Directed by William Castle (1950)
Midgets, dwarves, elves, and shrunken folk always add excitement and joy to the movies. But they're always given smaller roles, even though they're the most memorable Ñ the munchkins from The Wizard of Oz and Mini Me from Austin Powers 2, for example. But in 1950, William Castle cast a squeaky-voiced, boy-faced midget for the starring role. Yes, an entire movie based on the life of a midget. He began the film with a foreward explaining the reason for making it (after all, people must have thought he was a fucking nut to make a movie about a little fellow Ñ people like big fellows!). Castle's hope was that "by better understanding the lives of these people a greater and deeper knowledge of all humanity will come to us." The man was simply trying to better society.
The movie spans the life of Harry, the aforementioned midget. The story opens with him getting punched in the face by a bully, because the bully didn't believe someone that little could be twelve years old, as Harry had claimed. Harry probably took a lot of that shit. People don't like thinking they're being lied to, and punching the possible liar is the best way to handle things. Either that or smacking them from behind with a shovel. Harry collects himself and trots home to his farm in his cuffed jeans. Yes, cuffed jeans Ñ which are the currently still a fashion rage amongst hipsters, but hey, the midget wore them because his pants were too long, that's why you cuff them! Not for fashion, you stupid dumbasses. We'll get back to Harry's wardrobe later.
Harry's dad is utterly perplexed by Harry's lack of growth. "I feed him and I pamper him and he just stays nuthin'." There's even a height chart written on the wall. That's right, written on the wall. Why bother with tape or a piece of paper when you can just scribble right on the wall? Dad takes Harry to the doctor hoping to find out what the fuck is going on. Something must be up. Well, the doctor can't say for sure: "I'm just a country doctor. People call me for belly aches and chopped off fingers." You know how country folks are always cuttin' off fingers. They're very careless. So are shop teachers. Anyway, the doctor suggests that Harry's a midget and won't be growing anymore. Dad takes action immediately. He pulls Harry out of school and decides to keep him hidden away at home so no one will make fun of his height, because when people see midgets, the jokes start rollin' and sometimes chickens get thrown at them. (There've also been a few reported cases of midgets being tied to a rope that's tied to a pole and then used for competitive tether ball.) Dad explains things to Harry in a very gentle manner, "It's the best thing for you. See, you're not gonna grow anymore. It's best nobody see ya son." There. That shouldn't hurt his feelings at all. So Harry sits at home for the next nine years. His sister can't bring girlfriends or boyfriends home because they might make fun of Harry. They might even want to toss him or stuff him in cupboards. Sometimes it's just hard to resist. Harry just hangs around the farm reading and wearing a suit. A suit. On the farm. Why the hell did everybody in the '40s and '50s wear a suit? Even gangsters wore three-piece suits with pocket handkerchiefs. Men relaxed at home on Sundays munching on pork rinds and deviled eggs wearing a suit. What a silly period of formal dress. Well, finally Harry's sister can't take it anymore and lashes out at her father urging him to get rid her vertically-challenged brother. The little guy overhears everything and decides to invite a circus man over to check him out. "What can you do?" he asks, "Sing? Dance? Not that it matters, you'll draw a crowd just standing on a platform selling postcards!" Especially if they're nudie postcards. That settles it. Harry's off to the circus Ñ where a midget can really shine. He packs up one small bag which apparently contains everything he needs (one suit, maybe underwear). The circus man drives off with him and starts thinking up all the neat stuff they'll do. He'll put Harry in purple pants and a yellow shirt. Dames will crowd around him! Suckers will flock in! Harry doesn't seem very thrilled. He probably wanted to wear a suit. They stop off at a bar, where the circus man tries to show him off to the other patrons. No one seems amused. So he sticks a cigar in Harry's mouth, so they can see what that would look like. Have you ever seen a midget smoke a cigar? Hilarious. Every time. Well, Harry isn't liking this circus thing at all. He runs into the bathroom and escapes out the window. Fuck that shit.
Next thing you know, Harry's hitchhiked his way to the city. He walks over to a man, Sam, who's sitting on a park bench eating a sandwich. Harry just stands there like stop sign. Finally Sam says something to him, offers him a bite of his sandwich, and the two become fast friends. But not sexually, Harry's all man. Sam teaches Harry his trade, shoe shining. Harry turns out to be an excellent apprentice and really starts raking in the cash. In fact, he manages to take over all of Sam's clients. But hey, if you had a choice between a normal, full-grown man, and an abnormal, hardly-grown man, which would you choose? It's not brain surgery. Not even tonsil removal.
Now Harry's got money and he's livin' large, so he gets himself some digs in an apartment building. He meets a lovely woman next door, Buttons. That's what folks call her. She befriends him and even takes him out Ñ in public! Harry quickly falls in love. Buttons introduces him to the glories of alcohol, and before you can buy pants in the toddler's section, Harry's boozin' it up and getting shitty. But soon folks notice him and start pointing and shouting nasty things. Harry doesn't care much for that. So he takes his Midori Sour and throws it in the face of some bitch. Serves her right. And serves as an important message as to what can happen to you if you mock a midget to his face. They won't stand for it (or they may stand for it, it just may appear as though they're sitting). You might be wondering why for the love of God would Buttons be hanging out with Mr. I-Need-A-Step-Stool-Everywhere-I-Go. It turns out she's involved in a very profitable pickpocketing scam with a few other hooligans, and she wants Harry to help out. They could dress him up like a little boy and he can pull off all sorts of shenanigans. Harry goes for it, and quickly gets hooked on the cash. To hell with Sam and shoe shining. All is going well until Buttons stops paying attention to Harry. She's out floozin' with tall guys in suits, and suddenly Harry realizes she's not attracted to his fire-hydrant size. So, Harry decides to go to the cops and rat everyone out. But hey, Harry's guilty too. That little fucker can't just get off scot-free. The cops decide to punish him by sending him away. To another circus. As you can imagine, Harry wasn't flashing his pearly whites in a big ol' grin.
Once at the circus, things take a turn for the better when Harry meets a female midget. She's just darling. Harry sings her a song, they share a few giggles, and before you know it, they're married. Happy ending, right?
Basically, this movie attempted to boost the awareness of midgets and let people know that they're real people too, and should be treated accordingly. Yet, in the end, the only place Harry truly finds happiness is in the circus. And that's just kind of a fucked up, not-very-happy-at-all ending.
You can order It's a Small World from the Just For The Hell Of It video catalog. Write J4HI!, PO Box 19, Dept. BW, Butler, NJ 07405. Send $3 to M. Decker. He'll refund your $3 if you order.