Alan Ladd, one of Hollywood’s most revered leading actors in the 1940s. Used to stand on top of a box to appear taller. Ladd was Five-foot-six. Likewise, the female co-stars of Humphrey Bogart used to have to hunch down when seated next to him so that they would look shorter than the five-foot-eight actor.
While there is no specific height requirement for being an actor. The way that stars are commonly presented on screen would make you believe that many of them all quite tall. Today, the average American male height is five-foot-nine. But back during the days of the Golden Age of Hollywood, people were on average much shorter. In fact, over the last 150 years, it’s said that the average height of people has increased by about four inches.
The fact that the average height of leading men in Hollywood is shorter than average proves that one’s height isn’t necessarily a barrier of entry when it comes to finding success in the film industry. Looking back at some of the most prominent names in old Hollywood. We find that quite a few of them were a lot shorter than you might expect.
Keep watching to learn about the shortest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Humprey Bogart – 5 feet 8 inches
Bogart is actually one of the tallest actors that we’re going to feature in this video. At five-eight, he was just one inch shorter than the modern male average.
Even so, Bogart quite concerned that moviegoers would notice how much shorter he compared to his Casablanca co-star Ingrid Bergman.
As such, she instructed to slouch while sitting on the sofa in several scenes while Bogart propped up on a couple of extra cushions so that they would appear more level. Keep watching to learn about the shortest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Alan Ladd – 5 feet 6 inches
Ladd was one of the most prominent film noir stars of the 1940s. It’s reported that he would stand on boxes while on set so that he would appear as tall or taller than his female co-stars. Ladd wasn’t incredibly short by any means, but he was very image conscious and wanted to project a strong sense of masculinity.
A few other ‘tricks of the trade’ back in the olden days of Hollywood included having women wear ballet flats to lower their height. Or have them stand in trenches for the same effect.
Peter Falk – 5 feet 6 inches
Peter Falk best known for his role as Lie tenant Columbo in the long-running and critically acclaimed TV series Columbo which aired from 1968 to 1979 before revived in 1989 and airing until 2003. The reboot comprised of made-for-TV film specials that would air sporadically.
While Falk’s height never seemed to get in the way of his acting. A 1981 news article mentioned that his diminutive stature is what attracted his second wife Shera Danese to him. In that article, Shera quoted as saying that she always preferred dating shorter men since they tended to be nicer.
Aside from his TV career, Falk also appeared in films such as It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Princess Bride, The Great Race, Wings of Desire, and Next.
Falk sadly died of pneumonia on June 23, 2011. At his home on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills at age 83. Keep watching to learn about the shortest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Burgess Meredith – Five feet Six inches
Born Oliver Burgess Meredith in 1907, this actor and filmmaker was active for more than six decades. He has called ‘a virtuosic actor’ as well as ‘one of the most accomplished actors of the 20th century’.
Meredith established himself as a leading man during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Appearing in films such as 1936a Romagna in Winterset, 1939s Of Mice and Men, and 1945s GI Joe.
Later in his career, Meredith known for his appearances on The Twilight Zone and Batman – the latter of which saw him portraying the Penguin.
He also appeared in films such as 1975s The Day of the Locust and 1976s Rocky. Both of these films earned him Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor. He followed those roles upo with performances in 1978s Foul Play and 1981s Clash of the Titans.
At five-foot-six inches tall, Burgess was shorter than many of his contemporaries. But his height never seemed to get in the way of his work. Keep watching to learn about the shortest actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Audie Murphy – Five feet Five inches
Who says you have to be tall to be a hero?
Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier in American history. In fact, to date, no other soldier has earned every single award for valor like he did. During his time serving as a Lieutenant in the army. Murphy earned the Medal of Honor, two Silver Stars, and an additional three Bronze Stars.
During the Second World War, Murphy mowed down Nazis, jumped on top of a burning tank, outshot snipers, and single-handedly took out German armor.
After the war was over, Murphy offered a chance to attend West Point. But instead he decided to pursue an acting career. After studying Shakespeare and doing some stock theater, he landed his first major role in the film The Kid From Texas in which he portrayed Billy The Kid.
