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The Munchkins of Oz Book Review

Updated on April 9, 2015

The Munchkin of Oz - best book for all seasons

"The Munchkins of Oz" is a tribute to the 124 diminutive actors and actresses who inhabited the magical Munchkinland in the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "The WIzard of Oz." They were all extremely short but normally proportioned individuals. In those days, they were called midgets, but today, the politically-correct word for them would be Little People. It was these wee folks that made a fairy tale come to life, captivating audience from around the world in one of the most elaborate and elegant motion picture sets of all time. They came to be known as the Munchkins and made a motion picture that cannot ever be duplicated. Yet, their names were not even listed in the movie credits. Who were the Munchkins, how were they recruited and where did they come from?

Mickey Carroll Autographed Wizard Of Oz Munchkin Signed Photo

In 1988, film historian and author Steven Cox, made it his personal mission to locate as many of the original 124 Little People as he could. With his extensive research and the help of his favorite Munchkin, Mickey Carroll, he managed to track down and interview thirty-three of the surviving Munchkins at that time. Their amazing stories are now finally told in a new and revised edition as thirty ex-Munchkins reveal their personal stories.

The "Munchkins of Oz" tells the stories of what went on behind the scenes, on and off camera, based on the experiences of the tiny actors during the filming of "The Wizard of Oz." We learn interesting facts about how each one was recruited, where they came from, their lives at the Munchkinland and at the Culver Hotel in Culver CIty, California, where they all stayed for 8 weeks. There were many intimate memories of the stars, what they did before and after Oz. There were unsavory rumors about the 'wild bunch' and 'little drunks' which were dispelled by some of the munchkins interviewed. The seldom seen photographs put a face to each munchkin as a real person without the heavy makeup and colorful costumes.

After reading this book from cover to cover, I gained a lot of respect for the Little People. Not only did I gain a fresh perspective about the Munchkins and the magic they created in the make-believe Munchkinland, but felt what it was like to be so little in a big world. WIth their hearts, their minds and their courage, the Munchkins have created a timeless classic ingrained in the consciousness of all those who have seen it. The 10-minute Yellow Brick Road scene will take your breath away as it did mine, many times over. If you have not seen the movie, watch the video clip of the Munchkins welcoming Dorothy to Munchkinland.

Signed Pellegrini, Margaret

(Wizard Of Oz) 8x10 Photo B&W

(P) .... The photo is first day's walk from the hotel to the studio by the munchkins Photo

The diminutive actors and actresses who were cast as Munchkins in "The Wizard of Oz" were known as the Singer Midgets. They were recruited and named after a Viennese impresario and entertainer Baron Leopold von Singer ((May 3, 1877 - March 5, 1951). The original vaudeville troupe of the Singer Midgets were from Europe and were employed as acrobats, dancers, singers, and wrestlers in circuses and carnivals there.

MGM studios contracted Leo Singer to recruit little people with proportionately-sized body parts so they could dance with ease. None of them were dwarfs (with disproportionate dwarfism). But Leo Singer's European troupe has dwindled to 18 by 1938. Most of them did not speak English, like Karl Slover (played soldier and trumpeter), Nita Krebs and Olga Nardone of the Lullaby League. Singer then hired the rest of the little people from all across the United States to the total of 124 Munchkins. To fill in the crowd, ten normal-sized children 6-10 years of age were added during the production.

The Munchkins were paid through Leo SInger, who served as their employer, surrogate father (they called him Papa Singer) and organizer. Some sources say that they were paid $100 a week but Singer took half for commission. Each Munchkin was paid $50. Leo Singer was a controversial figure who had been accused of cheating and shortchanging his tiny actors. In spite of this, most of the Munchkins interviewed by Steven Cox talked fondly of him because Leo SInger took care of them and kept them employed.

Most of the Munchkins recruited from Leo Singer's European troupe returned to their countries, but some stayed and became U.S. citizens.

Read more on The Singer Midgets

This book has become a collectible - A fascinating book that is hard to put down.

