• 27 June 1909
  •  Springfield, Massachusetts, USA

Billy Curtis


Diminutive American actor Billy Curtis avoided the usual onus of freak-show employment as a youth, opting for a mainstream job as a shoe clerk. Encouraged by stock company actress Shirley Booth to take a little person role in a stage production, Curtis soon became a professional actor, with numerous Broadway musical productions to his credit. Curtis' big movie season was 1938-39: he was cast in The Wizard of Oz (1939) (albeit with voice dubbed by Pinto Colvig) and as the cowboy hero of the all-dwarf western The Terror of Tiny Town (1938). This last epic was one of the few instances that Curtis was cast as a good guy; many of his screen characters were ill-tempered and pugnacious, willing to bite a kneecap if unable to punch out an opponent. Seldom accepting a role which demeaned or patronized little people, Curtis played an obnoxious vaudeville performer compelled to sit on Gary Cooper's lap in Meet John Doe (1941), a suspicious circus star willing to turn Robert Cummings over to the cops in Saboteur (1942), and one of the many fair-weather friends of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Billy Curtis' career thrived into the 1970s, notably with solid parts in the Clint Eastwood western High Plains Drifter (1973) and the crime-caper melodrama Little Cigars (1973), in which he had second billing as a diminutive criminal mastermind. Billy Curtis retired in the 1980s, except for the occasional interview or Wizard of Oz cast reunion.