News Column

Margaret Pellegrini, one of last surviving Munchkins, dies

August 8, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 08--Sad news for fans of "The Wizard of Oz."

Margaret Pellegrini, 89, who played the flowerpot Munchkin in the 1939 movie, died Wednesday, a spokesman for the Munchkins told news outlets, including CNN.

Spokesman Ted Bulthaup said that Pellegrini, one of the Sleepy Head kids in the film, suffered a stroke at her Phoeniz area home on Monday.

Pellegrini was one of three surviving Munchkins. Her death leaves Lollipop Kid Jerry Maren, 93, and Ruth Duccini, 95, to carry on the Munchkin legacy.

According to a 2009 article in The Arizona Republic, Pellegrini was 15 when she played one of the 124 Munchkins in the movie.

She said they didn't know what the movie was about until they saw it on the big screen, when she screamed the first time she saw herself. "They thought someone was dying," she said.

She told the newspaper that she never got tired of being known as a Munchkin. "I get more noticed now," she said in 2009. "It's a living now, and I make more now than I did in the movie. I made $50 a week. Toto made $125."

She said that people asked her all kinds of questions about being in the movie, but the one she got asked the most was this: Did you meet Judy Garland?

"If you have seen the movie you know that the Munchkins were only in one scene with her," said Pellegrini. "It is the only question that gets to me."

She also debunked the urban legend that a Munchkin died on the set during filming.

"A maintenance man was up on a stepladder and something fell behind the curtain," she said. "He was up there with his hand, trying to get it out and they snagged it. It looked like someone had hung themselves."

In the book, "The Making of The Wizard of Oz," by Aljean Harmetz, Pellegrini said that what she remembered most about the movie was "the feeling of specialness. Someone was always there to brush my hair or fix my costume. For Christmas, Judy Garland gave all us little ones a big box of candy. We sat on the Yellow Brick Road and passed the box around. She also gave us autographed pictures. I still have mine."

Pellegrini was a frequent participant at Oz festivities wearing a costume similar to the one she wore in the movie. She was a regular at the annual OZtoberfest at the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kan. Museum officials planned to show a new video interview with Pellegrini at this year's festival, Sept. 27-29.

In 2007 she attended the presentation of a star given the surviving Munchkins on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

People placed flowers on that star Wednesday.

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(c)2013 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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