It has become one of my favorite books. Steven Cox's delightful and respectful narrative style features each of the Little People with their bio and stories in their own words.

The Munchkins of Oz
The Munchkins of Oz

This is not just another book about " The WIzard of Oz" but a respectful tell-all book from the mouths of the Munchkins themselves. Steven Cox did a superlative job of doing exhaustive research and interviews with the 30-some surviving little actors in 1988. The personal stories and anecdotes are not only delightful, surprising, and amazing but are eye-openers. Find out how the little actors were hired, where they are from, and their lives before and after "The WIzard of Oz."

 

This is an excellent video of the Yellow Brick Road segment where the Munchkins can be see in one place. See the toy soldiers, the Sleepyheads, the trumpeters, the villagers, the mayor and more.

Imagine synchronizing all of the Little People for the movie.

Follow the Yellow Brick Road - The Munchkins guide Dorothy safely to the border of Munckinland on her way along the Yellow Brick Road.

This is one of the scenes that took eight weeks to film. One hundred twenty-four Little People in their colorful and lavish costumes populated the Munchkinland set. They were a hardworking bunch working 14-hour days, getting up at 6 am for makeup and costumes, wigs, fake noses, cheeks, beards, etc., as well as rehearsing dance and song routines. Removing the makeup was a harrowing experience because the spirit gum used in those days for glue was not kind to their skin. And then they are off the set after 8 pm where all the munchkins ambled back to the Culver Hotel in Culver City, California, where they all stayed, a few blocks down from the MGM studio.

The Lollipop Guild welcomes Dorothy to Munchkinland - Harry Doll, Gerard Marenghi (aka Jerry Maren), and Jackie Gerlich

This video shows the Lollipop Guild singing with their own voices and then later dubbed with professional singers' voices.

These are the lyrics of the catchy tune:

"We represent the Lollypop Guild, The Lollypop Guild, The Lollypop Guild

And in the name of the Lollypop Guild,

We wish to welcome you to Muchkinland."

Jerry Marren known as the lead munchkin (center with green plaid shirt) is still living today and attending charity and Oz-related activities. He has also written a book about his experiences as a Munchkin and his life before and after Oz.

Lollipop Jerry Marren's autobiography edited by Stephen Cox - The middle Lollipop (green shirt) with the bad-boy smirk

Jerry Marren is the most famous living Munchkin still making the circuit after 70+ years in show business. This autobiography "Short and Sweet" is a play on words of the pint-sized actor's incredible career (he was barely 3 feet tall in The WIzard of Oz) which is packed with anecdotes, colorful pictures and unpublished photos from Jerry's own collection.

Short and Sweet: The Life and Times of the Lollipop Munchkin
Short and Sweet: The Life and Times of the Lollipop Munchkin

Jerry Marren's career was catapulted by his appearance as one of the Lollipop Guild boys in The Wizard of Oz movie. He has appeared in the Marx Brothers' At the Circus, and Our Gang's Tiny Troubles - as well as television programming including of Superman, The Lucy Show, Star Trek, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, Bewitched,The Gong Show, and Seinfeld, to name a few. Who would have guessed that Jerry was in blockbuster movies like the Adventures Planet of the Apes, and was one of the aliens in the original StarTrek.

This is not a tell-all gossipy book, but a refreshing down-to-earth and unique memoir that follows Jerry's journey from Munchkinland to Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is a fun, enjoyable and enlightening book that is hard to put down. A must have for the OZ fan.

 

Watch Meinhardt Raabe as the coroner - 13 seconds of fame

Meinhardt Raabe was the blue-cloaked coroner with the floppy hat who warbled the death proclamation of the WIcked Witch of the East crushed by an errant Kansas farmhouse.

"As coroner, I must aver

I thoroughly examined her.

And she's not only merely dead,

She's really most sincerely dead."

Right after the proclamation by the coroner that the Wicked Witch is "She's really most sincererly dead", watch how 124 Munchkins of Munchkinsland erupt into joyous glee singing "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" that was never seen in motion picture history.

