston on Jan. 24, 1920. His other credits included the 1939 Marx Brothers film “At the Circus,” the original 1968 version of “Planet of the Apes” and the 1997 episode of the NBC comedy “Seinfeld” that popularized the phrase, “Yada, yada, yada.”
According to the New York Times, Maren also portrayed Mayor McCheese in a series of McDonald’s commercials in the 1970s.