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‘Wizard of Oz’ munchkin Mickey Carroll dies

ST. LOUIS – Mickey Carroll, the diminutive actor whose appearance in an iconic film classic granted him lifelong fame, died at his home Thursday morning. He was 89.

Carroll, whose real name is Michael Finocchiaro, grew up in St. Louis and made it to Hollywood to perform in the “Wizard of Oz” role that defined his life. He spent a lot of time on charitable work, and would talk to anyone, at any time, about his part as a Munchkin in the movie.

Of the 125 Munchkins who starred in the “Wizard of Oz,” only seven are still alive. Most recently, actor Clarence Swensen, who played one of the Munchkin soldiers, passed away in late February at the age of 91.

There’s an odd twist to Carroll’s story. About the same time he died, a lawyer was filing suit on his behalf, asking for an accounting of his finances, and raising concerns that his caretaker Linda Dodge had improperly taken control of his finances and his personal affairs.

Dodge said Carroll moved in with Dodge and her husband in December as his health deteriorated. Carroll’s nephew, Frank Parenti, also moved in.

Dodge has become caretaker not only of Carroll’s health, but his memory too, pushing for him to be included in various Walks of Fame, and having him promoted at various events celebrating the “Wizard of Oz” movie. She said he played three roles in the film: as a soldier, a fiddler and town crier.

But attorney Patrick McCarthy said Carroll’s family believes he was also being manipulated and had signed paperwork giving Dodge control of his life.

McCarthy said the state department in charge of adult affairs is investigating the case and a probate judge has called for a hearing next week to hear the allegations.

Among them are that Carroll signed a power of attorney when he was in fact mentally incapable of doing so.

In addition, McCarthy said there needs to be an accounting of Carroll’s finances and he wonders why Dodge kept Carroll from talking to his family members. Dodge denies wrongdoing and said the suit is just a family spat over money, as much as $1 million.

A Catholic Mass for Carroll on Wednesday at the St. Louis Cathedral will be preceded by a court hearing on the matter.

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