Hollywood Actor Billy Barty Dies at Age 76

Billy Barty, a 3-foot-10 actor whose career spanned seven decades and all types of roles, died Saturday of heart failure. He was 76.

Barty had been hospitalized in Glendale for heart problems and a lung infection, said his publicist, Bill York.

Barty appeared in his first Hollywood feature in 1927 at the age of 3 and performed for radio, television and on Broadway. He played a number of outrageous characters, including a wizard in the movie Willow (1988), a tongue-in-cheek role as a German spy in Under the Rainbow (1981) with Chevy Chase, a suspected stalker Foul Play (1978), and an agent in Day of the Locust (1975).

Starred With Actors From Mickey Rooney to Chevy Chase

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he played Mickey Rooney’s kid brother in the Mickey McGuire series of comedy shorts. He later had several TV appearances, including his own children’s show, Billy Barty’s Big Show, in the 1960s, and he appeared on several shows over the past three decades, most recently an episode of the hit TV comedy Frasier.

In 1957, Barty founded Little People of America, an advocacy group for people with dwarfism. He later started a non-profit foundation that bears his name to help improve the quality of life for little people, the term he said he preferred.

Fought for Dignity and Respect for ‘Little People’

On his foundation’s Web site, Barty says: “The name of my condition is Cartilage Hair Syndrome Hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy.”

“The general public thinks all little people are in circuses or sideshows,” Barty said in an interview last year with The Associated Press. “We have doctors, nurses, just about every field covered.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who chose Barty to be his son’s godfather, said: “The world lost a giant and a hero in the passing of Billy Barty.”

Barty brought “recognition, dignity and respect to those who were born little,” he said.

Barty was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pa., in 1924. In October, he was awarded the Long Beach Film Festival’s Humanitarian of the Year Award. He also was active in George W. Bush’s presidential campaign and had served on a federal disabilities commission, Antonovich said.

Survivors include his wife, Shirley, a son, a daughter and a granddaughter.