Meinhardt Raabe was also the original Little Oscar of the Oscar Mayer meat company.

Munchkin coroner, Meinhardt Raabe - 13 seconds of fame in Munchkinland

Meinhardt Raabe grew up in WIsconsin and was one of the munchkins with a speaking part.

Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road
Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road

This is a compelling, sincere, and a conversational book from the perspective of a munchkin about the filming of The WIzard of Oz and also about his personal life. Raabe did not realize that he was a midget until he was in high school and had to deal with a lot of prejudices. But his self-confidence managed to get him a job at the Midget Village in Century of Progress in Chicago despite obstacles put in his way by his College. It was here that he realized that he was a lot of poeple just like him and took a job at the fair the next year. Raabe has a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1937 and a MBA at Drexel University.

Raabe (pronounced robbie) was also the original Little Oscar mascot of Oscar Mayer meat company. He toured the country for nearly 30 years in a 13 ft. Oscar Mayer Wienermobile as the "World's Smallest Chef" as a salesman. Raabe's power of persuasion and self-confidence was able to grant him a leave-of-absence from his Little Oscar job to work on "The Wizard of Oz." He was also a flight instructor for the Civil AIr Patrol in WWII

This is a book I would highly recommend as a shining example of a person who overcame obstacles through persistence and self-confidence.

This book is an eye candy for the OZ fan, packed with vivid photos and 50 commissioned works from reknowned artists such as Al Hirschfeld, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Sergio Aragones, Greg Hildebrandt, Al Jaffee, and many others.

 

The best line ever

"There is such a thing as a peck of flour, a flock of geese, and yes, that's right, a clump of Munchkins."

What I learned from "The Munchkins of Oz" book

  1. The Munchkins were midgets, not dwarfs. Leo singer, the recruiter contracted by MGM Studios in 1939 was to hire 124 little people with proportionate body parts.

    The Oompa Loompas in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were dwarfs.

  2. Toto, the Cairn terrier dog was paid more a week than any of the munchkins.

    Each munchkin was paid $50 a week because Leo SInger took 50% of the original $100 for commission. Toto, the dog was paid $125 a week.

    This was according to Jerry Marren, one of the Lollipop Guild trio who is still active with Munchkin-related activities today.

  3. The rumor of a munchkin hanging himself on-camera during the Tinman-woodsman sequence with Dorothy hopping down the Yellow Brick Road is just a myth.

    The Wizard of Oz and the real story of the hanging munchkin

  4. Some of the munchkins were terrified of The Wicked Witch of the West ( Margaret Hamilton) during the filming because they thought she was a real witch. The fear and terror caught on camera on their faces were candid shots and not scripted.
  5. The unsavory rumor that the Munchkins were "Little drunks" was perpetuated by Judy Garland when she unwittingly joked about them in the Jack Paar Show. Unfortunately, this rumor stuck and has been making the rounds for years.
  6. Some of the voices of the Munchkins were dubbed with professional singers because most of them could not speak English or had heavy foreign accents or could not sing. The actors only discovered their voices were dubbed over after the movie was made.
  7. The Munchkins from Europe learned to speak English from the stagehands, carpenters, and electricians.

My favorite Munchkins - and why

  1. Karl Slover - one of the first trumpeters to herald the arrival of the Munchkin Mayor and the shortest of the male munchkins. He also played a soldier and one of the Sleepyheads.

    Karl has got to be my favorite, the shortest male munchkin with an angelic face. He was barely 2 ft. tall at the age of 9 when his father (all 6ft 6") sold him to a traveling midget show in Berlin, Germany. Karl always believed his father did like him because he was so small and used unconventional methods to make him taller. At such a young age, he felt he was better off being with Leo Singer than with his parents.

    Steven Cox's book interview with Karl made me teary-eyed. In spite of so many obstacles due to his small stature, Karl always had a happy and positive disposition. He never had an unkind word about anyone.

