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No fake babies were harmed during the making of this movie!

Hugh Burnupme ignites the screen as “Rogie” in Susan Slade.
Hugh Burnupme ignites the screen as “Rogie” in Susan Slade.
Movie

American Sniper **

thumbnail

Director Clint Eastwood continues his quiet critique of the moviegoer's deep delight in cinematic violence. In this case, that means great swaths of gripping, based-on-a-true-story wartime action centered around Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper in full strong-silent-Texan mode), a good ol' boy who becomes a great old sniper for the Navy SEALs. (He's so good, in fact, that he becomes a target: as he hunts, so is he hunted.) But while Kyle adopts the unorthodox practice of keeping both eyes open as he peers into his scope, he seems not to notice much beyond the scope of the mission. Or if he does notice, he doesn't let himself get distracted. When his fellow soldiers start to crack under the strain of war, when his wife starts to crack under the strain of his absence, even when his lethal celebrity endangers the lives of his team — none of it is enough to give him pause. And Eastwood is always quick to take us back to the battlefield, where all those nagging questions become moot. Eventually, of course, the soldier must come home and face the struggles of peacetime living in the aftermath of wartime destruction. But that's a less thrilling battle to portray, and may result in a less glorious conclusion.

Find showtimes

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.

Video:

Fake baby!

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.

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Hugh Burnupme ignites the screen as “Rogie” in Susan Slade.
Hugh Burnupme ignites the screen as “Rogie” in Susan Slade.
Movie

American Sniper **

thumbnail

Director Clint Eastwood continues his quiet critique of the moviegoer's deep delight in cinematic violence. In this case, that means great swaths of gripping, based-on-a-true-story wartime action centered around Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper in full strong-silent-Texan mode), a good ol' boy who becomes a great old sniper for the Navy SEALs. (He's so good, in fact, that he becomes a target: as he hunts, so is he hunted.) But while Kyle adopts the unorthodox practice of keeping both eyes open as he peers into his scope, he seems not to notice much beyond the scope of the mission. Or if he does notice, he doesn't let himself get distracted. When his fellow soldiers start to crack under the strain of war, when his wife starts to crack under the strain of his absence, even when his lethal celebrity endangers the lives of his team — none of it is enough to give him pause. And Eastwood is always quick to take us back to the battlefield, where all those nagging questions become moot. Eventually, of course, the soldier must come home and face the struggles of peacetime living in the aftermath of wartime destruction. But that's a less thrilling battle to portray, and may result in a less glorious conclusion.

Find showtimes

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.

Video:

Fake baby!

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.

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Comments
2

So, you're saying the movie should have been called "American Diaper"?

Feb. 12, 2015

Instead of a four-star rating for this film, it gets a four "spit-take" rating! Bravo!

Donnie Darko (2001) Hey, Porky Pig, I hope you get molested.

Feb. 13, 2015

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