Back when I was a kid in the 1960s, in the days before DVDs, video cassette recordings, and the multitude of cable television stations we enjoy today, the annual showing of the classic movie The Wizard of Oz (1939) was an anxiously awaited TV event.
So much of the film has been impressed upon my memory: the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East, protruding from underneath Dorothy’s house; the tapping of the magical ruby slippers; the silhouettes of the flying monkies against a full moon; the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West after Dorothy tosses water upon her (intended for her burning broom); and last, but not least, the high-pitched voices of the wonderful munchkins as they point Dorothy down the yellow brick road.
And of these last characters, the muchkins, we are saddened to hear today of the death, at age 94, of the diminutive coroner who pronounced the Wicked Witch of the East dead. His name was Meinhardt Raabe, and he was a twenty-two year old midget performer when the movie was filmed in 1938.
If you’re interested, Greensboro Public Library has Raabe’s memoir, Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road (2005), which Library Journal calls “an essential read for anyone interested in munchkin lore and The Wizard of Oz.” Mickey Rooney did the forward for the book, by the way.
I know there are plenty of other folks who have fond memories of this American classic, and if you want to learn still more about the movie as well as L. Frank Baum’s famous book, try some of these: Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story by Evan I. Schwartz; The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull (juvenile); Oz: The Hundredth Anniversary Celebration, edited by Peter Glassman (juvenile); The Wizard of Oz: Selections from the Original Motion Picture (sound recording); and The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History by John Fricke, Jay Scarfone, and William Stillman.