    Karl was cast in several movies, like Terror of Tiny Town and Bringing Up Baby, to name a few, and worked in carnivals and vaudeville shows. While he was in Hawaii, his circus manager sent him to Hollywood where he became one of the Munchkins. He became Leo Singer's favorite munchkin.

    He attended the yearly Judy Garland birthday celebrations, spoke and sang at Oz-related activities and attended the dedication of the Munchkin star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In more ways than one, Karl Slover has been blessed with a long productive life.

    Karl Slover, dies at 93, on Nov.15, 2011

    Karl Slover Biography

  2. Meinhardt Raabe - The munchkin coroner who announced to the citizens of Munchkinland that the Witch is dead.

    Meinhardt Raabe did not know that he was a midget until he was in high school. Then he had to put up with a lot of prejudices. He convinced the faculty of University of WIsconsin to allow him to be a member of Midget CIty cast at the Chicago World's Fair so he can pay for his tuition. Raabe received a Bachelor Degree in Acocunting and a Master's Degree in Business Administration.

    I am most impressed with Raabe's power of persuasion, self-confidence, drive and zest for life. He was not contented to be just a sideshow act because of his short stature. He became a pilot and instructor for the Civil Air Patrol during WWII, worked as a spokesman for Oscar Mayer for 30 years, drove the Weinermobile in 1936 was a horticulturist and teacher.

    Biography of Meinhardt Raabe

    Meinhardt Raabe, Famous Munchkin, Is Dead at 94

The Munchkins 70 years later - 2009 - Reunion revives the magic of making "Oz'

This is a video of a reunion of 5 surviving munchkins at the Culver Hotel in Nov.2009. In attendance were Meinhardt Raabe (played coroner with the blue cloak and curled hat), Ruth Ruccini, Munchkin villager, Margaret Pellegrini, who played one of the Munchkin sleepyheads; Jerry Marren was one of the smirking boys of the Lollipop Guild who handed Dorothy with a giant lollipop; Karl Slover played a trumpeter, a soldier and one of the sleepyheads.

More on the reunion of the Munchkins

Journeying Back to Munchkinland

Seven surviving Munchkins revisit Culver Hotel in 2009 - Their home during the filming of "The Wizard of Oz"

The Culver Hotel in Culver CIty, California was where 124 of the Little People stayed for eight weeks while filming "The WIzard of Oz" in 1939.

Jim Shore Wizard Of Oz Set of 2 Munchkins Statue

Dorothy meets the Wicked Witch of the West

Dorothy meets the tinman, the lion and the scarecrow

Madame Alexander Dolls I'm Melting?, 8 inch, Wizard of Oz Collection

These days, the word "Munchkin" - now included in some dictionaries - is synonymous with small.

Rate it, if you please. - Do you think you would read the book?

On a scale of 1-7, what did you REALLY think?

See results

Costume Ideas for Halloween

How to dress up like a lollipop kid for Halloween

Let's duke it out here - Your opinion matters, so let's hear it.

Do you think the Little People recruited for Munchkinland were exploited?

A complete directory of the Munchkins

Longevity rules

Jerry Marren is the only surviving munchkin and lives in a retirement home in Southern California.

Some of the Munchkins have performed in vaudeville shows, movies, and The Midget CIty in the Chicago World's Fair, yet deep in their hearts, there is still no place like 'Oz'.

Thanks so much for your visit.

Have you become a Munchkin fan? - Do let me know you stopped by.

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    • jlshernandez profile image
      Author

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      @HandyCraftsman: @HandyCraftsman, Jerry Marren, one of the Lollopop Guild does live in Southern California today and still attends Oz-related activities and charities.

