“We always say the age range for The Wizard of Oz is from fetal to fatal,” jokes Oz expert John Fricke. It’s a funny line, but there is a ring of truth to it.
The movie, whose birthday is being commemorated by the lovingly restored Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu Ray, is beloved by old and young. For the surviving cast members the appeal is easy to define.
“Everybody can enjoy it,” says Karl Slover, age 91, who was just two feet tall when he played the first trumpeter. “There’s no filthy language in it. I don’t see no bikinis! No nudist colonies! Kids can watch it and parents don’t have to worry because there’s nothing bad in there.”
Slover is one of just six actors left of the 124 “little people” assembled to play the Munchkins in the film. He had some previous film experience but not all the actors were Hollywood regulars.
“I was in the movie because I was the right size and that’s all they wanted,” says Villager Munchkin Ruth Duccini, age 91, who adds that she can’t sing or dance very well.
“I grew up in a small town in Minnesota and I didn’t know there were other little people.” But once she got on set she found she wasn’t alone. “I remember all the little people and that was so great; 123 people that you could stand and talk to without talking to a bellybutton.”
Ruth adds that star Judy Garland was just as excited about having all little people in one place as she was and Munchkin Flowerpot Hat dancer Margaret Pellegrini (age 86) says Garland treated all the Munchkins to candy and a keepsake at Christmas.
“On Christmas Eve morning when she came to work she opened the door to her (dressing room) and there she had a whole stack of black and white pictures and she invited each and every one of us in and gave each a picture. Mine says ‘To Margaret from your pal Judy.’ I still have it.”
Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft says her mom loved working on The Wizard of Oz. “This movie was special for her. She told me the hardest thing about the film was being afraid of (Wicked Witch) Margaret Hamilton because she was very sweet. She also told me that unfortunately the dog had the worst breath.”