Billy Barty (born William John Bertanzetti, October 25, 1924 – December 23, 2000) was an American actor and activist. In adult life, he stood three feet, nine inches (114 cm), due to cartilage–hair hypoplasia dwarfism, and because of his short stature, he was often cast in movies opposite taller performers for comic effect. He specialized in outspoken or wisecracking characters. During the 1950s, he became a television star, appearing regularly in the Spike Jones ensemble.
Barty in Foul Play (1978)
|Born||William John Bertanzetti
October 25, 1924
|Died||December 23, 2000
|Cause of death||Heart failure|
|Spouse(s)||Shirley Bolingbroke (m. 1962; his death 2000)|
Barty co-starred with Mickey Rooney in the Mickey McGuire shorts, a comedy series of the 1920s and 1930s based on the Toonerville Folks comics. Small for his age even then, Barty would impersonate very young children alongside brawny authority figures or wild animals, making these threats seem even larger by comparison.
In the 1933 film Gold Diggers of 1933, a nine-year-old Barty appeared as a baby who escapes from his stroller. He also appeared as The Child in the 1933 film Footlight Parade. He is briefly seen in the 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein, in an uncredited role as a baby in one of Dr. Pretorius' experiments, although his close-ups were cut out of the picture.
Much of Barty's film work consisted of bit parts and gag roles. He appeared in Fireman Save My Child (with Spike Jones), and also appeared in two Elvis Presley films. He had one scene in Roustabout and co-starred without dialogue in Harum Scarum.
He also had roles in these feature films:
- Soup to Nuts (1930) as Junior (uncredited)
- Daddy Long Legs (1931) as Billy - Orphan (uncredited)
- Monkey Business (1931) (uncredited)
- Over the Hill (1931) as Shelby Boy (uncredited)
- Out All Night (1933) as Child
- Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) as Baby in 'Pettin' in the Park' Number (uncredited)
- Footlight Parade (1933) as Mouse / Little Boy (uncredited)
- Roman Scandals (1933) as Little Eddie (uncredited)
- Alice in Wonderland (1933) as White Pawn / The Baby (uncredited)
- Bride of Frankenstein (1935) as Baby (uncredited)
- A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935) as Mustard-Seed
- Nothing Sacred (1937) as Boy Biting Wally's Ankle (uncredited)
- Three Wise Fools (1946) as Bit (uncredited)
- Pygmy Island (1950) as Kimba (uncredited)
- The Clown (1953) as Billy - Coney Island Midget (uncredited)
- Fireman Save My Child (1954) as Clarinetist inside tuba (uncredited)
- The Undead (1957) as The Imp
- The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962) as The Court Jester (uncredited)
- Roustabout (1964) as Billy (uncredited)
- Harum Scarum (1965) as Baba
- The Perils of Pauline (1967) as Pygmy Leader (uncredited)
- Pufnstuf (1970) as Googy Gopher / Orville Pelican
- The Day of the Locust (1975) as Abe Kusich
- The Godmothers (1975) as The Hawk
- Sixpack Annie (1975) as Pie Vendor (uncredited)
- W.C. Fields and Me (1976) as Ludwig
- Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) as Assistant Director
- The Amazing Dobermans (1976) as Samson
- The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977) as Little Man
- Rabbit Test (1978) as Lester
- Foul Play (1978) as J.J. MacKuen
- The Lord of the Rings (1978, rotoscope footage) as Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee
- Firepower (1979) as Dominic Carbone
- Skatetown, U.S.A. (1979) as Jimmy
- Hardly Working (1980) as Sammy
- Under the Rainbow (1981) as Otto Kriegling
- Night Patrol (1984) as Captain Lewis
- Legend (1985) as Screwball
- Tough Guys (1986) as Philly
- Body Slam (1987) as Tim McClusky
- Rumpelstiltskin (1987) as Rumpelstiltskin
- Snow White (1987) as Iddy
- Masters of the Universe (1987) as Gwildor
- Off the Mark (1987) as The Little Russian
- Willow (1988) as High Aldwin
- Lobster Man from Mars (1989) as Mr. Throckmorton
- UHF (1989) as Noodles MacIntosh
- The Rescuers Down Under (1990) as Baitmouse (voice)
- Wishful Thinking (1990) as Gypsy
- Diggin' Up Business (1990) as Crosby
- Life Stinks (1991) as Willy
- The Naked Truth (1992) as The Bell Boy
- Outlaws: The Legend of O.B. Taggart (1994)
- Radioland Murders (1994) as Himself
- An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998) as Himself
Barty appeared several times on The Dennis Day Show, including once as a leprechaun. Beginning in 1958, he played pool hustler Babby, an occasional "information resource", in eight episodes of the Peter Gunn TV series. Barty starred in the Rawhide episode "Prairie Elephant" in 1961.
