Child actors recall joining Munchkin ranks in 'Oz'

Snubbed at a Hollywood event, women hold own reunion to share memories of film shoot.

If you thought you knew everything there was to know about the iconic film classic "The Wizard of Oz," then here's a twister for you.

Everyone knows about the Munchkins, portrayed by 124 pituitary midgets in the 1939 motion picture starring Judy Garland. These days, the word "Munchkin" -- now included in some dictionaries -- is synonymous with small. Credited in the film as the Singer Midgets, the diminutive cast was comprised of little people from all over the United States, with the core group being part of the famous troupe of performing midgets managed by Leo Singer.

But not all of the Munchkins were little people. It may be a footnote in Hollywood history, but let the news be spread that about 10 young girls of normal height, ranging from 7 to 9 years old, danced and sang alongside the little people 70 years ago on MGM's massive Soundstage 27.

Three of the former child actors cast as Munchkins recently reunited in Hollywood to reminisce about their little-known involvement in one of the most beloved movies of all time. Betty Ann Cain Bruno, 77, Priscilla Montgomery Clark, 79, and Ardith Dondanville Todd, 78, shared their memories of working together in their brightly colored, flower-adorned costumes and talked about how the "Oz" experience has affected their lives. One of their most recent memories wasn't so sweet.

Last year, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored the entire diminutive citizenship of Munchkin Land with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame near Grauman's Chinese Theatre that simply reads: "The Munchkins." Nothing about "midgets only." Yet, the handful of former child Munchkins who had been invited to the event were denied introduction and participation in the unveiling because they were not "vertically challenged." Where is the Lollipop Guild and their sweet greeting when you need them?

"That was disappointing because my family was with me," says Todd, of West Covina. "You can pick me out as clearly as any of the midgets in the film, but they knew the midgets would draw the crowds, I guess."

Paparazzi's cameras popped, speakers spoke, the shiny star saw its first sunlight -- and all while the onetime child Munchkins had to wait by the curb. No proclamation from the city of Los Angeles for them, only for the little people. "Oz" fans in attendance wondered why the late Johnny Grant, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and event organizers neglected those who rehearsed, sang, danced (even attended school on the set) and appear on film along with the other Munchkins.

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