He then appeared in a film called To hell and Back which was based on a semi-autobiographical novel that he wrote with one his old Army buddies.
In the 1960s, Audie hit rock bottom when he became addicted to the prescription medication Placidyl. Fortunately he was able to kick the habit by barricading himself in a motel room until he had made it through withdrawal. After that, he became very reclusive and attempted to take his own life on several occasions. To make matters worse, he lost most of his money to bad investments and gambling.
Throughout all of this hardship, Murphy offered opportunities to appear in ads for cigarettes and booze. But he turned them down because he didn’t want to set a bad example for the many children that looked up to him as a hero.
Tragically, Murphy died in a small plane crash that went down 20 miles west of Roanoke, Virginia, on May 28, 1971.
James Cagney – Five feet Five Inches
Cagney was an actor, dancer, and film director known for his energetic performances, distinct voice, and deadpan comedic timing.
He is perhaps best remembered for playing multifaceted tough guys in movies such as 1931s The Public Enemy, 1932s Taxi!, 1939s The Roaring Twenties, and 1949s White Heat – just to name a few.
While he found himself typecast by his earlier roles, he was eventually able to negotiate dancing opportunities into his movies. This culminated in him winning an Academy Award for his unforgettable role in the 1942 musical Yankee Doodle Dandy.
He’s typically included in lists of the best actors of Hollywoods Golden Age. And Orson Welles once described him as perhaps the greatest actor who ever appeared in front of a camera.
Not bad for a guy that stood at just five feet five inches tall.
Charlie Chaplin – Five feet Five inches
Born Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr on the 16th of April, 1889, Charlie was an English actor, comic, filmmaker, and composer who experienced a meteoric rise to fame during the silent film era of Hollywood.
With his screen persona, the Tramp, Chaplin became a world-famous icon of cinema. After co-founding United Artists, Chaplin produced films like 1921s The Kid, 1925s The Gold Rush, and 1928s The Circus.
After initially refusing to work with sound in films, Charlie gave in and produced his first talkie The Great Dictator in 1940. He then accused of having communist sympathies and investigated by the FBI.
This forced Chaplin to leave the US, where he settled in Switzerland.
During the later years of his film career, he abandoned the Tramp character and made movies like 1947s Monsieur Verdoux, 1957s A King in New York, and 1957s A Countess from Hong Kong.
At 88, Chaplin died the day after Christmas in 1977.
Moe Howard – Five feet Three inches
As the leader of The Three Stooges, Howard was also the shortest. He was five feet three and a half inches tall, while Larry Besser and Joe DeRita were both five four.
Joe Besser was five-foot-five, while Moe’s brother Shemp Howard was five-foot-seven.
Moe Howard led the stooges in motion pictures and television specials for five decades. He known for his distinct bowl-cut hairstyle and his slapstick humor.
Mickey Rooney – Five feet Two Inches
Rooney is remembered for one of the most enduring and talented actors of all time. He had a wide versatility of range. Mickey Rooney could be serious or funny, sing and dance, and thrived both in Hollywood and on Broadway.
He got his start in vaudeville and on the radio but went on to appear in more than 300 films over the course of his 9-decade spanning career. While he was one of the most celebrated actors of his time, his off-camera behavior was wildly self-destructive, and instead of living a long, happy, fulfilled life, he spent most of his 93 years on this planet in misery.
Rooney married 8 times, but each of those unions ended in divorce or separation. He was known for being a lady’s man who often engaged in extramarital affairs, and for many years he was addicted to prescription medications.
In the late 90s, he was arrested on suspicion of beating his wife but the charges were dropped due to a lack of evidence. In 2011, Rooney filed a restraining order against his stepson Christopher Aber and his wife Christina. He claimed that he was the victim of elder abuse and even appeared before the US senate to testify about the abuse before a committee that was considering legislation to curb the problem of elder abuse.
While he was quite short, it seems like his height was the least of his worries. Rooney died at the age of 93 on the sixth of April , 2014. He may have lived a long life, but so much of that time was spent dealing with obstacles, hardships, and family drama.
We’re just about out of time for this one, but we’d love to hear from you.
Did you know that so many Golden Age-era actors were relatively short, and were you aware that actor Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier in US history? Let us know in the comments.
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