The Little Woman

The Doll family, according to the IMDb, made very few film appearances. The best known of the foursome are better known by different stage names — Harry Earles (originally Kurt Schneider) and sister Daisy (Hilda Schneider) appear in Tod Browning’s FREAKS in central roles, and in small parts (sorry!) in THE WIZARD OF OZ and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. But Fiona thinks she may have spotted Daisy elsewhere.

An older Daisy — we think — flirts with Cliff Robertson in THE BIG SHOW (1961), a stultifying 20th Century Fox circus pic that just about did for Esther Williams’ career. The distinctive helium-squeak voice and German accent (the film was shot on locations around Munich) convince us that this must be Daisie or one of her siblings. She gives a more relaxed performance here than in FREAKS, and is the high point of the film if it’s really her. If it’s not really her, there is no reason to watch this movie. Really terrible.

And in E.A. Dupont’s MOULIN ROUGE (1928), which we just enjoyed at HippFest (well, Fiona fell asleep, but she couldn’t help herself and she consumed the film eagerly on video later), a troupe of little people are seen performing at the Casino de Paris, and again the female lead in the act looks like Daisy. And in yellowface, yet. Which part of this act is most offensive? Oh, and the fiendish Mandarin seems like a dead ringer for Harry.

The show documented in MOULIN ROUGE evidently featured a whole array of little people, so it makes sense that they’d hire the Doll family in order to bulk up the numbers. It’s a veritable Parisian Munchkinland.

5 Responses to “The Little Woman”

  1. DBenson Says:

    L&H’s “Their Purple Moment” features a cabaret with a few little people performing. The film ends surprisingly quietly. Some surviving publicity shots suggest greater use of the cabaret show:
    Laurel & Hardy, hiding from their wives in 'Their Purple Moment' (1928) - a deleted scene

  2. The little guy on the right looks like the mute butler from The Prisoner.

  3. Mark Fuller Says:

    I can’t find any images online but there is, in the Betty Balfour Syd Chaplin vehicle A Little Bit of Fluff, a very glamorous little couple in a sequence where Syd mistakes the lady for a little girl in a party frock. If the Doll family were in the UK at that time, could this be them too ???

  4. Mark Fuller Says:

    Cancel that…..I just found a US poster that credits “The Singer Midgets”. On the other hand, that makes The Singer Midgets a possibility for Moulin Rouge….

  5. Ah, but the Moulin Rouge scenes were filmed in Paris (though not at the Moulin Rouge but the Casino de Paris)…

    I turn to Gaby Wood’s Living Dolls, a bible for this kind of stuff, Fiona’s copy of which was just excavated from our spare room:

    “Few parents of the twenties knew, for example, that the sweet little infant whose face adorned every jar of baby food and bottle of talcum powder was Franz Ebert, and Austrian midget who had toured America with the impressario Leo Singer.” Singer did cross paths with the Earle/Doll family though, as he rounded up all the Munchkins for the ’39 Oz.

    Here, I’m pretty damned certain that savage Mandarin is Harry Earles…

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