Saturday, July 3, 2010

Short People

I was thinking about Billy Barty a few days ago, so I looked up his filmography.  His first film was Mickey's Eleven.  Of course, I early version of the story of Ocean's Eleven, as the first thing through my mind. Maybe there was an early version and when Frank Sinatra got the script, he didn't like the name Mickey. WRONG!

Mickey's Eleven was a silent film made in 1927 starring a seven year old Mickey Rooney.  It was his 5th film, and he made a total of 322 films and TV appearances.  I counted 63 films in the Mickey McGuire series listed on IMDb.  Mickey's Eleven was not about a gang of children robbing all the casinos in Las Vegas, but little Mickey was in a football game in the short film. I will have to look for that one.  Amazon and Netflix don't list any DVDs in this series.  Come to think of it, there weren't many casinos in Las Vegas in 1927!

Billy Barty lived from 1924 to 2000 and appeared in 172 roles.  He made 36 of the Mickey McGuire series, so I guess short actors stuck together!  Barty was tapped whenever they needed a baby or child to act in a movie, rather than just look cute.

His part in Gold Diggers of 1933 shows what I mean.  He was nine years old in Gold Diggers, but he was dressed as a baby in a carriage who jumped out and evaded the police on roller skates.  He was 11 years old when he played a little baby in The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935.

His face had a permanent grimace.  His size (3' 9") and face made him perfect to play later roles as a kind of misfit in society who could was befriended by the hero of a movie or TV show.  In the fifties and sixties, you had to show viewing kids that just because someone looks strange they are not necessarily bad.

On TV he was a regular on "The Spike Jones Show" and appeared in several episodes of "Peter Gunn."  His sinister acting ability also showed in "Thriller" and "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour."

In 1978 he was a bible salesman in the comedy/mystery Foul Play with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase.  He needed to come across as a possible villain to Hawn, but he turned out to be innocent.  The scene in the hospital with Goldie trying to apologize to Billy is a classic.

His career included many children's films, detective stories and fantasies, along with some musicals.  Despite his short stature, he was a tall bit actor.

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