Ruth Robinson Duccini, the last surviving actress to play one of the original 124 Munchkins from the 1939 MGM musical classic The Wizard Of Oz, died Thursday at a Las Vegas hospice after a bout of illness, Deadline has confirmed. Duccini was 95.
Born in Rush City, Minnesota, Duccini grew up unaware of the existence of other little people beyond herself until a friend took her to meet Grace and Harvey Williams, who led a troupe of actors known as Harvey Williams and His Little People. Not long after, Williams heard about a man named Leo Singer that was recruiting little people from across the United States to play in a Judy Garland film. “We drove from Minneapolis to Culver City,” Duccini told Newsweek in 2009, “and we all got jobs as Munchkins.”
While she never really pursued an acting career beyond The Wizard of Oz, Duccini notably served during WWII as a “Rosie the Riveter” in Santa Monica, using her smaller size to work on parts of planes that weren’t easily accessible to full-sized adults. In later years, Duccini was active in supporting and promoting The Wizard of Oz and Munchkin-related events, such as the unveiling of the Munchkins’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.
Duccini is survived by her daughter, Margaret, and son, Fred, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her passing leaves Jerry Maren, who turns 94 next week, as the last living actor to play a Munchkin in the original 1939 film.