Broida Family (Click for Family Tree)
[NOTE: Photo updated 13 May 2015 with higher resolution scan and enhancements.]
Previous posts (see notes below) about Buster Brodie revealed that his real name was Max Broida, and that he performed in the circus and vaudeville, as well as silent and ‘talkie’ movies.
We were thrilled to receive a comment on the second of those posts from DAC of Austin, Texas, stating that she had a picture of Buster Brodie that she would like to send to someone in the family. A quick email correspondence provided an address for mailing the image, and a bit of provenance: she and her daughter found it in a small antique store in Georgetown, Texas. Once we do a high resolution scan, the image will be donated to the Broida Family Collection at the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library in St. Louis, Missouri. We can’t thank DAC enough for rescuing this unique image and then contacting us through the blog to share.
Buster is easy to identify- he was bald by 1928, so it is Buster standing in the back, taller than most of the other people. He is just to the left of the hanging lantern on the far left. His bald pate blends somewhat with the light background. If the picture is enlarged, one can tell that he was wearing a bow tie. He would have looked very dapper- and his family would be proud, as so many of them worked in the clothing business.
The sign on the Hunt Hotel in Culver City, California, reads as follows:
“Largest Number of LITTLE PEOPLE
EVER ASSEMBLED UNDER ONE ROOF
at HOTEL HUNT
CULVER CITY CALIF OCTOBER 7th 1928″
Of course, research would be needed…
So I Googled ‘Hunt Hotel” and learned that it was still in existence. It is across from, and near to, movie studios, including MGM in its day, and was a wild place full of “movie stars, bookies, and bums.” The hotel was, and still is, used as a location for many film shoots, both interior and exterior- Laurel & Hardy fans may recognize it from some of their films. Stories abound, including that John Wayne won it in a poker game from Charlie Chaplin for $1- apparently untrue. The hotel had fallen into disrepair as the community did, but when the movie studios came back to Culver City, the hotel was purchased and refurbished to its former glory.
At first, the thought was that maybe the get-together in the picture had to do with, “The Wizard of Oz” since the hotel housed many of the Little People who played Munchkins in that movie. But… that movie was released in 1939, and the date on this image was 1928.
The online article, “The Culver Hotel: Harry C. Culver’s Flatiron of Fun” By March 28, 2014 at www.kcet.org provided the reason for this get-together. MGM was filming a version of Jules Verne’s 1874 novel, “L’Île mystérieuse” (“The Mysterious Island”), which was a sort of prequel to “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” The movie included undersea human-like creatures with a duckbill helmet (head?); the Little People who played these parts were housed at the Hunt Hotel, as had been many Hollywood stars. The article states there were 40 Little People at the hotel in 1928 who posed for this picture- I only count 34.) The hotel topped both numbers in 1938, when 124 Little People were brought from all over the country to stay at the Culver City Hotel- it’s new name- while appearing in “The Wizard of Oz” as Munchkins and flying monkeys.
How did Buster Brodie/Max Broida end up in this group picture? He was short, to be sure, but was not a dwarf as far as we know. Was he a part of the extras in this movie? He is uncredited, if so, and no evidence has yet been found that he was in this movie- except possibly this picture. It is also conceivable that Buster answered a casting call for ‘little people’ for the MGM film- he had been in other MGM productions so this is plausible even though he was likely not technically a Little Person. Another possibility is that some of these Little People were members of “Singer’s Midgets,” a vaudeville group that Buster may have worked with during his time in vaudeville; they appeared in movies in the 1930s, including, “The Wizard of Oz.” Buster had also worked in the circus as a young man, and may have known some of these persons from those years.
The answer to how and why Buster was included in this picture may never be known, but we are so grateful for a genealogical act of kindness by DAC that brought up these questions, and for sharing this special picture with us so we can share with the world.
Notes, Sources, and References:
1) Talented Tuesday: Max Broida-Now Starring as Buster Brodie- http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/07/talented-tuesday-max-broida-now-starring-as-buster-brodie/
The Real Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie- http://heritageramblings.net/2015/04/10/the-real-max-broida-aka-buster-brodie/
2) Broida Family Collection at the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library- http://www.brodskylibrary.org/archives.php
3) Leo Singer/”Singer’s Midgets” article on Wikipedia- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_Singer
4) The Hunt/Culver Hotel-
“The Culver Hotel: Harry C. Culver’s Flatiron of Fun” ByMarch 28, 2014, is an excellent article, an interesting read, and provided the solution to our mystery-
5) “The Mysterious Island,” 1929, MGM resources-
A fun image of the lobby card from the movie, which may be under copyright so cannot be posted, but worth the click-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lobby_Card_for_the_1929_version_of_The_Mysterious_Island.jpg#/media/File:Lobby_Card_for_the_1929_version_of_The_Mysterious_Island.jpg
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