98-year-old Mercer Island woman one of last remaining ‘Wizard of Oz’ cast members
The Wizard of Oz turns 80 years old this year! According to the Library of Congress, it is the most seen film in movie history and it was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture, which it lost to Gone with the Wind. But it did win two Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.
One of the film’s last surviving cast members lives right here on Mercer Island. 98-year-old Meredythe Glass was an extra in the film back in 1939.
“I was 18 and the reason I was able to be in the Wizard of Oz as an extra was because my cousin Mervyn LeRoy produced the Wizard of Oz. I was a Green Lady, I think there must have been 100 of us!”
Mervyn LeRoy was a famous Hollywood producer and director who was once married to the daughter of one of the Warner Bros and, as the stories go, discovered Clark Gable.
Like Glass mentioned, she was a Green Lady, one of the many women dressed in green that appeared in all the big crowd scenes.
“We were in Emerald City. We extras were talking quietly and laughing and just wasting time. All of a sudden we heard this wonderful voice and it was “Over The Rainbow.” Slowly we stopped talking and it was an absolutely breathtaking moment for me and everybody else. After it was over we all clapped and yelled and waved. It was absolutely a moment for me and one I will never forget. To this day I see a rainbow and it comes right back to me. That moment comes back.”
Glass and Judy Garland were both 18 during filming and they struck up a friendship. They got to work together again when Glass was an extra on the film “Babes In Arms” starring Garland and Mickey Rooney.
“Judy was a fantastic person, she really was. We had fun! Like when she got her first car she drove it on the set, that was a big deal. And we all piled in and were running around MGM in the car and waving at everybody! That’s the kind of a gal she was.”
Sadly, Garland passed away from a drug overdose when she was just 47, an addiction that began on the set of The Wizard of Oz. The studio wanted her to lose weight and they gave her what they called “pep pills” to suppress her appetite and give her energy to work long hours. Then, at night, they’d give her sleeping pills to calm her down.
“MGM had a doctor that they sent people to and I even was sent there. Sometimes you’re working all night long and it was difficult at times. I think she got hooked on them, I threw my [sleeping pills] away.”
Glass lives in the Covenant Shores retirement community on Mercer Island and this Friday they’re celebrating the film’s anniversary with a red carpet reception. Residents will dress up like the film’s characters, Glass will be signing autographs, and then they’ll screen The Wizard of Oz.
“Oh, I haven’t seen it for a long time. It’s in me. I’ve seen it, you know. It’s part of me.”