Margaret Williams Pellegrini (Sept. 23, 1923-Aug. 7, 2013)
Posted on Thu, Aug. 08, 2013
Margaret Pellegrini, one of last surviving Munchkins, dies
By LISA GUTIERREZ
The Kansas City Star
Sad news for fans of “The Wizard of Oz.”
Margaret Pellegrini, 89, who played the flowerpot Munchkin in the 1939 movie, died Wednesday, a spokesman for the Munchkins told news outlets, including CNN.
Spokesman Ted Bulthaup said that Pellegrini, one of the Sleepy Head kids in the film, suffered a stroke at her Phoeniz area home on Monday.
Pellegrini was one of three surviving Munchkins. Her death leaves Lollipop Kid Jerry Maren, 93, and Ruth Duccini, 95, to carry on the Munchkin legacy.
According to a 2009 article in The Arizona Republic, Pellegrini was 15 when she played one of the 124 Munchkins in the movie.
She said they didn’t know what the movie was about until they saw it on the big screen, when she screamed the first time she saw herself. “They thought someone was dying,” she said.
She told the newspaper that she never got tired of being known as a Munchkin. “I get more noticed now,” she said in 2009. “It's a living now, and I make more now than I did in the movie. I made $50 a week. Toto made $125.”
She said that people asked her all kinds of questions about being in the movie, but the one she got asked the most was this: Did you meet Judy Garland?
“If you have seen the movie you know that the Munchkins were only in one scene with her,” said Pellegrini. “It is the only question that gets to me.”
She also debunked the urban legend that a Munchkin died on the set during filming.
“A maintenance man was up on a stepladder and something fell behind the curtain,” she said. “He was up there with his hand, trying to get it out and they snagged it. It looked like someone had hung themselves.”
In the book, "The Making of The Wizard of Oz," by Aljean Harmetz, Pellegrini said that what she remembered most about the movie was "the feeling of specialness. Someone was always there to brush my hair or fix my costume. For Christmas, Judy Garland gave all us little ones a big box of candy. We sat on the Yellow Brick Road and passed the box around. She also gave us autographed pictures. I still have mine."
Pellegrini was a frequent participant at Oz festivities wearing a costume similar to the one she wore in the movie. She was a regular at the annual OZtoberfest at the Oz Museum in Wamego, Kan. Museum officials planned to show a new video interview with Pellegrini at this year's festival, Sept. 27-29.
In 2007 she attended the presentation of a star given the surviving Munchkins on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
People placed flowers on that star Wednesday.
Blogger’s Note: RIP Margaret Pellegrini. This lady is my cousin. She and my Granddaddy Johnson were first cousins. I spoke to her in 2009 about our family history in hopes that she could shed light on some of the questions I had about the Williams side. She was a sweet lady and so proud of her Munchkin heritage. She told me the story of how she became a Munchkin, which I will write from my notes and publish on here as soon as possible. I had hoped to get the history I was writing about our family to her before she passed. I know she was lonely. Her husband and children were dead, and she expressed to me how tired she was. For our family, here is how we were connected. Leoma Williams and Archie Williams were brother and sister. Leoma married Ed Johnson, and they are the parents of Benjamin Monroe Johnson Sr. Archie married a Marshall, and Margaret was their child. This makes Monroe and Margaret first cousins. Monroe's children are Margaret's first cousins once removed. Monroe's grandchildren are first cousins twice removed...and on down the line.
I had hoped she could get a copy of the history I am working on. She said she remembered coming to Rose Hill to visit her Aunt Lee (Leoma, who lived where Jimmy Ray Myers place is). Daddy remembers playing with her and her brother. She had a little tiny voice, and when she was telling me the story about the visit, she said she could still remember all the fresh vegetables my grandmother fixed. She was closer in age to Granddaddy's children than she was to him even through she was his first cousin. Her father was the baby of the family and Leoma was among the oldest. Her father was married twice to two sisters. Both died leaving him with children on his on. I talked to Margaret's brother's son recently, and he knew nothing about the family history because there was just no one to pass things along. She told me that when she was helping a relative in a potato chip booth at the Tennessee State Fair, a group of little people came by and asked if she wanted to join their show, Henry Kramer's Midgets. "At that time I didn't think I was a midget," said Pellegrini (who then stood about 3 ft. 4 inches).In the film, Pellegrini played a "sleepyhead" and munchkin villager. After the film, she married Willie Pellegrini (an average-sized ex-fighter) and had two children. – Claudia Kay Johnson, email@example.com