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Why were so many tough guy actors so short?


Humphrey Bogart was 5ft 8, George Raft was 5ft 7, James Cagney was 5ft 5 and Edward G Robinson was 5ft 4.

All great actors and among my very favourites, but their height is noticeable when they are fist fighting goons in their movies, although I doubt the goons are much taller, I know the average height was much smaller than today but its curious that smaller actors always got the tough guy roles!

It’s also a good job they stayed clear of westerns! John Wayne, Jack Palance, James Stewart and Gary Cooper were all well over 6 ft!

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I'm confused: you said they "always" got the tough guy roles, but then mentioned all of the tough guys(except for Stewart) who were tall. Anyway, height hasn't changed much due to evolution in a minuscule 60 years; 5 8" is just about average height for men (technically, it's 5.9")

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The other actors I mentioned who were tall were best known for starring in westerns, the shorter actors were better known as gangsters.

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Edward G. Robinson was 5'7", not 5'4". Bogart at 5'8" wasn't "short". One inch below average US, but taller than an average Brit at the time. Anyway glad they didn't play in Westerns, because with a few exceptions I can't stand them!

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I love Bogart and Cagney but the western they were in together was awful!

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I meant can't stand Westerns, love the actors too! Of course High Noon, Once upon a time in the West, and Good, the Bad, and the Ugly are exceptions.

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Those are a good choice of exceptions. 😉

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Has average height changed much in the past hundred years? I wouldn't have thought so.

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People have gotten a little taller on average.

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Mostly due to better diet and medical care in early life over the past hundred years.

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But really it must be negligible in the general public.

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Raft, Cagney and Robinson all grew up in the rougher areas of New York and probably were genuinely tough guys. Bogart not so much. But I suspect the real reason is they were all at Warner Bros when Gangster Movies were the big thing.

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Yeah, Bogart was relatively wealthy, he was great as a menacing gangster though!

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You can name a handful of shorter actors in 1930s - 1940s crime dramas, and tall actors in westerns. But there were also tall guys in gangster movies and short guys in westerns. Ladd, Bogart, and Cagney all did westerns. Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, and Fred MacMurray, all above average height, were well known for films noir as well as westerns.

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Napoleonic syndrome, sometime the shortest guy in the room is the most dangerous since he the most to prove

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Short guys are scrappy, it's a matter of survival.

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You missed the toughest of them all: Joe Pesci!

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I don't consider 5'8 short. it's under average, and far from tall, but not short. 5'7 is borderline. I always figured Bogart was about 5'10. I was surprised to learn only 5'8

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