Saturday, April 10, 2010

Meinhardt Raabe, Munchkin Coroner From The Wizard of Oz, Dead at 94


Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Munchkin coroner who proclaimed the Wicked Witch of the East dead in The Wizard of Oz, has died, according to The Associated Press. He was 94.

Raabe, one of the few surviving Munchkins from the film, died Friday morning at Orange Park Medical Center in Florida, his caregiver, Cindy Bosnyak, told the AP. Bosnyak said he complained of a sore throat at his retirement community before collapsing and going into cardiac arrest. He later died at the hospital.

Raabe was one of 124 Munchkins in the film and one of only nine with speaking roles. He famously pronounced the witch dead after Dorothy's farmhouse landed on her: "As coroner, I must aver, I thoroughly examined her, and she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead."

Watch videos from The Wizard of Oz

Born in Watertown, Wis. in 1915, Raabe performed at world fairs such as the Chicago World's Fair and the San Diego Exposition before The Wizard of Oz began shooting in 1938. He was 22 at the time of shooting and earned money for college by performing.

Raabe was 3 1/2 feet tall in Oz and grew to about 4 1/2 feet. He toured the country in the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile for 30 years as "Little Oscar, the World's Smallest Chef."

Raabe regularly attended the annual OzFest in Chittenango, N.Y., and co-authored a book in 2005, Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road. He was one of seven surviving Munchkins present when the Munchkins received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.

"There is nothing in the picture that dates it," he told the AP in 1988 of The Wizard of Oz's success. "It's a fantasy picture that will be fantasy for generations to come."

Raabe's wife of more than 50 years, Marie Hartline, died in a car crash in 1997

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