An Icon Bids Farewell to Oz

Last week there were but four surviving members from the original cast portraying the lovable Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. With the passing of Karl Slover, there are only three.

Mr. Slover, who played the first of a trumpeting trio who herald the Munchkin mayor as he makes his entrance at the beginning of the film, died Tuesday, November 15, 2011, at the age of 93. According to the Atlanta hospital treating him, the 4-foot-five actor, who also played a sleepy head and a soldier, and was one of the Munchkins who started Dorothy on her journey by singing “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” suffered cardiopulmonary arrest.

After a troubled childhood (dwarfism was not well understood in 1918 Slovakia, or in his family) and a stint in a traveling show in Germany, Slover appeared in such films as The Terror of Tiny Town, Block-Heads, Bringing Up Baby, and They Gave Him a Gun.

At 21 years of age, he answered a call for “little people” for a Hollywood film to be titled The Wizard of Oz, and the rest is cinematic history. The Munchkins, like Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, have become icons, forever recognized as some of the most imaginative and beloved characters in one of Hollywood’s most memorable movies.

Though the film was the highlight of his career, Mr. Slover continued to perform, traveling throughout the U.S. in the “Original World Famous Midget Show” and in the Royal American Carnival. In his later years, he returned to Oz, in a manner of speaking, regularly attending celebrations for the classic film (he participated in one the very weekend before his passing) and even got to see the Munchkins honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Author John Fricke, who penned the book 100 Years of Oz, told the BBC that of the 124 little people, “he’s one of the handful who got to enjoy this latter-day fame, to have people know who he was, and pick him out of the crowd in the movie.”

Only Jerry Maren, Margaret Williams Pellegrini, and Ruth Robinson Duccini remained (as of the writing of the article) from the original Munchkin cast. We’re sure all are wishing their friend a safe journey home.