Betty Ann Bruno, who entertained and informed audiences for decades, has died at the age 91.
Best known to fans for The Wizard of Oz, in which she was cast as a munchkin at age 7, Bruno went on to become an Emmy-winning television producer and local news reporter. Per Deadline, Bruno’s family did not provide a cause of death.
She is survived by her husband Craig Scheiner and their three sons.
“Other reporters would try to get [interviews, and] those same people they would say ‘no, no, no way.’ Betty Ann was always able to get the interview,” remembered retired reporter Rob Roth in an interview with KTVU, Bruno’s place of work for decades. “She really did care about the community, cared about reporting. She was just a real treasure, a joy to know.”
Born in Wahiawa, Hawaii, and of Native Hawaiian descent, Bruno spent her childhood in Hollywood, launching a child acting career with an uncredited role in John Ford’s 1937 movie, The Hurricane, according to Deadline.
Her 2020 memoir, The Munchkin Diary: My Personal Yellow Brick Road, detailed the Stanford University graduate’s other endeavors after sharing the screen with Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz.
“At 12, she was the full-time organist in a Catholic church, where she was mentored by an ex-seminarian who tried repeatedly to molest her,” states a synopsis of Bruno’s book. “As an adult, she worked for the CIA. She then became Oakland’s first female, Asian-American television reporter.”
After her retirement from local TV in California’s Bay Area, Bruno continued to expand her horizons, founding a Polynesian dance troupe in Sonoma. “I am ‘the hula lady,’ that’s what the people in the grocery store call me when they see me,” she said in an interview with KITV-4 last year. “I sought my Hawaiian identity through the hula… It’s a beautiful culture and I’m so proud of it and that is a core of my life.”
Bruno was one of the few remaining stars in Victor Fleming’s Oscar-winning The Wizard of Oz film. In 2018, when Jerry Maren died, he was considered the last surviving cast member of the 124 actors with dwarfism who played munchkins.
91 is quite a long life. May Betty rest in peace.