    • Close2Art LM profile image

      Close2Art LM 5 years ago

      I've always loved the movie and the Munchkins made the it even that much more fantastic, great lens, BLESSED

    • profile image

      HandyCraftsman 5 years ago

      @jlshernandez: I'm sure today it would be deemed politically incorrect -- ACLU advocating for the small-of-stature actors, and PETA claiming mistreatment of the Horse of a Different Color (wow - that should be a lens in itself!) :)

    • profile image

      HandyCraftsman 5 years ago

      I live in San Diego, CA -- and there has been a long-standing rumor of a former Munchkin's house being on the foothill of Mt. Soledad. I've heard it's just an urban legend, but with Munchkins, you neeeeever know! I'm certain it's one of the Lollipop Guild guys' !!! :) Thanks for a cute and entertaining lens.

    • jlshernandez profile image
      Author

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      @Success_At_School: I agree that the Munchkins made the movie, all 124 of them. This kind of movie can never be duplicated again.

    • profile image

      Success_At_School 5 years ago

      Definitely a bigger fan now. They made the movie.

    • YogaAngel profile image

      YogaAngel 5 years ago

      What a fun lens to read!!!!

    • jlshernandez profile image
      Author

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      @grannysage: I will have to buy the remastered DVD now of "The WIzard of Oz" which turned the 1939 classic into a stunning and amazing video. I am off to see the wizard again.

    • profile image

      grannysage 5 years ago

      Very well done and researched and extremely interesting. I loved watching the videos.

    • profile image

      cleanyoucar 5 years ago

      Great review here! Congrats on getting the purple star

    • Belle13Dreams profile image

      Belle13Dreams 5 years ago

      Lovely lens! I've always liked these little fellows. Happy to find them on Squidoo, too! Congrats on your purple star!

    • ShariSmith profile image

      ShariSmith 5 years ago

      Really cute lens! I love munchkins of Oz!

    • GODis4me profile image

      karen vance loudermilk 5 years ago from charleston wv

      great lens i nwever knew such a book existed, how interesting

    • Blonde Blythe profile image

      Blonde Blythe 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens! I really enjoyed it! :)

    • profile image

      robertwillams 5 years ago

      Fantastic lens thank you so much for sharing with us!!!

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      For those well versed in Oz this would be a treasure.

    • aviwolfson profile image

      Avi Wolfson 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great lens, thanks for sharing!

    • Sher Ritchie profile image

      Sher Ritchie 5 years ago

      This is a fantastic lens - I've always loved the "Wizard of Oz" (book) series, and the Munchkins in the movie were amazing! They 'made' those parts of the film. That's for featuring such a great book (and selections of books) about them - they're part of film history and they deserve to be celebrated for their contribution, and their courage to.

    • futureme lm profile image

      futureme lm 5 years ago

      Sounds like a great read. Thanks for such an in-depth lens!

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 5 years ago from Missouri

      When I was a girl, the Wizard of Oz came on TV at least once a year. We never missed it. The entire family watched it. Blessings!

    • VeseliDan profile image

      VeseliDan 5 years ago

      I think they are great, I have been reading them for the third time now, they are soo good. Blessed.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 5 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I am definitely a Munchkin fan!!

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      Thanks for the interesting lens. I always had some curiosity about these actors.

    • Nimsrules LM profile image

      Nirmal Shah 5 years ago from India

      I really enjoyed reading this wonderful book.

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      I've always liked these guys.

    • joeyoung lm profile image

      joeyoung lm 5 years ago

      WOW, what a lens! I have to get the book now. There is so much to know from one of my childhood favorite films. Ever year it was tradition to watch it during the fall/winter season. Not strange that we now own it on video!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Just love this book, too.

    • squidoogiftsfor profile image

      squidoogiftsfor 5 years ago

      Great lens, who can't love the Munckins!

    • alex89 lm profile image

      alex89 lm 5 years ago

      I never knew much of what you have written here, very good info. I have always enjoyed the OZ books, but I have never put much thought into the about the movie books, maybe I will read some of them!

    • profile image

      Auntie-M LM 5 years ago

      Like everyone, I do adore the Munchkins. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane, with all the new tidbits of info!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      I was before I even got here! Great lens! :)