Sunday, October 10, 2010

Leading Men shorter than Richard Widmark

I saw this the other day on Twitter.

Really? That's a fact? I don't buy it. Okay maybe it's the case with Panic in the Streets (1950) where Richard Widmark is placed against all 6' 4" of Jack Palance but I refuse to believe that most leading men were over 5' 10". In fact, there were a lot of really short leading men who starred along even shorter leading women. Alan Ladd was paired with Veronica Lake and Mickey Rooney with Judy Garland for a reason people!

Here is a list of 30 classic film actors who were under 5' 10". I'm not even including those stars who were exactly 5' 10"! If you can think of any more, do let me know.

Mickey Rooney 5' 2"

Alan Ladd 5' 6-1/2"

James Cagney 5' 6-1/2"

Edward G. Robinson 5' 5"

Humphrey Bogart 5' 8"

Tony Curtis 5' 9"

Ernest Borgnine 5' 9"

Marlon Brando 5' 9"

Tony Randall 5' 8"

Jack Lemmon 5' 9"

Frank Sinatra 5' 7"

Gene Kelly 5' 7"

Bobby Darin 5' 8-1/2"

Dean Stockwell 5' 6"

Richard Barthelmess 5' 8"

Ramon Novarro 5' 6"

Paul Newman 5' 9-1/2"

James Dean 5' 8"

Steve McQueen 5' 9-1/2"

Peter Lorre 5' 5"

Buster Keaton 5' 5"

John Garfield 5' 7"

Kirk Douglas 5' 9"

Charles Boyer 5' 9"

Dirk Bogarde 5' 8-1/2"

George Raft 5' 7"

Peter Sellers 5' 8"

Claude Rains 5' 6-1/2"

Charlie Chaplin 5' 5"

Groucho Marx 5' 7-1/2"

Images shamelessly stolen from TCMDB and stats stolen from IMDB. Thanks to my Twitter friends for suggestions and to Carlos for helping me round out the list to an even 30.


  1. Speaking as someone who is only 5' 5", thank you for this post! I think what we forget today is that many leading men were not over 6'. I think we also forget that for most of the 20th century (in fact, clear up into the Eighties) the AVERAGE height of men was 5' 8". Contrary to popular belief, then, actors such as Steve McQueen, Tony Randall, Jack Lemmon, Humphrey Bogart, and so on were not short! They were average. :-)

    BTW, I don't think he qualifies as a classic movie actor (classic TV, yet, movies, no), but Robert Conrad is often said to be 5' 7", but many have placed him as short as 5' 6" (having watched hours of The Wild Wild West, I put it at the latter!).

  2. their characters were so larger than life, that most of these men just seemed..well bigger than their actual sizes. this is so crazy for me to believe!

  3. A lot of these actors I've always considered on the shorter side, but that doesn't mean I love them any less! Also, average height now is higher than it was then.

    Bogie always seemed short, as did Frank Sinatra. The one that surprised me most was Tony Curtis...He always seemed tall, but his slimness probably made him look taller. But, as I'm only 5'5", I'm still shorter than most of these men...unless I wear my stillettos.

  4. Fun list. The one who surprised me is Kirk Douglas--he's my height or a whisker shorter. Wouldn't have guessed that.

  5. I kind of feels strange that I'm taller than all of them.

  6. Cool list! Some of these are no surprise, but others I hadn't thought about. Tony Curtis and Marlon Brando always seemed tallish to me. Of course Gene Kelly I realized when I saw how Cyd Charisse had to keep her knees bent the whole time while dancing with him in Singin' in the Rain.

    Also Fred Astaire was 5'9"!

  7. Nice list. Being from taller stock myself I can't help but to remember my Dad always insisting that Bogie was a wimp because he was so short ... my Dad who loves Cagney that is!

    I'd imagine a certain size was preferred as so many of the leading ladies of the period are downright tiny.

    By the way, I saw you all over this on Twitter, what I was wondering, and was frankly too lazy to check out myself, is 5'10" actually the correct height for Widmark?

  8. I LOVE that you did this. Hehe. As I said, I was thinking 5'10 would be getting towards being tall as, as someone else mentioned, average height was different then!
    -Andi x

  9. Humphey Bogart and Ingrid tall Bergman in Casablanca. There's a funny fact about it.

  10. Mercurie - I didn't know you were 5' 5"! You are in the same leagues as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Peter Lorre and Edward G. Robinson. Fine company you keep!

    Erin- It's funny, some of the actors I thought were shorter were actually very tall indeed. I could have swore that Spencer Tracy was 5' 6" or something.

    Emm - I think slimness makes people look taller and more weight makes people look more squat. Maybe that's why Tony Curtis looked taller than he really was.

    John - Me neither! I wasn't even going to check Kirk Douglas but I'm glad I did.

    Quizshowbob- I'm 5' 8" so it kind of feels strange for me too.

    Alex - Oh gee. I checked Fred Astaire and forgot to put him in here. Oops! Thanks for that.

    Cliff - I didn't even think to check until you mentioned it. IMDB says 5' 10" so I hope that's right. :-) How tall are you?!

    Andi - Yes, 5' 10" seems tall to me and it must have been tall back then, which is why that Fact threw me off. It couldn't be right!

    Ruby - Lucky for Bogie, Ingrid was only an inch taller than he was. Otherwise she'd be towering over him during the movie. Ha ha.

  11. Great post!!
    Chico Marx 5'6''
    Harpo Marx 5'5 1/2''
    Zeppo Marx 5'8''
    David Wayne 5'7''
    Gordon MacRae 5'8''
    Russ "Rusty" Ramblyn 5'9''
    Sammy Davis jr. 5'5''
    Bing Crosby 5'7''
    Lon Chaney 5'9''
    Douglas Fairbanks 5'9''

    - Just for the record I am 5'5'' - I think that's alright for a female.. ;")

  12. BOBBY (<3)! JAMES! JACK!

    I tend to prefer shorter leading actors myself...all 4 foot 10 of me would look ridiculous next to, say, Rock Hudson!

    Great post-it's good to know there were many not-exactly-tall classic film actors out there!

  13. Frl Irene - Thank you so much for the list! Except for Bing Crosby, Lon Chaney and Douglas Fairbanks, I wouldn't call the others Leading Men. I wouldn't even call Sammy Davis Jr a classic film star. But it's good to know so many famous men were below Richard Widmark's height!

    Niamhy- Wow! You are tres petite!

  14. Raquelle, sorry I left that out, for full disclosure ... I've got Widmark by 8 inches.

  15. Mickey Rooney and I are the same 5'-4"...maybe Mickey did shrink a bit over the years.....;-))

  16. I was lucky enough to know Steve.McQueen. he used to race at the same track as my brother. It was never hard to spot him in a crowd of mechanics and drivers, his height was just not something you would notice. Usually the shortest guy of any of the gang he always came acrossed as the biggest man there. His secret was while talking to you he really listened. You would step away feeling important. He backed up his pit crew and friends, quick to insert himself into the middle of a fight to assure everyone would be okay. I am 5'7" being able to stand looking each other in the eyes made my teenage heart pound wildly. To this day, some 50 years later I still prefer a man I can look into the eyes.


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