Angelo Rossitto

Active - 1927 - 2011  |   Born - Jan 1, 1908   |   Genres - Horror, Drama, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Crime

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Diminutive American actor Angelo Rossitto was a fixture in American movies for more than 50 years, usually in highly visible supporting and extra roles. Born Angelo Salvatore Rossitto, he entered movies in his teens during the height of the silent era, making his first known appearance in The Beloved Rogue, starring John Barrymore, in 1926. Standing less than four feet tall, with dark hair and a grim visage, and billed at various times as Little Angie, Little Mo, and Little Angelo, Rossitto was a natural for pygmies and circus dwarves, often of a sinister appearing nature; his presence could help "dress" a carnival set or the setting for a fantasy film. He played the dwarf Angeleno in Tod Browning's Freaks at MGM, a pygmy in Cecil B. DeMille's The Sign of the Cross at Paramount, and one of the Three Little Pigs in the Laurel & Hardy-starring vehicle Babes in Toyland. Off camera, he was also a stand-in for Shirley Temple in several of her films.

Rossitto didn't become a well-known figure, even among movie cultists, until he went to work for Monogram Pictures during the early '40s, in a series of low-budget horror films and horror film spoofs starring Bela Lugosi, often cast in tandem with the Hungarian-born actor as a kind of double act. His presence added to the bizarre, threatening nature of the films and he became as well known to fans of these low-budget movies as Lugosi, George Zucco, or any of the other credited stars. His role in the first of those Monogram productions with Lugosi, Spooks Run Wild, also starring the East Side Kids, deliberately played off of Lugosi's and Rossitto's sinister seeming images. In between his Poverty Row Monogram productions, the actor fit in small parts at Universal, including Preston Sturges' The Sin of Harold Diddlebock, and he was one of the jesters tormenting the blinded Samson in DeMille's Samson and Delilah. Rossitto, along with his younger contemporaries Jerry Maren, Frank Delfino, and Billy Curtis, was one of Hollywood's busier little people in the years after World War II. Rossitto can be spotted in carnival scenes in Carousel, appeared as the smallest of the "Moon Men" in the low-budget Jungle Jim movie Jungle Moon Men, and played the leader of the aliens in the late-'50s sci-fi satire Invasion of the Saucer Men. Many of Rossitto's appearances were in roles without character names, constituting highly specialized, uncredited (but highly visible) extra work, and he may have been in as many as 200 movies.

On television in the late '60s and early '70s, he portrayed a life-sized puppet in the series H.R. Pufnstuf and played a hat in Lidsville. Rossitto was a sideshow huckster in the cheap cult horror movie Dracula Vs. Frankenstein, and as late as the mid-'80s was seen in a small role in Something Wicked This Way Comes and in the featured role of the Master-Blaster in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Although work in 200 movies and television shows sounds like a lot, most of those appearances involved only a single day's or a single week's work, rather than full-time employment. He made his regular living from the 1930s through the 1960s at a newsstand in Hollywood just outside the gate of one of the studios; he joked that when he was needed for a film, they would simply pass the word directly to him on the street and he would report.

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