How very odd. My wife and I were looking at this photo of Felix Silla (b. 1937) a couple of days ago and now we learn that he died yesterday. Is there something crackling through the ether? Did we have a premonition? The greater likelihood is that we are ALWAYS looking at Addams Family pictures and so we’ll naturally be tied to whatever the Addams Family news of the day happens to be. We liked this picture on account of the eeriness of his face peeking out from his costume — it’s even more uncanny than the Cousin Itt costume itself. It was plainly hot in there; there are many such pictures of Silla airing himself out.
Anyway, that’s not what killed Silla. He hadn’t played his most famous role in a while, although he was working (well into his 80s) until just a couple of years ago. Silla was never any taller than 3′ 11″ in his adulthood. Born in a small village outside Rome (Italy, not New York) he moved to the U.S. as a kid and performed with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus where he acquired skills as a tumbler, trapeze artist and equestrian. These abilities later stood him in good stead when he became a Hollywood stuntman. Due to his unique size he often doubled for children.
Some notable roles after The Addams Family: Shorty in She Freak (1967), a troll and a goblin on Bewitched (1967, 1971), a child gorilla in Planet of the Apes (1968), various characters on H.R. Pufnstuf (1969-70) and Lidsville (1971-72), a Seal Boy in the terrifying 1973 horror film Sssssss, three German little people in a row in 1975 and 1976 (Litvak in The Black Bird, Schatzi in Mastermind, and Rheinhardt in Black Samurai), a recurring role as “Chuck” on the second season of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman (1977), the monster baby in Demon Seed (1977), a crazy clown in Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), Misquamacus in The Manitou (1978), Lucifer on Battlestar Galactica (1978-79), Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81, Mel Blanc did the voice, of course), one of the creatures in The Brood (1979), a munchkin in Under the Rainbow (1981), an Ewok in Return of the Jedi (1983), Dink in Spaceballs (1987), and a penguin in Batman Returns (1992), among others.
Movies in which he stunted (usually for kids) included Earthquake (1974), The Towering Inferno (1974), The Hindenburg (1975), E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Poltergeist (1982), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984, for Short Round, of course), and Howard the Duck (1986).
This being the 21st century, there is of course a dedicated Felix Silla website. Check it out here.
For related reading, please check out Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People in Vaudeville.