So much has been written about Clint Eastwood’s use of a fake baby in American Sniper that it’s about time someone stood up for this physically abused, emotionally ravaged, and sadly misrepresented group of show people’s finest.
The Fake Babies of America, or FBA, took its first steps towards raising public awareness when in 1938, during the production of The Wizard of Oz, mock tots from across the land allied in hope of forming a union of their own. They argued the employment of simulated background Munchkins in long shots would be more cost effective than hiring verifiable little people. With their clarion cry, “Hundreds for Singer Midgets and not a penny for baby doubles!” the wee playthings took to the streets of Hollywood demanding change.
The Variety headline of October 1, 1938 said it all: “Fakes Make Overtake Mistake.” The “Kounterfeit Kids,” as they came to be called, could no longer get arrested in Hollywood. Nor were any provisions taken for stuffed cloth stand-ins and their ilk when the California Child Actor's Bill, aka the Fester Act, was passed in 1939. Add to this the harsh certainties of WWII, which brought Americans moviegoers steps closer to reality. This sudden thirst for realism made it even harder for bogus babes to find work. Were it not for the Three Stooges and their pronounced affinity for lifeless ringers over risking life and limb to perform their own stuntwork, the FBA would have sat out the ’40s and ’50s.
Allow me to take a moment to single out the work of the inorganic objet d’arts represented in this video, those who gave their inanimate lives to earn your entertainment dollars: Buddy Van Shockley as “Sniper Jr.” in American Sniper; Dolly Rag as “Bonnie Blue Butler” in Gone with the Wind; Phyllis Fine as “Trampled Tyke” in Grips, Grunts, and Groans; Cabbage Patch as “W.C. Dunking Jr.” in The Homesman; the Pine Family, substituting for a wagonload of Olivia de Havilland and her kin in Dodge City and in particular young Earl “Knotty” Pine, whose willingness to be dragged through the streets of Dodge gave Errol Flynn his third act motivation; the Quilting triplets in Baby-Sitters Jitters; La Toya Store Mannequin in The Phenix City Story; Anita Meanlaff as “Baby Jackass”; and Hugh Burnupme as “Rogie” in Susan Slade.