OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Final female 'Oz' Munchkin dead at 95

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2014-01-16T22:08:00Z 2014-01-17T12:40:09Z OFFBEAT: Final female 'Oz' Munchkin dead at 95By Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Ruth Robinson Duccini, 95, one of the two surviving Munchkins from the legendary 1939 MGM film "The Wizard of Oz," died early Thursday in Las Vegas.

Author of the book "The Munchkins of Oz," Stephen Cox, of Los Angeles, a longtime friend of Duccini, confirmed her death and said she died of natural causes at the Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas, Nev. following a brief illness.

Born Ruth Robinson July 23, 1918 in Rush City, Minn., Cox said she stood 4-feet tall in adulthood, and In 1938, at age 20, traveled to Culver City, Calif. with a troupe of performing midgets to appear in film classic "The Wizard of Oz" as a Munchkin townswoman.

Duccini was the last surviving female little person from "The Wizard of Oz." Of the original 124 "little people" cast as Munchkins, the final surviving little person from the movie about Dorothy's trip "over the rainbow" is now Jerry Maren, who played a Lollipop Guild Munchkin. He is 93, and lives in a retirement home in Los Angeles.

A decade ago, Duccini was also a favorite guest each year at the annual Wizard of Oz Festival in Chesterton.

Last September, Duccini was a special guest of honor at Warner Bros.'s Sept. 15, 2013 world premiere screening of "The Wizard of Oz" in IMAX 3D and the grand opening of the newly converted TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood, the very site of the film's 1939 Hollywood premiere when it was previously called Grauman's Chinese Theater.

In later years, while many of the other Munchkins, who also made personal appearances, would wear replicas of the whimsical costumes of their Munchkinland character counterparts, Duccini would not oblige.

One of the few exceptions that Duccini relented and agreed to wear an apron and ruffled blouse and flared skirt like her big screen little character counterpart, was during contracted appearances in 1996 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas near her home. Duccini would join fellow Munchkins Maren and fellow Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini, who died last August at age 89, greeting guests and posing for photos in the lobby of the gaming property. The trio would participate in the meet-and-greet sessions in a large-scale replica of "Wizard of Oz" landscape, which was a tourist highlight before it was removed with later renovations.

Duccini joined six other surviving Munchkins, including Maren and Pellegrini, at the 2007 unveiling of their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame dedicated to the little people in the movie.

During World War II, Ruth worked as a "Rosie the Riveter" at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, Calif., because of her ability to squeeze into small areas of the planes which larger adults could not.

Ruth also appeared in the 1981 film, "Under the Rainbow," starring Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher, a movie poking fun at the apocryphal antics surrounding filming of the original "Wizard of Oz" 1939 movie.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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