11 May 2009

The Passing of a Munchkin

Mickey Carroll, who appeared as a Munchkin in the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie, died last week at the age of 89.

Born Michael Finocchiaro, Carroll had entered show business before being cast in the movie, singing and dancing in regional theaters. His website says, “He was the warm-up for Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman as they campaigned across the country in the Presidential race,” which would have been in 1944--apparently answering my usual question to men who played Munchkins about what they did during World War 2.

In the late 1940s, Carroll settled in St. Louis and entered the family business--"making and selling cemetery headstones." As the MGM movie became more famous, he became a local celebrity, with more and more public appearances.

Carroll's recent years, however, were dogged by complaints that he'd exaggerated his activities in Hollywood and elsewhere. For example, he claimed to have played the Munchkin coroner (actually Meinhardt Raabe) or recorded that character's voice (all the Munchkin voices were ordinary actors sped up). Oz movie experts agree that Carroll was in the movie, but not as prominently as he might have wished.

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