Singer Midgets (Leopold von Singer) in Austria

Singer Midgets (Leopold von Singer)

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Leopold von Singer (May 3, 1877–March 5, 1951) was the manager of the Singer Midgets, a popular vaudeville group in the first half of the twentieth century. Singer was born to a prominent family in Vienna, Austria.

Reportedly, he was inspired to form the Singer Midgets in 1912 or 1913, after he and his daughter Trudy were entertained by a troupe of little people at the Vienna Prater. With his wife, Walberga, Singer recruited little people for his own troupe, and began building the Liliputstaadt, a "midget city" at the Venice in Vienna amusement park, where they could perform.[1] Singer mainly sought out little people with proportionately-sized body parts, so that they could move and dance with ease.

The Liliputstaadt was a major success, and Singer began taking his performers throughout Europe, recruiting new members along the way. After World War I broke out, the troupe traveled to the United States, and remained there for the rest of their existence, performing in vaudeville theaters.[3] During the 1930s, some of Singer's Midgets began appearing in films, such as They Gave Him a Gun (1937), Block-Heads (1938), and The Terror of Tiny Town, a Western with an all-dwarf cast (1938). In 1938, Singer signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to provide 124 proportionately-sized little people to play Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Some of the members of his troupe formed a portion of the group, and he traveled throughout the United States to recruit others.

Singer was a somewhat controversial figure in his day. The actor Billy Curtis once noted that Singer "had a reputation for cheating his midgets".[5] During the filming of The Wizard of Oz, Singer reportedly kept half of his performers' weekly pay. Nevertheless, many of the troupe members thought positively of him. Nita Krebs said that he "always treated his people fine", and Fern Formica recalled, "He was like a father. He was a good man."[6] Many of Singer's Midgets affectionately referred to their manager as "Papa".

The Singer Midgets disbanded in the mid-1940s after many members had returned home to Europe, and Singer retired to New York City. He died on March 5, 1951

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