‘Wizard of Oz’ star Meinhardt Raabe dies

Played Munchkin coroner in 1939 film classic

Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Munchkin coroner in “The Wizard of Oz” and proclaimed in the movie that the Wicked Witch of the East was “really most sincerely dead,” died Friday in Orange Park, Fla., of cardiac arrest. He was 94.

Raabe was one of the 124 Munchkins in the 1939 film classic and one of only nine who had speaking parts. He was 22 years old and a showbiz veteran, earning money for college when the MGM movie was shot in 1938.

In a 1988 Associated Press interview, Raabe 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.

Raabe was about 3 1/2 feet tall when the movie was made. He eventually grew to about 4 1/2 feet. 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.

In 2007, Raabe was one of seven surviving Munchkins on hand when the Munchkins were honored in Los Angeles with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Raabe, born in Watertown, Wis., in 1915, was a member of the Midget City cast at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934. He also performed at other fairs, including the San Diego Exposition in 1935.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the U. of Wisconsin and, years later, a master’s degree in business administration from Drexel U.

Raabe married Marie Hartline, who worked for a vaudeville show called Rose’s Royal Midget Troupe, in 1946. She died in a car crash in 1997.

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