A group of actors from the fantasy film The Wizard of Oz has been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame nearly 70 years after the classic movie was released. Mike O'Sullivan reports, seven surviving actors who played Munchkins in the film came to accept the belated honor.
They may not have been the biggest stars in Hollywood, but the Munchkins were among the most memorable. The Wizard of Oz, released in 1939, was a fantasy tale based on a novel by L. Frank Baum. Starring a teenaged Judy Garland, it followed the adventures of a girl named Dorothy and her dog Toto as they journeyed from Kansas to the mythical land called Oz.
The actors who played the tiny Munchkins were specially recruited by the studio. And while the film achieved the status of a classic, they were never given a star on the Walk of Fame. A Chicago theater owner was a big fan of the movie and was determined to help them get the overdue honor. Industry luminaries from George Lucas to Steven Spielberg offered their support. Even the speaker of the House of Representatives of the state of Kansas, Dorothy's home in the movie, wrote to encourage the honor.
Seven surviving actors arrived in a horse-drawn carriage on Hollywood Boulevard to accept to the accolade. They included Ruth Duccini
"I was one of the Munchkin villagers," she explained. "And I 'm happy that all 124 Munchkins are being honored."
Margaret Pellegrini played a Munchkin flowerpot girl and a sleepy head. She thanked the fans in Hollywood for keeping the picture popular for 68 years.
"I thank all of you for coming to see us to keep the Wizard of Oz going," she said.
Karl Slover was the main trumpeter of Munchkinland.
"I was 21-years-old in The Wizard of Oz, and I am now 89-years-old, and still going strong. How about that?" he said.
Former Munchkin Meinhardt Raabe also had an important role in the movie.
"I was the Munchkin coroner who had the honor of pronouncing the wicked old witch dead," he explained.
The actor who greeted Dorothy with a lollipop was also in Hollywood, holding his lollipop as he sang his song from the movie.
"My name is Jerry Maren. I'm the Lollipop Kid from The Wizard of Oz. I'm delighted to be here and God bless everybody for recognizing us this year," he said. "And I may as well sing the song, huh? I represent the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild, the Lollipop Guild. In the name of the Lollipop Guild, we wish to welcome you to Munchkinland, or Hollywood."
Entertainer Johnny Grant, known as the honorary mayor of Hollywood, unveiled the plaque in the sidewalk in front of a Hollywood landmark, Grauman's Chinese Theatre. He noted that The Wizard of Oz had its premier there in 1939.
"I also want to proclaim this, as the mayor of Hollywood, Munchkin Day in Hollywood," he announced.
The Wizard of Oz has touched millions over the years, and generations of parents have called their own small children Munchkins, in honor of the charming little people from the classic movie.