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You Don’t Have to be Surprisingly Short to Work in Hollywood But it Helps

Steve Palace
(Photo Credit: Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images & Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
(Photo Credit: Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images & Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

From Danny DeVito (4’8) to Tom Cruise (5’6), it seems being tall isn’t the order of the day in Tinseltown. Even some of the toughest action stars are lacking in the height department. We wouldn’t say that to their faces, but still.

Which iconic stars are surprisingly short but certainly spectacular? 

Gloria Swanson

Is there a more haunting image in Old Hollywood than Gloria Swanson asking for her close-up in Sunset Boulevard? It might take the edge off to learn that Gloria was surprisingly short at 4’11. 

Not that it particularly matters. To many, she’ll forever be Norma Desmond. However, those who heard she was in the building might have raised their eyebrows once she headed into view.

Gloria Swanson sitting at a desk in a classroom
Gloria Swanson, actress, sitting in a desk in a classroom full of children, holding up her right hand, Chicago, Illinois, 1929. (Photo Credit: Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

Danny Trejo

One of the most celebrated screen hard men has the life experience to back up the beef. Danny spent time behind bars before acting saved his bacon. He’s known as the star of Machete and has worked with some modern greats. That said, at 5’5 he creates confusion with his height.

Stop him for a selfie and you might find yourself angling the camera a little higher than expected. Would you mention it to him? Probably not. Did you just have a brush with a living legend? Absolutely.  

Danny Trejo flashes the peace sign
Danny Trejo arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ held at the El Capitan Theatre on March 11, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo Credit: Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

Judy Garland

Judy clearly wasn’t towering over co-stars, that much is clear. Though her actual height may result in a double-take: 4’11. 

Amazingly, she endured bullying behind the scenes, not only about her height but also her weight. As mentioned by Biography, her spine was curved. Her bosses didn’t spare the horses in criticizing that too, shamefully. 

Judy became a true Hollywood legend. While she had an unhappy time of it in the process, she was undeniably great in stature on the big screen. 

Judy Garland and Bing Crosby
Photograph of Judy Garland and Bing Crosby singing into a microphone in a studio, reading from sheet music. Undated photograph. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)

Mickey Rooney

It’s easy to assume that Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney were the same height. Actually, Rooney pipped her to the post at 5’2. This didn’t exactly make him a giant, of course.

Mind you, Mickey without his short appearance just wouldn’t be the same. It certainly didn’t hold him back from playing a diverse range of roles, some of which were celebrated and some that proved highly controversial.

Mickey Rooney and wife
Actor Mickey Rooney and wife Elaine Devry arrive to an event in Los Angeles,CA. (Photo Credit: Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Taylor

She ruled the Nile as Cleopatra. Yet Liz Taylor is possibly the ultimate example of good things coming in small packages. At 5’2 she leaped off the screen, though was a dot compared to the mighty Sphinx.

Her famous union with Richard Burton was a meeting of minds but not eyelines – he was 5’8. Mind you, we’re pretty sure he had no complaints!

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton arriving at Hermitage Hotel for a party sponsored by Princess Grace of Monaco. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Contributor)

Martin Scorsese

As well as being an iconic director, “Marty” often appears onscreen. He’s known for talking heads, offering his insights into the world of motion pictures, and even acting up a storm in his own classics like Taxi Driver (1976).

At 5’3, it’s surprising to think he’s directed brooding presences such as Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (who’s the same height). Then again, he demonstrates that size isn’t everything on the mean streets of Hollywood.

"Taxi Driver" 40th anniversary
(Bottom row) Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster pose with (Top row) Michael Phillips, Cybill Shepherd, Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader and Harvey Keitel at the “Taxi Driver” 40th anniversary screening during the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at Beacon Theatre on April 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

Mae West

One of the original screen sirens was apparently 5’2, according to a 1935 report. Other sources place her at the 5-foot mark. Whatever her height, it was surprisingly short.

Mae West in She Done Him Wrong publicity still
Mae West in ‘She Done Him Wrong’ publicity still (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures & MovieStillsDB)

More from us: These 10 Hollywood Celebrities Are Extremely Tall

Not that a creative flourish from Mae was unusual. She was noted for her parade of fine one-liners, such as: “Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.