Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Jerry Maren: The broken filament to a darkening past

Part of the appeal of “The Wizard of Oz,” at least for those of us who are a certain age, is that it was available to watch just once a year, sometime in the spring, I believe, and like the Charlie Brown Christmas special and the annual airing of “The Ten Commandments” at Easter, once the movie ended that was it for another year. It was a situation one accepted with some melancholy; there was nothing to be done about it, after all, at that time. But it made you watch the movie. You wanted to fully absorb it, because it was going to be a long time before it came around again.

The annual viewings allowed more attentive viewers the opportunity to anticipate when the first commercial would come up (I remember it being just as the tornado was about to arrive, and Prof. Marvel says of Dorothy, “Poor little girl, I hope she gets home all right.”) and to wait with great anticipation for one's favorite lines and scenes.

The appearance of the boys in the Lollipop Guild was always a delight for boys. That tough little accent (who knew it was Brooklyn-ese?), and those funny outfits, and especially the way they enthusiastically cheered themselves after handing over the lollipop to Dorothy. That was really funny.

Now we know, 79 years after it was released, we have lost the last actor, the last Munchkin, in Jerry Maren, who died at 98 at the end of May. Maren was the Munchkin who handed Dorothy the lollipop.

Willy Mays once said something profound when he spoke of the death of Ted Williams in 2002. “Everyone was living in the past through Ted,” Mays said, and in a kind of way we do that with the Golden Age of Hollywood. We live through the few people left from that era. It is a burden we place on them that they don't need, but it's important for us, because when you know someone is still alive, even if this is a person whom you have not met, nor will meet, it still makes us feel as though that past is still accessible, and real and living. 

As much as we love the movies, celluloid is a poor substitute for the living thing. — Lars Trodson