I have mentioned before that my undergraduate senior thesis was on the topic of portrayals of Little People (dwarfs, the real kind) in film and television. If you think that sounds like a fairly specific and esoteric area of research, you’re right – and that’s exactly why I chose it. Why dedicate a semester of your life to something that’s been researched to death already? I wanted to embark on something new, both to make a (very minor) mark in my academic field and to edify myself, to achieve a greater understanding of an oft-ignored sector of cinema history. Whether as stunt performers, comedic relief, or full-fledged multi-dimensional characters, many of us notice and enjoy the contributions of Little People in the classic films we watch, but how many of us really bother to learn anything about these forgotten and under-appreciated performers? We all grew up loving the Munchkins and the Oompa Loompas; what many people fail to remember is that these childhood fantasies were portrayed by real people who made a living in the entertainment industry and probably have a lot more significant screen credits under their belts than most of us realize.
Because I do have this very particular area of expertise and interest, I thought it’d be fun to start a new semi-regular feature on this blog called Short Stories, wherein I profile actors and actresses of short stature so that classic film fans can know more about who these people were and why we should appreciate their contributions to cinema. The first profile will be on the highly-lauded actor of stage, screen, and television, Michael Dunn (1934-1973), with special focus paid to his role in the 1965 Stanley Kramer ensemble drama Ship of Fools. (Hint: it’s actually just the introduction to my thesis, but it’s a damn good essay, so why not milk it for all it’s worth?) I just wanted to have this introductory post here so that I don’t have to re-explain the motivations behind the concept every time I add a new entry to the series, and to provide a space where readers can suggest the names of performers they’d like to see profiled. I’m willing to be a bit loose about the decades, but please do remember that this is a classic film blog. Furthermore, so that we can avoid any uninformed questions or misuse of terms, I will refer you to my primer on the basics of dwarfism. While I want this to be a fun and engaging series, I do take this topic very seriously; please do your darnedest to be respectful of the performers I am attempting to honor.