I Married a Muchkin

Rental Format(s): 16mm film
Sale Format(s): DVD

Chicago filmmaker Tom Palazzolo's new documentary combines several of the filmmaker's longtime obsessions: the recording of the rituals and festivals that exist around the margins of popular culture, a documentation of remarkable but unrecognized Chicagoans, and the pursuit of his own unique brand of social commentary. These come together naturally in his telling of the story of the diminutive Mary Ellen St. Alban, whose vaudeville career began at the age of eleven and peaked in Hollywood in 1946 with her appearance as "Princess of the Elves" in Three Wise Fools. A year later she abandoned show business to marry Pernell St. Alban, best known for having played a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. The couple opened the Midget Club on Chicago's south side, which remained a well-publicized institution for 31 years.

Chesterton, Indiana's annual WIZARD OF OZ parade (as well as their many Oz-themed festivities) provides the backdrop for I MARRIED A MUNCHKIN, Tom Palazzolo's study of the life and career of Mary Ellen St. Aubin. Self-described as "normal, but little," Mary Ellen details her early start in show business as a performer in an all-dwarf vaudeville act, her brief appearance in 1946's THREE WISE FOOLS, her 1948 marriage to former Munchkin Parnell St. Aubin and their subsequent retirement from entertainment to run a bar (called the Midget Club) in the South Side of Chicago. Two other former Munchkins (Margaret Pellegrini and Clarence Swensen) briefly appear among the day's revelry. Also included is a postscript (shot some time after the initial film) featuring Mary Ellen briefly describing the original size of her role in THREE WISE FOOLS, which originally featured a line and an ill-fated "flying" effect. - Tom Fritsche

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