Karl Slover, one of the last surviving actors who played one of the munchkins in the 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz, has followed the yellow brick road to that great Emerald Castle in the sky.
Slover died yesterday of cardiopulmonary arrest in an Altanta area hospital at the age of 93. Reading through his various obituaries, I’m struck by how well he was able to turn a difficult childhood into a happy and fruitful adulthood.
Via USA Today:
Slover was born Karl Kosiczky in what is now the Czech Republic, and he was the only child in his family to be dwarf-sized.
“In those uninformed days, his father tried witch doctor treatments to make him grow,” [Oz historian John] Fricke said. “Knowing Karl and his triumph over his early life, you can’t help but celebrate the man at a time like this.”
He was buried in the backyard, immersed in heated oil until his skin blistered and then attached to a stretching machine at a hospital, all in the attempt to make him become taller. Eventually he was sold by his father at age 9 to a traveling show in Europe, Fricke said.
Did you know you could sell your child back then? The early 1900s were a tough time to be a misunderstood little person.
But all was not lost! Karl found that he liked performing, and eventually moved to the United States, changed his name, and joined a vaudeville circus group called the Singer Midgets. This is the group that landed him the Oz gig, where he was one of the tiniest actors to appear.
Despite being paid just $50/week for his work on the movie (he joked that Toto made more than him), the 4’5″ performer had fond memories of the filming and continued to make public appearances around the country straight up until his death. In addition to The Wizard Of Oz, he appeared in several other films in the 30s and 40s, as well as various TV shows and documentaries as recently as 2009. “He has a genuine immortality,” said Fricke. “Of the 124 little people, he’s one of the handful who got to enjoy this latter-day fame, to have people know who he was and be able to pick him out of the crowd in the movie.”
(Via USA Today)