November 24, 1887
Muschenheim, Hesse, Germany
|Died||December 28, 1968
Elk Grove, California, United States
(m.1940-1968; her death)
Karl "Charlie" Becker (November 24, 1887 - December 28, 1968) was a German American actor. He was 3'9" in height, and is probably best known for appearing as the Munchkinland Mayor in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Ken Darby dubbed the Mayor's vocals in the film.
Becker was born near Frankfurt, Germany in the town of Muschenheim. As a teenager, he worked as a butcher, but often struggled to use the knives and other equipment, and was ridiculed by his fellow workers. When he was about nineteen, he began performing in travelling "midget shows", and eventually joined the Singer Midgets, a famous troupe led by Leo Singer of Austria. The Singer Midgets moved to the United States during World War I, and became popular on the vaudeville circuits. Becker became friends with George Burns, Will Rogers, and other stars of the time.
Becker appeared in a few films during the 1920s and 1930s. These included Spangles (1926), The Terror of Tiny Town (1938), and, most notably, The Wizard of Oz (1939), in which he played the Mayor of Munchkinland. He was chosen for the role because of his large belly, round face, and facial hair, which were thought to be mayoral features. Because of his thick German accent, however, his voice had to be dubbed. On the set of The Wizard of Oz, Becker met his future wife, Jessie Kelley, who played another Munchkin. She was originally from Mahaska, Kansas. The two married in 1940, and settled in California, where they sometimes worked as stand-ins for child actors. Later in his life, Becker opened his own sausage business.
Becker died of a stroke in California at the end of 1968. His interment (and his wife's) was in Lone Tree Cemetery in Fairview, near Hayward. Some controversy emerged in 1984 when obituaries for the actor Prince Denis stated that he had played the Mayor of Munchkinland. In reality, Denis had played the Sergeant-at-Arms.
In 2007, all 124 Munchkin actors in Oz were honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For Becker this was a posthumous honor. Seven surviving Munchkin actors attended the ceremony, including Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini, Jerry Maren, Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover and Clarence Swensen.
- Spangles as Little Tommy Tumtack - Dwarf (1926)
- All Over Town as Bit Part (1937)
- The Terror of Tiny Town as The Cook—Otto (1938)
- The Wizard of Oz as Munchkin Mayor (1939)
His performances in All Over Town and The Wizard of Oz were uncredited.
- Cox, 169-171.
- Cox, 171-173.
- Rabbe and Kinske. 63.
- Maren and Cox. 29-30.
- Cox, 173.
- Raabe and Kinske. 77.
- "Munchkins of 'Oz' get a star on Walk of Fame". USA Today. 11/21/2007. Retrieved 08/08/2013.
- Stephen Cox. The Munchkins of Oz. Cumberland House Publishing. 2002.
- Jerry Maren and Stephen Cox. Short and Sweet: The Life and Times of the Lollipop Munchkin. Cumberland House Publishing, 2006.
- Meinhardt Raabe and Daniel Kinske. Memories of a Munchkin: An Illustrated Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road. Back Stage Books, 2005.