Ruth Duccini went from Midwestern small-town life to being part of a troupe known and beloved by millions of people worldwide: She was one of the 124 Munchkins who appeared in the 1939 MGM classic musical “The Wizard of Oz.”
But as much as she enjoyed making the film, she said it had become painful to watch.
“Most of the people (in the film) that I knew are gone already,” she told the Baltimore Sun in 2006, “and it makes you kind of sad when you see them.”
Duccini, 95, died Thursday at a hospice care center in Las Vegas after a brief illness, said her son, Fred Duccini.
Her death leaves only one surviving Munchkin: Jerry Maren, 93.
Ruth Robinson was born July 23, 1918, in Rush City, Minn., said Stephen Cox, author of the 2002 book, “The Munchkins of Oz.”
Growing up, she felt isolated. Four feet tall as an adult, “I didn’t know there were other small people,” she said in a 2009 Newsweek interview. At the age of 20, she was taken to meet Grace and Harvey Williams, who led a dwarf entertainment troupe. They had heard about a movie that was casting little people. “We drove from Minneapolis to Culver City,” Duccini said, “and we all got jobs as Munchkins.”
Although she appeared at several “Wizard of Oz” events over the years, most of her life was spent outside the film business. Her diminutive size was an asset during World War II, when she worked at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica as a riveter. Duccini was able to squeeze into small spaces where full-size adults couldn’t fit.
In addition to her son, Duccini is survived by a daughter, Margaret, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her husband, Fred Duccini, died in 1994.