Barty was known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm for any productions in which he appeared. He performed with the Spike Jones musical comedy show on stage and television, and is remembered for his remarkable parody of flamboyant pianist Liberace.
Barty also starred in a local Southern California children's show, Billy Barty's Bigtop, in the mid-1960s, which regularly showed The Three Stooges shorts. In one program, Stooge Moe Howard visited the set as a surprise guest. The program gave many Los Angeles area children their first opportunity to become familiar with little people, who until then had been rarely seen on the screen except as two-dimensional curiosities. He also appeared as a guest host on KTTV's Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade whenever "Sheriff John" Rovick was on vacation.
Barty also starred as "Sparky the Firefly" in the popular children's television shows The Bugaloos from 1970 to 1972 and as "Sigmund" in Sigmund and the Sea Monsters produced by Sid Krofft and Marty Krofft from 1974 to 1976. Barty played as Toulouse Lautrec in the 1972 The Brady Bunch Saturday morning cartoons preview special The Brady Bunch Meet ABC's Saturday Superstars. Barty played the evil sidekick on the 1970s Saturday morning TV series Dr. Shrinker, and was a regular cast member of comedian Redd Foxx's variety show The Redd Foxx Show. Barty appeared in an episode of Barney Miller in 1977 & The Love Boat in 1978. Another show he guest-starred in was CHiPs. In June 1978, Barty guest-starred in the final episode of Man from Atlantis entitled "Deadly Carnival". He also guest starred in two episodes of Little House On The Prairie playing a circus member in the episode "Annabelle". Also in a later episode as a single dad trying to raise a baby daughter. Barty was regularly seen on Bizarre, a weekly Canadian TV sketch comedy series, airing from 1980 to 1985.
Barty was a noted activist for the promotion of rights for others with dwarfism. He was disappointed with contemporary Hervé Villechaize's insistence that they were "midgets" instead of actors with dwarfism. Barty founded the Little People of America organization to help people with dwarfism in 1957 when he called upon people of short stature to join him in a get-together in Reno, Nevada. That original meeting of 21 people grew into Little People of America, a group which as of 2010 has more than 6,800 members. It was the first North American organization for little people.
In 1990, Barty was sued in small claims court by two of the writers of his cancelled comedy television series Short Ribbs, which aired for 13 weeks in the autumn of 1989 as a local program on KDOC-TV. Producer and writer William Winckler and writer Warren Taylor filed separate lawsuits against Barty for money owed, and Barty lost both cases. Barty claimed the lawsuit news was the most publicity he ever got, and compared it to similar press that celebrity Zsa Zsa Gabor received for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer.
In December 2002, a book on Barty's life titled Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty. The book was authored by Barty's nephew, Michael Copeland, and Copeland's wife Debra.
- "Billy Barty, 76, Diminutive Actor And an Advocate for Dwarfs". The New York Times. December 27, 2000. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
Billy Barty, a 3-foot-10-inch actor whose career spanned seven decades and all types of roles, died on Saturday at a hospital in Glendale, Calif. He was 76. Mr. Barty had been hospitalized for heart problems and a lung infection, and died of heart failure, said his publicist, Bill York.
- "Billy Barty Biography (1924-2000)". Film Reference. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
- "Mormon News for WE 29Dec00: Diminutive Mormon Entertainer Bill". Mormonstoday.com. 2000-12-29. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
- Evanier, Mark (19 January 2001). "POV Victor & Billy". Comics Buyer's Guide. News from ME.
- "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Billy Barty". Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
- "SHORT TAKES: Barty to Pay; Claims Victory". Los Angeles Times. 20 March 1990. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- "SHORT TAKES : Barty Ordered to Pay TV Writer". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. May 8, 1990. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
- "Billy Barty; Diminutive Entertainer". Los Angeles Times. 1992-08-20. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
- Chavez, Paul (2000-12-24). "Hollywood Actor Billy Barty Dies at Age 76". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-01-26.
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