When working on Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People in Vaudeville I came within a whisker of including mention of a couple of troupes of whom I’d seen lots of pictorial references. These were the outfits of Nate Eagle and Henry Kramer. Both gents managed troupes called the “Hollywood Midgets”. But I didn’t know if they were competitors, or partners, or if proprietorship had changed hands from one to the other. As I could find scant information on either man, I decided in the end that running down the story on these guys would be a detective-work detour.
But in doing so, I had forgotten that years ago, my good friend and colleague Alyssa Simon had mentioned a connection to the Kramer troupe. It must have been a very long time ago; it’s been around a decade since I began regularly writing about performing Little People on Travalanche, and it had to have been before that. But I saw her a couple of days ago and she reminded me about it and now I MUST know more. So here are the little pieces I have put together.
According to Phreeque.com Kramer started managing vaudeville acts of Little People circa 1920. I have seen many different billings for acts bearing his name, including Henry Kramer’s Hollywood Midgets, Henry Kramer’s Midgets, Henry Kramer’s Midgets on Parade, Henry Kramer’s Midget Starlets, the Midget Swing Revue, et al. Kramer liked Little People so much that he married one: 4’1″ Anna Sophia Fisher of Brooklyn, Alyssa’s great-great aunt, who became Dolly Kramer. (She’s the one in the longer dress, in the group photo at the top of the post). Henry was a man of average size; Hollywood needs to make a movie about their height-difference-transcending romance!
The biggest coup of Kramer’s career was booking around 40 Little People (including Dolly) to play Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939). That’s fewer than Leo Singer, but more than probably anyone else. There are references in the trades to Kramer’s troupes playing night clubs around the country throughout the ’40s and into the 1950s.
I came across a valuable little piece of ephemera this morning. A poem written by a fan that describes their act. From it, we learn that Dolly was the M.C., sang, and told jokes. The 1942 poem also mentions several of the other entertainers depicted in the photo at the top of this post. Read it here.
Another notable member of the Kramer troupe was Paul Dale, who starred in William Castle’s 1950 film It’s a Small World, also featuring Will Geer, Steve Brodie, et al. Marie Ellen St. Aubin, whom we wrote about here, was also a member of the troupe at one point. Danny Montague (pictured above), sometimes billed as “the World’s Only Colored Midget” (a false but plucky claim), had also been with Rose’s troupe. It was rare in those days for vaudeville acts to be racially integrated. There’s little doubt that at some venues he would have had to sit out the engagement, but high marks to both Rose and Kramer for including him as part of their performing families.
At any rate, this is what you might call a trunk post. I have but little doubt we’ll be adding to it over time as more becomes known.
For related reading, please check out Rose’s Royal Midgets and Other Little People in Vaudeville.