Meredythe Glass was just another green lady from Oz. As she quietly chatted and laughed with her fellow Oz residents, their faces smeared with greasepaint to stand out under the harsh studio lights, this “beautiful music” began. Judy Garland started singing “Over the Rainbow,” and the Oz residents fell silent. Everyone fell silent. And when it was over, the applause was deafening. “It would not stop,” said Glass.
“Bum bum bum,” she remade the clapping sound with her mouth. “I will never forget that moment, when Judy sang ‘Over the Rainbow.’”
Glass, a 98-year-old Mercer Island resident, was 18 when she got her first job as an extra in one of the greatest movies in American history, “The Wizard of Oz.” The 80th anniversary of the film is Aug. 25.
Glass is thought to be the sole living member of the film’s cast after the last Munchkin died in 2018. When she was working on the movie, however, she had no idea how big it was going to be. She had just graduated from high school and was looking for some work in the tail end of the Great Depression. Her mother’s first cousin, Mervyn LeRoy, was the producer of “Wizard of Oz,” so she got the role.
“I did nothing,” said Glass. “And I keep telling everybody: I was just an extra! That’s the lowest thing you can get in Hollywood and that’s my claim to fame.”
She continued to be “just an extra” in some of Hollywood’s most classic films, including “Waterloo Bridge,” “Babes on Broadway,” “Strike up the Band” and “Babes in Arms.”
“I worked on a lot of pictures with Judy [Garland] and Mickey [Rooney]. We were a bunch of kids and I was always the extra kid,” she said. “It was fun and I had a good time — and I made enough money to keep me going.” Glass was paid $18 a day for her work in “The Wizard of Oz,” she said.
She remembers when Garland got her first car while filming “The Wizard of Oz.” Glass and some of Garland’s friends piled into the car and drove it around the MGM lot. As Glass told that story, she couldn’t help but laugh, move her arms in the air, and shift closer to the edge of her seat.
“[Judy] was very much wonderful,” Glass recalled.
Over the years, Glass has received fan mail from all over the world, given out dozens of signed autographs, and has talked at elementary schools. She was not expecting the fame when she was working on the movie — she was just an extra, she’d be quick to remind you — and especially now. Her fame feels strange, but she understands it.
“It’s not me that they’re seeing, they’re seeing somebody that worked on a movie,” said Glass. “That’s what movies do. They draw people to them.”
Glass is now a great-grandmother and has volunteered as a greeter at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop for 12 years, where she still works Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“I say hello and goodbye,” Glass chuckled. “I think it’s important to make people feel comfortable. Plus, they buy more stuff.”
She’s strong, full of life, and unapologetically herself.
“Meredythe is Meredythe,” said Roxanne Helleren, resident-services director at Covenant Living at the Shores, a retirement community where Glass has lived for 15 years. “She’s really a firecracker. She’s so independent.”
Glass’ daughter, Lynda Tammone, grew up hearing stories of Glass in Hollywood. When she was a child, Tammone found Glass’ footlocker from Hollywood and remembered analyzing her mother’s old greasepaint, the sticky makeup oily to the touch. As Glass told her story, Tammone continued to prompt her — “Remember ‘Waterloo Bridge’?” “Remember when you stood in for Vivien Leigh?”
This February, Covenant Living hosted an Oscar party, complete with a red carpet and a black-tie dress code. Glass, of course, resumed her role as a green lady with a costume Tammone had made for her. Helleren was dressed as Dorothy for the occasion. At the end of the event, everyone broke out into song, singing “Over the Rainbow.”
“Well, we tried to sing ‘Over the Rainbow,’” Glass chuckled. “I’m no Judy.”
Glass’ four-year stint in Hollywood brings back fond memories. And while she’s watched countless movies and,worked as an extra in other films, “The Wizard of Oz” remains her favorite movie of all time.
“Usually the people that you work with — they’re people. Just plain people. And I was lucky enough to be able to play with them,” said Glass. “Crazy things happen in Hollywood.”
This story has been updated with the correct spelling of Roxanne Helleren’s name.