Today is the birthday of the dwarf actor Angelo Rossitto (1908-1991). The 2′ 11″ Rossitto has the interesting distinction of being the only member of the sideshow cast of Todd Browning’s Freaks to have had a real film career, appearing in over 70 films in a 60 year stretch between 1927 and 1987.
Rossitto’s career was a lot like the better known Billy Barty’s in that it ranged from real substantial roles…to jobs as an extra…to brief appearances in sight gags…to parts where was buried in a costume and you couldn’t see him at all. He played performing little people in circus movies, monstrous sidekicks in horror flicks, space aliens, elves, and of course set dressing in scenes of Roman or Weimar decadence. Interestingly, unlike most performers of his type I find no indication that he was ever a performer in sideshows, circuses or live theatre. Billed under his own name, or sometimes as “Little Moe”, “Little Angie” or “Angelino” the Omaha-born Rossitto took movie roles on the side to supplement the income he made from his Los Angeles news stand.
His first movie was The Beloved Rogue (1927) with John Barrymore and Conrad Veidt. Other roles that afforded decent amounts of screen time (and face time) included Freaks; two horror team-ups with Bela Lugosi, The Corpse Vanishes (1942) and Scared to Death (1947);
another horror part in Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971); a semi-regular role as Little Moe on the tv series Baretta (1977), and the mad scientist “Master” (who rode on the back of “Blaster”) in the dystopian Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1987).
He was a regular performer on the Syd and Marty Kroft kid’s shows H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-1970) and Lidsville (1971).
Other movies he appeared in over his long career included Dante’s Inferno (1935), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), Hellzapoppin (1941), Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (1944), The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947), Samson and Delilah (1949), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), Carousel (1956), The Story of Mankind (1957), and Dr. Doolittle (1967).
To learn more about show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc