The last surviving Oz munchkin, Jerry Maren, had been reported throughout social media and some early news sources as having died at the age of 96. However, further reports from several sources on social media sites, including acquaintances of Mr. Marren, offered conflicting reports that insisted the actor is still living. He is 96 and was recently widowed. But he did not pass away.
Often celebrity passings of older stars will break in social media long before they hit mainstream news sources. “Petticoat Junction” actor Mike Minor’s death was reported in social media only a day after he died, but it was a full week later before the mainstream news picked it up. Similar situations occurred with the passings of Ken Weatherwax, Donna Douglas, Melody Patterson, and other actors of the past. However, this time, these early reports were misleading.
Born Gerald Marenghi on January 24, 1920, Maren’s appearance in “The Wizard of Oz” resulted in a movie career that included the Our Gang comedy “Tiny Troubles,” The Marx Brothers feature “At the Circus,” and the notorious all-midget western “Terror of Tiny Town.” He would often appear in bit parts, but always resonated and did what he could with each role. By the 1950s, Maren centered upon television with appearances on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Bewitched,” “Get Smart,” “The Odd Couple,” and “The Wild Wild West” among others. Maren kept working into the 21st century. Along with “Seinfeld,” Maren can be seen in “The Great Outdoors,” and “Spaceballs.” He made his last movie in 2010. Jerry Maren also was involved in radio and TV advertising. He played Buster Brown on TV and radio during the 1950s and 1960s, appeared as Little Oscar in the Oscar Meyer commercials, and was Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar on several McDonald’s commercials in the 1970s. He is the last surviving actor to have played munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz.” While Mr. Maren is best known as one of the Lollipop Guild in the classic 1939 movie version of “The Wizard of Oz,” his career lasted long enough for him to have also appeared on TV’s “Seinfeld.”
Reports that Mr. Marin succumbed to pancreatic cancer on February 28, 2016 are incorrect. However, this does not have the earmarks of a celebrity death hoax, something that is unfortunately all too frequent on the internet. Those are designed to fool people purposely. Further investigation has revealed the initial sources were innocently erroneous in reporting his passing. There had been multiple reports that he had passed away from reliable sources, but later there were several claims he was alive. It has now been revealed he is alive but just out of the spotlight. We are naturally pleased that Mr. Maren is most assuredly still with us.