A retirement community in Mercer Island will be celebrating the special connection of one of its residents with one of the most beloved movies of all time, “The Wizard of Oz.”
The adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” came out in 1939, meaning that it is 80 years old. Meredythe Glass, who lives in Covenant Shores on Mercer Island, was an extra in the film, in the Emerald City scenes. She is now 98.
“I was a green lady. There must have been a hundred of us,” she said.
Glass may be the only surviving person involved in the film since Jerry Maren, the last munchkin, died in 2018.
“People tell me that I’m the last of the cast, but I don’t have any proof of that,” Glass said.
On the Friday before the Academy Awards, the Covenants Shores campus will celebrate Hollywood, Glass and “The Wizard.” Residents are planning to dress as their favorite characters from the movie or in black tie. After a happy hour, at which Glass will be the guest of honor, the movie will be shown in Fellowship Hall. The event is set for 4 p.m. on Feb. 22.
Glass said she was happy and looking forward to the celebration.
“It seems important to people,” she said, though at the time, she “didn’t realize (the movie) was going to be that famous.”
“I was just amazed, because it was the first picture I ever worked on,” she said.
She got the part because her mother’s first cousin, Mervyn LeRoy, was the director-producer of the film. When she turned 18, LeRoy got her a Screen Actor’s Guild card.
“I didn’t want to be an actress. I wanted to go to college,” she said, but she graduated from high school during the Depression, and took the work she could get. She was paid $16 a day to work on “The Wizard of Oz,” which was “a fortune, in those days.”
Glass went on to work in Hollywood for a few more years, mostly as an extra or stand-in. She secured a small contract with MGM (Metro Goldwyn Mayer) studio, appearing as an extra in several Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney films, including “Babes on Broadway,” “Strike up the Band,” and “Babes in Arms.”
Glass also stood in for Vivian Leigh during the 1940s filming of “Waterloo Bridge,” Leigh’s first film after “Gone With the Wind.”
Because of her connection to LeRoy, she met a lot of glamorous people, she said. At one point, LeRoy married Dorris Warner of the Warner Bros. family.
“On the weekends, I was out at the beach house with all these famous people,” she said. “I was kind of exposed rather well, but scared to death that I was going to get in trouble.”
She wasn’t comfortable in Hollywood, she said, especially as a young woman. Though she has stories about Katherine Hepburn and the Marx brothers, these days she much prefers to talk about her great-grandchildren.
“You meet them all, but they’re just people,” she said. “We’re all just people — when you’re working, everybody’s working, it’s like you’re working with anybody anywhere.”
Garland, she said, was “amazing” — “so talented and so open.” She remembers when Garland, two years younger than her at the time, got her first car. Glass said they all had a good time when the camera wasn’t rolling — “we were a bunch of kids.”
“Judy was neat and we were all friends,” she said, adding that in their free time, the cast members would sit around, playing games and telling stories.
She left Hollywood, and “had a different life completely” after meeting her husband, Leonard, when she was 20.
“I fell in love,” she said. “I met my husband and he had nothing to do with the moving picture business. He was in the military.”
She has two children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live on Mercer Island. She volunteers at the Thrift Shop twice a week, and has performed in melodramas on the Covenant Shores campus. She doesn’t think about Hollywood too often, but remembers it relatively fondly.
“I did love it,” she said. “I loved working there.”
This story originally appeared in the Mercer Island Reporter, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.