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The Doll Family, also billed as The Dancing Dolls, were a German-born American quartet of sibling entertainers with dwarfism who were popular performers in circuses and sideshows in the United States from the mid-1910s until their retirement in 1958. They also appeared briefly in films, and were probably best known as members of The Munchkins in the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz.
The Doll Family (also known and billed as the Earles Family)
- Gracie Doll Earles (born Frieda A. Schneider, March 12, 1899 – November 8, 1970; aged 71)
- Harry Doll Earles (born Kurt Fritz Schneider, April 3, 1902 – May 4, 1985; aged 83)
- Daisy Doll Earles (also known as the Midget Mae West) (born Hilda Emma Schneider, April 29, 1907 – March 15, 1980; aged 72)
- Tiny Doll, (also known as Tiny Earles) (born Elly Annie Schneider, July 23, 1914 – September 6, 2004; aged 90)
The Doll Family, whose real surname was Schneider were four of seven children born to Amelia Emma Preusche and Gustav Schneider in Stolpen, Germany (the other three were average-sized). Kurt and Frieda, known by their stage names "Harry and Grace" were the first of the quartet to perform in sideshows, billed as "Hansel and Gretel". In 1914, American entrepreneur Bert W. Earles saw them and brought them to the United States to tour with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show. The siblings lived in Pasadena, California, with the Earles family. Earles would bring the other siblings, Hilda and Elly Annie, known as "Daisy and Tiny," to the United States in 1922 and 1926, respectively, where they joined Harry and Grace in their act.
At this time, the Dolls began touring with Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, where they sang, danced, and rode horses and wagons for the next 30 years. Daisy soon earned the nickname "Midget Mae West" and was often billed as such. By this time, the entire family had adopted the Earles' surname; after Earles died in the 1930s, they chose to be called the Dolls.
Harry was the first to begin a film career, and also had the most prolific career in the genre. His first film was director Tod Browning’s Lon Chaney vehicle The Unholy Three (1925) as the ruthless midget Tweedledee. He reprised the role for the 1930 sound remake, again with Chaney, but this time directed by Jack Conway. The family also began appearing in films together, almost always as circus performers, and acted in some comedies with Laurel and Hardy. Harry and Daisy were cast in major roles in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 1932 film Freaks, while Tiny had a bit part. In fact, Harry himself brought to Browning's attention the Tod Robbins story "Spurs" on which elements of the film were based. All four siblings played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz; Harry played a minor featured part as a member of the Lollipop Guild, who welcome Dorothy upon her arrival in Oz. The Dolls dubbed themselves "The Moving Picture Midgets" because of their numerous film credits.
The Dolls were a close-knit family who always lived, ate, and worked together - with the exception of Daisy's brief marriage in 1942 to an average-sized man, Louis E. Runyan, which ended in divorce less than a year later. The family's opportunities as film actors had always been limited, by both their size and their German accents, and they stopped appearing in films, although Daisy played a small part in The Greatest Show on Earth in 1952. They returned to the travelling sideshows. The Dolls toured with the Christiani Circus after the Ringling Circus was sold in 1956. They retired two years later.
Their decades with the circus had provided the siblings with a good living, and they bought a house in Sarasota, Florida, in which all four lived. The house, which was often featured in magazines, was furnished with custom-built reduced-size furniture. On the grounds of the house was a "Doll's House,” which the family opened to the public. Each of the four remained living in the house until their deaths. Tiny was the last survivor; she died in 2004 after a long illness and many years living alone, after Harry's death in 1985.
- https://www.findadeath.com/d/Doll-Family/harry.dc.jpg. Missing or empty
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