Chesterton Tribune

Meinhardt Raabe, Wizard of Oz Munchkin actor, dies at 94

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POLLY ANDERSON

Associated Press Writer

Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Munchkin coroner in “The Wizard of Oz” and who was a frequent visitor to Chesterton’s Wizard of Oz festivals has died. He was 94.

His caregiver, Cindy Bosnyak, said Raabe died Friday morning at a hospital in Orange Park, Florida. He was one of the few surviving Munchkins from the 1939 film.

Bosnyak said Raabe complained of a sore throat at his retirement community before collapsing and going into cardiac arrest. He was taken to Orange Park Medical Center, where he later died, she said.

“He had a headful of hair at 94 and he ... remembered everything everyday,” she said. “To me he was a walking history book, very alert.”

Raabe was one of the 124 Munchkins in the film classic and one of only nine who had speaking parts. He was 22 years old and a show business veteran, earning money for college as a “midget” performer, as they were called then, when the movie was shot in 1938.

Raabe portrayed the diminutive Munchkin official who solemnly pronounces the witch dead after Dorothy’s farmhouse lands on her: “As coroner I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, And she’s not only merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.”

His costume included a huge hat with a rolled brim, and dyed yak hair was used for his handlebar mustache and long beard.

In a 1988 Associated Press interview, he said he had no idea the movie would become a classic, because at the time of its release, it was overshadowed by “Gone With the Wind.”

“It was only after CBS got the film in 1956 and used it for their promotions that it became as well known,” he said. “There is nothing in the picture that dates it,” he said. “There are no old vintage cars or old vintage streetcars. ... It’s a fantasy picture that will be fantasy for generations to come.”

Raabe was about 31/2 feet (1.07 meters) tall when the movie was made. He eventually grew to about 41/2 feet (1.37 meters). He toured the country for 30 years in the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile, promoting hot dogs as “Little Oscar, the World’s Smallest Chef.”

He also enjoyed going to Oz nostalgia events and getting fan mail.

In 2005, his book “Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road,” co-written by Daniel Kinske, was published.

 

 

Posted 4/13/2010