Mickey Carroll, one of the last-surviving Munchkins from The Wizard of Oz, died in his sleep Thursday morning in St. Louis. He was 89.
His caretaker, Linda Dodge, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper that Carroll had heart problems and received a pacemaker in February.
Born Michael Finocchiaro, the son of immigrants, Carroll grew up in an Italian neighbourhood in St. Louis. A pituitary condition caused him to stop growing at an early age.
After his father died when Carroll was a teenager, he helped support the family by working in vaudeville at St. Louis's Fox Theatre, and then moved on to clubs in Chicago and to the Orpheum Theatre vaudeville circuit, where he met Judy Garland.
In 1939, he was recruited to Hollywood to play the violin-playing Munchkinland Town Crier in The Wizard of Oz. He also marched as a Munchkin soldier in the movie and as one of the candy-striped fiddlers who escorted Garland's Dorothy character down the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City.
He told The Associated Press in a 2007 interview that the Munchkins were paid $125 a week filming the movie, which went on to become a film classic.
"When we were making the movie, we were singing Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead! and Follow the Yellow Brick Road. We didn't know what we were saying, it was like gibberish, but I knew it was going to be a hit because of Judy Garland. She was so sweet as a teenager," Carroll once said of his experience on the set of Oz.
It proved to be Carroll's only movie, although he did radio ads and appeared on radio shows with George Burns, Gracie Allen, Jack Benny and Al Jolson.
By the mid-1940s, Carroll was spending much of his time in St. Louis. He settled there and worked in the family business making cemetery monuments.
When The Wizard of Oz appeared on television in the 1960s, he found a new career raising money for charity and attending Oz-related events.
"When they see me, they think of their childhood, and it makes them smile," Carroll said at a special screening of the film in Los Angeles in 2005.
In 2007, Carroll and a few other surviving Munchkins attended a ceremony to dedicate a Munchkin star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.