10 April 2010

Meinhardt Raabe Dies at 94

Today’s New York Times brought news of Meinhardt Raabe’s death at age 94. Raabe is best known for playing the coroner in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, though the character’s voice was dubbed. When I heard Raabe speak at Oz conventions, however, I was most impressed by other parts of his life and his overall drive.

Many of the Munchkin performers were in their late teens in 1938, when they shot their scene. That means they were about twenty years old when the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the US into World War 2. Many of the young men were eager to serve their country, but because of their height they were all classified as 4-F, ineligible for military service.

Raabe ended up training pilots as part of the Civil Air Patrol. He was the smallest licensed pilot of the time, and ended up flying more types of airplanes than he would have in military service.

Raabe discussed that work, and other parts of his career, in Memories of a Munchkin, assembled with Daniel Kinske. I feared this book would be a hodgepodge, but it hangs together well, and the production values are excellent.

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