2018-06-06 13:59:45 UTC
Jerry Maren dead: Wizard Of Oz star and 'Oldest Munchkin' dies aged 98
The actor had been suffering from dementia in the years before his death
The Wizard Of Oz's 'oldest Munchkin' Jerry Maren has died at the age of 98.
The American actor, who starred opposite Judy Garland in the 1939 classic, died last week after years of suffering from dementia.
Jerry had been living at a San Diego nursing care facility in his later years, TMZ reports, and his funeral was held over the weekend at Forest Lawn in Hollywood.
Jerry, who wore a green checked shirt and matching trousers in the film, was hit with false death rumours before when he was reportedly battling pancreatic cancer, but a friend told TMZ at the time that the actor wasn't ill, just lying lie.
He was the last surviving actor of the Wizard Of Oz's Lollipop Guild.
Jerry was born Gerard Marenghi in 1920 - one of 10 children, the rest of who were of average height. But Jerry used his 3ft 6 (107cm) stature to his advantage, breaking into showbusiness at the age of 18 when he filmed his first scenes for the Wizard Of Oz.
His first appearance in the film comes when he hands Judy Garland's Dorothy an oversized lollipop, and producers picked him to stand in the middle of the Munchkin trio. He had caught their attention with his singing and dancing talent, and fame soon followed.
Jerry also appeared in the Our Gang comedy shorts, in 1930s At The Circus and as an ape on Battle For The Planet Of The Apes in 1973.
A role in Little Cigars soon followed, in which he portrayed - alongside fellow Munchkin Billy Curtis - a gang of 'midgets' on a crime spree.
Offscreen, Jerry joined his friend Billy Barty in organising the not-for-profit group Little People Of America, which provides support to people with dwarfism and their families.
He was given a handprint and footprint ceremony outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in 2013, but wasn't seen out in public much from 2011 onwards, eschewing the travelling Oz Festivals that he and the other Munchkins actors had attended for years.
[PHOTO] Jerry hands his lollipop to Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz
In 2016, a feature by the Hollywood Reporter found the Munchkins were paid less than the dog that played Toto for their part in film history - earning just $50 a week compared to the $125 a week raked in by the dog's trainer.
Jerry was married to his beloved wife Elizabeth Barrington from 1975 until her death in 2011 at the age of 69.
On May 24 2017, Jerry shared his last Instagram post - a black and white picture of himself with Elizabeth on their wedding day.
"Happy Aniversary my life long love. Rip," he poignantly captioned it.