December 23 is the birthday of little person performer George Brasno (1911-1982). George started out in a vaudeville act singing and dancing with his sister Olive (also a little person), and a gent named Buster Shaver. The Brasnos hailed from New Jersey. Buster Shaver, Olive and George were in demand as a live act in vaudeville and night clubs, so much so that the latter two are said to have turned down roles in The Wizard of Oz because it would have interfered with live bookings.
But they are in many other movies including Sitting Pretty (1934), Shrimps for a Day (1934, an Our Gang short), The Mighty Barnum (1934), a short called Vaudeville (1934), Carnival (1935), Charlie Chan at the Circus (1936), Arbor Day (1936, also with Our Gang), and Little Miss Broadway with Shirley Temple (1938).
George appeared without Olive in The Great John L. (1945) as Tom Thumb. And Buster Shaver and Olive appeared without George in a number called “The Dancing Doll” on Abbott and Costello’s Christmas special on The Colgate Comedy Hour in 1952. This is how I first became aware of the team.
Shaver must have a had a thing for dancing with little people. I came across this undated photo of him and a dancer named Millita Wronga:
Wronga was married to little person/ classical guitar virtuoso Willy Blaseri. Olive married Gus Wayne, one of the little people in The Wizard of Oz.
In the 40s, Buster Shaver, Olive and George took an ocean liner to Europe, performing both on the ship and in casinos and cabarets on the continent. In 1945 and ’46 they were featured in the Broadway show Are You With It? Here, the Brasnos took Shaver’s name; they are all presented as the same family.
By the ’60s Shaver was working solo as an actor. He is in several episodes of the tv show Death Valley Days between 1965 and 1969. George spent his last days in New Jersey; Gus and Olive retired to Lakeland, Florida, which is less than an hour from Gibtown, the famous retirement community for sideshow folk. I found a lovely encounter with her in her later years here.
For more on performing little people please check out Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People in Vaudeville.
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