In a passage from “Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success,” author Joseph McBride quotes Capra, a short-statured man, about the psychology of the little man, which is basically that short dudes know they’re at a disadvantage with women, and so they have to pull out the stops, perform like a champion and turn up the charm levels to 11 in order to get laid.
“Short men try to make themselves attractive to women by doing things,” Capra once told Mr. Deeds Goes To Town star Jean Arthur. In another conversation he said that “if Napoleon had been a handsome, six-foot lieutenant of cavalry on the island of Corsica, history would have been different. The girls would have been after him, and he would’ve stayed there.”
After reading this it occured to me that this is one reason why short actors always deliver in spades. They have that extra thing they need to prove and so they develop a passionate persistence or a steel-eyed feistiness or a combination of the two.
Think of all the short guys who have that extra wham-bam, who always bring it with emphasis: Al Pacino, George Raft, Jonah Hill, James Cagney, James Cagney, Ben Stiller, Joe Pesci, Alan Ladd, Bob Hoskins, Frank Sinatra, Danny DeVito, Jack Black, Mel Brooks, Emile Hirsch, Dustin Hoffman, Mickey Rooney, Martin Short, Jason Schwartzman, Humphrey Bogart, Woody Allen, Emilio Estevez, Richard Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Daniel Radcliffe, Elijah Wood, Michael J. Fox, Dane DeHaan.
The Capra theory suggests that all of these guys wanted badly to get laid by the best women, and they knew they wouldn’t have a chance unless they compensated for their small stature with big-time success and extra-intense energy. I’m sure that the Capra theory applies to short guys in other high-profile, high-pressure professions. In showbiz journalism, for example, you could point to Scott Feinberg and Walter Winchell and…I don’t know, who else?