Typical of all Sons of the Desert Conventions thus far is that they have all been held in hotels with elevators. This has left ample opportunity to bellow out yet another ridiculous line of dialogue from the films of our favorite funnymen. From the back of a crowded elevator, we will often hear in a baritone voice, “Out Please!” A worthy trivia question to follow might be: who played the midget who spoke this line in Block-Heads? Most likely, even from the most skilled contestant, the response will be: Harry Earles. But now we know – ’tisn’t so.
When the exhaustive filmography was compiled in the McCabe-Kilgore-Bann Laurel and Hardy bible, many faces were matched with names by using an illustrated casting directory. Harry Earles, as it turns out, was the spitting image of another midget performer named Karl “Karchy” Kosicsky.
Flash forward to more recent days when author Stephen Cox published The Munchkins Remembered, a tribute to the little people in The Wizard of Oz. It included an entry on Munchkin trumpeteer Karl Slover, who claimed he had appeared in Block-Heads. Finally, with new documents and contracts at hand, Dick Bann verified that the midget actor who spoke the classic line “Out Please!” was Karl Kosicsky.
To alleviate further confusion, it is necessary to point out that Karl Kosicsky changed his last name to Slover when he became a United States citizen in 1943. He is also known by the nickname “Karchy,” which he was dubbed because there were too many midgets name Karl. Karchy is the Hungarian equivalent of Karl, incidentally. By whatever name, however, that is definitely not his voice we hear in Block-Heads; that belongs to Chill Wills.
I caught up with Karl in the summer of 1995 at his home in Tampa, Florida where he was living with a family he had worked for in carnivals for many years. He spoke fondly of his performing days as he told anecdotes from that time and other points in his career.
Born in Hungary, his father was a full six-foot six-inches! Although smaller than the other kids, Karl found comfort in performing and eventually came to America with the Singer Midgets and became one of many midgets to appear in The Wizard of Oz. He played the first of the three trumpeters who led the Mayor’s procession out of the mushroom house. Originally he was second in the line-up but was promoted because the fellow who was to be first kept missing his cue — only because he had a disorder that would cause him to fall asleep standing up! Karl also donned a pink outfit and doubled as a Sleepy Head rising from the giant nest egg.
Naturally, his role in Oz made him a natural to go on and appear in The Terror of Tiny Town portraying a barber and a bass player. Karl recalls working with both the Ritz Brothers and Wheeler and Woolsey but was uncertain if any filmed scenes with these comeidans survive. In the Wheeler and Woolsey film, Karl recalled sitting at a diner and being given a cigar by Robert Woolsey. When an angered bystander scolds him with “How dare you give that baby a cigar!” Woolsey responds, “I beg your pardon; that’s my uncle!” He can also be glimpsed in the Academy Award winning The Lost Weekend (1945) as a stand-in for a baby in a carriage.
His most vivid memoery of his work in Block-Heads was when he was initially called in to the casting office. Upon arrival, he spotted Laurel and Hardy in costume sitting in the waiting room of the office he was summoned to . He excitedly approached them but was given an icy glare from both of the boys so he retreated to his seat and was shortly called for his meeting.
After it was over and he was hired, he exited through the waiting room where Laurel and Hardy were shouting at the receptionist because Karl had been called in before they were. After meeting them again, he finally realized that the pair he had actaually met were Ham Kinsey and Charlie Phillips — the boys’ doubles!
After retiring from the movies, Karl worked at a traveling carnival as a ride operator, ticket-taker, barker, accountant … you-name-it. His work there yielded almost as many fascinating tales as his movie days. Today in his mid-eighties, he lives in semi-retirement and trains poodles to perform at various functions. Occasionally, he greets his fans at Wizard of Oz conventions and has attended many Munchkin reunions. When He’s not busy, he enjoys doing yardowrk. For a man who only stands four feet four inches, he is brimming with more stories than any book ever written — even by L. Frank Baum.