Buster Brodie, The Hairless Man

Buster Brodie (Max Broida, 1885-1948) billed himself as “The Hairless Man”, but he had an additional distinguishing characteristic: he was only 4′ 9 1/2″ tall, making an almost little person. Originally from Pittsburgh, he worked as a clown in circuses and performed in vaudeville. He was 40 when he began working in silent comedies with the likes of Lloyd Hamilton, James Parrott, Billy Bevan, Johnny Hines, and Charley Bowers.

Much like James T. Kelley, Brodie made a strong visual impression, which served him well when talkies cames in and he became basically a bit player. In other words, though he may have no lines and just a few seconds of screen time, he is memorable. For example, upon reading that he is a party guest in Chaplin’s City Lights (1931), a light immediately dawns — he was the bald one with the crown-shaped party hat. In the horror classic Island of Lost Souls (1932) he stood out as The Pig Man. He’s one of the winged monkeys in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Other movies he appeared in, usually billed as “Bald Man” or “Little Bald Man” include Cracked Nuts (1931) with Wheeler and Woolsey, Everything’s Rosie (1931) with Woolsey, the Pete Smith short Strikes and Spares (1934), Laurel and Hardy’s March of the Wooden Solders (1934) as Jack in the Box, Show Business (1944) with Eddie Cantor, Ghost Catchers with Olsen and Johnson, Crazy Knights (1944) with Shemp Howard, Billy Gilbert and Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom, The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) with Jack Benny, George White’s Scandals (1945), and the Joe McDoakes short So You Want to Keep Your Hair (1946). How wonderful it would have been if that had been his last film, but he did appear in a couple of others. His last, of about five dozen, was New Orleans (1947), in which he played a stage hand. According to this web site, written by a relative of Brodie’s, in between acting gigs, Brodie worked at the racetrack selling parimutuel tickets.

For more about vaudeville and related variety arts, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please check out my book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.