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His real name was William John Bertanzetti , and he was born in Millsboro, Pennsylvania, to a family of Italian-American origin.
He was part of the group that worked on Mickey McGuire’s series of silent shorts, children’s productions from the 1920s similar in tone to the comedies of “La Pandilla,” and in which a very young Mickey Rooney performed on paper principal. In the film The Gold Diggers of 1933, a nine-year-old Barty played a child who escaped from his stroller.
Due to his stature, much of his work consisted of small roles and gags, although he had important interpretations in W.C. Fields and Me (1976), Foul Play (The Dangerous Game) and The Lord of the Rings (both from 1978), Under the Rainbow (1981), Night Patrol (1984), Legend (1985), Masters of the Universe (1987) , Willow (1988), UHF (1989), Life Stinks (What a disgust of life!) And Radioland Murders (1994).
Barty was known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm towards any of the productions he worked on. He also made a great interpretation of the Liberace pianist. In addition, he performed with the humorous and musical show of Spike Jones in the theater and on television, and participated in the television series of the 1970s Dr. Shrinker.
He also worked on a locally broadcast children’s program in Southern California, “Billy Barty’s Bigtop,” in the mid-1960s, in which shorts of The Three Stooges appeared regularly. In one show, the Stooge Moe Howard visited the set as a surprise guest. This production gave the first opportunity for many children in the Los Angeles area to become familiar with the dwarves, who until then rarely appeared on the screen, except as mere curiosity.
Barty played “Sigmund” on the popular children’s television show “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters,” produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in 1974-1976. In 1983, Barty gave voice to the dragon Figment in the Journey Into Imagination attraction, in the Epcot theme park.
In addition to his artistic work, Barty stood out for his promotion of the rights of those affected by dwarfism. For that reason he was disappointed by the insistence of his contemporary Hervé Villechaize in that they were “midgets (synonym of dwarves)” instead of actors with dwarfism. Barty founded the Little People of America society to enhance his activism.
Billy Barty married Shirley Bolingbroke, a dwarfed graphic designer as well. The actor died in 2000 in Glendale (California), at 76 years of age, because of heart failure. They had two children, Lori Neilson, also affected by dwarfism, and the television producer and director Braden Barty, of normal height. The family belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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