Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Harry Earles

Harry Earles was a midget actor, but I'll refer to him as a "little person" (another "little person" actor, Billy Barty, started this, when he founded the Little People of America in 1957). Mr. Earles was prominently seen in both the silent and sound versions of Lon Chaney's "The Unholy Three" (1925 and 1930), as well as in the cult classic "Freaks" (1932).

In the late 1970s, I was researching, with my friend Dick Baldwin, for a biography on Lon Chaney Sr., and we were contacting people who'd worked with Chaney. There weren't too many still living. One person who remained elusive for a long time was Harry Earles.

I'd been able to find some information about Earles, and his three sisters, also little people - just a few news items referring to them appearing in vaudeville and the circus, as an act called "The Dancing Dolls". It was by contacting Billy Barty that I was able to find Earles, when Barty referred me to another little person, Nita Krebs. Barty told me that Nita, who'd had been in "The Wizard of Oz", was living in Sarasota, Florida, home to many circus performers. He thought she may be of help. As it turned out, she knew the Earles family personally, and told me their real family name was Schneider, and that Harry's real name was Kurt.

Harry was neither friendly nor cooperative when I asked about his remembrances of Lon Chaney. He wanted to know what would be in it for him. Thinking he was indirectly asking to be paid for his memories, I asked him what he wanted, and he just further declined to tell me anything.

I did send him a photo to sign, a scene still of him from "Freaks", which he signed with his real name.

Several years later, Jim McPherson wrote an article about Harry Earles.

1 comment:

Devin said...

Sounds like he was pretty bitter. At least you were able to extract some information from him (and an autograph).