FILM / John Lyttle on cinema

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The biggest movie stars are tiny: Dustin Hoffman has spent his career peering at his leading ladies' kneecaps and Tom Cruise is the size of a plastic toy - when he married Nicole Kidman it broke Barbie's heart (the bastard said he'd love her forever). Mickey Rooney was luckier; Judy Garland shared his stature, so he didn't need to stand on boxes like Alan Ladd. Why, Judy was as small and perfectly formed as Gloria Swanson, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford and Elizabeth Taylor, pocket love goddesses all.

Of course, being small makes you want to be big; that's the drive behind stardom. Cinema is therefore indebted to the vertically challenged - not that you'd guess it from the fare unreeling at the local flea pit. On screen the less-than-lofty get a raw deal. Bill Barty is battered about by Goldie Hawn in Foul Play and presented as raving drunk in Day of the Locust. The Ballad of the Sad Cafe has its mean dwarf betray friend and protector Vanessa Redgrave while the capering figure in Don't Look Now turns out to be a knife-wielding shortie who brings down tall boy Donald Sutherland. And if Warwick Davis bucks the trend by being the puppy-like hero of Willow, he's also the psycho-villain of Leprechaun, blood-thirsty and bad-tempered.

Maria Luisa Bemberg's We Don't Want to Talk About It won't have it. Here small is beautiful. Marcello Mastroianni (above) isn't afraid to love teenage dwarf Alejandra Podesta, no matter what the world says. Society might think it bizarre, but an old ham like Mastroianni knows it's a meeting of equals. When he gazes adoringly at his beloved, you know whats he's thinking: 'Twinkle twinkle little star'. And Podesta delivers; movies, after all, are meant to be larger than life.

(Photograph omitted)

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