Biography: Mickey Carroll
I was moved to write this biography after meeting Mr. Carroll in May of 2008!
Follow The Yellow Brick Road...
Mickey Carroll came into the world as Michael Finocchiaro on July 8, 1919. As a very young child growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, he was captivated by the carnival performers that he often saw in the street. In spite of his very tender age, it didn't take him long to set his sights on becoming an entertainer. He began entering every amateur contest and talent show he could find, and was soon earning 40 to 50 dollars a night as a performer.
When Mickey turned seven in 1926, he decided that he wanted to take advantage of an offer for free dance lessons at St. Louis' famous Fox Theater. While there, he met entertainer Jack Haley, who would eventually be his co-star in The Wizard Of Oz, playing the part of The Tin Woodsman. Jack took Mickey to Hollywood, where he quickly landed his first job in film, playing the part of 'Mickey' in approximately seven of the Spanky And Our Gang series of shorts produced by Hal Roach Studios. After this, he continued his career on the vaudeville circuit under the management of his older brother, who helped him get work as a singer, dancer, and emcee.
At the age of nine, Mickey suddenly and inexplicably stopped growing. For the rest of his life, he would stand at only four feet, seven inches tall. This never dampened his Spirit, however. He remained enthusiastic and upbeat about everything that he did in his life. He loved entertaining people and making them laugh.
As his career continued, Mickey had many other interesting jobs. When he was seventeen, he played a bellhop in the "Call For Phillip Morris" live radio ads. At eighteen, he began appearing in shows with Mae West. During this time, he also continued to perform as the emcee at several famous Chicago nightclubs owned by his real-life godfather, who was none other than the infamous Al Capone!
But his crowning achievement in show business would come in 1939, when his good friend, Judy Garland, offered him a part in her new picture, The Wizard Of Oz. She thought that he would be perfect as one of the Munchkin actors. Initially, Mickey declined the offer, since his salary for the film would be far less than the thousand dollars a week that he was making on the road at the time. However, Judy's persistence, along with the fact that her mother was willing to put him up for the entire duration of the film's shooting schedule finally won Mickey over; he agreed to do the part.
In fact, he ended up having multiple roles in the picture. First, he played the “town crier,” who wore a purple cloak, and had a yellow flower sticking out of his striped vest. He also marched as one of the Munchkin soldiers, as well as leading the parade that escorted Dorothy down the yellow brick road. In case you can't spot him in that scene, he's the one holding the violin.
After leaving the land of Oz, Mickey did many voice-overs for film, in addition to continuing with his vaudeville career. He served as the warm-up for presidents Roosevelt and Truman as they campaigned across the country. He also appeared on radio shows with the likes of George Burns & Gracie Allen, Jack Benny, and Al Jolson. By the mid-1940s, however, he had come to the unfortunate realization that his height would prevent him from having any real long-term success in the movies. There simply weren't enough good roles for people of his stature. So, instead, he returned to St. Louis for good, and settled in to run his family's monument business.
Although he was largely retired for the remainder of his life, Mickey did perform on occasion. He was regularly seen on The Fan Show, which airs in the St. Louis area. Thanks to the enduring popularity of The Wizard Of Oz, Mickey was also able to use his connection with the film to do much good in the world. He often entertained sick children in hospitals all over the area. He also made hundreds of personal appearances a year and signed thousands of autographs, helping to raise funds for a variety of children's charities. It has been estimated that within his lifetime, he helped to raise too many millions to count! He has been honored many times over the years for his humanitarian efforts, and came to be known as “the little man with the giant's heart.”
I was fortunate enough to meet Mickey, and I can attest to the fact that he was indeed a very wonderful and caring man. I was deeply saddened when I learned that he had passed away on May 7, 2009, after a brief period of declining health due to a heart ailment; he was 89 years old.