TV’s Tiniest Actress (Sep, 1955)

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TV’s Tiniest Actress

Barbra Loden cavorts in miniature on the Ernie Kovacs’ show, astounding and amusing audiences with her feats.

BARBRA Loden is TV’s tiniest performer by virtue of electronic wizardry. In reality she’s a shapely 5 ft., 5 in., 112-pound gal with a mighty fine specification sheet reading 36-23-34. She performs on Ernie Kovacs’ show twice a week, cavorting through a series of weird Lilliputian escapades dreamed up by Kovacs and director Barry Shear.

Kovacs uses an electronic device known as a matting amplifier which produces artful double exposure effects enabling a “reduced” Barbra to achieve amazing feats on your TV screen. Unlike a photographic double exposure, however, where both images seem transparent to each other, matting produces two opaque figures.

Barbra stands on her toes on a huge black vellum screen, hung from behind and spread on the studio floor. One TV camera shoots her from a distance, so her image appears tiny. Meanwhile, another camera takes a close-up of Kovacs’ face, so it looms large on the screen. Ernie moves his head and Barbra dances on his cigar.

Many uncanny effects are possible with this device, such as making it look as if Kovacs has a hole in his body through which Barbra can be seen in the background. Audiences love it.

  1. Greg says: March 23, 20086:50 am

    “Specification sheet!?”

    I knew women were objectified in the 50’s, but wow.

  2. Tim Giachetti says: March 23, 20087:27 am

    Ernie Kovaks was a pioneering genius in the television industry. First in about all the special effects we take for granted today.

  3. Rick Auricchio says: March 23, 20089:37 am

    I read a 1957 “Life” magazine article about Kovacs, showing how he had people “split in half” on TV. One wore black pants, the other a black shirt. In a black room, the old TV cameras simply couldn’t see the black half of the actors. Other bits he did were TV commercial parodies where the announcer reached out of the TV.

    In another sketch, he wrapped a woman in white bandages, then peeled them off on camera. There was some trickery here too, because she was like the Invisible Man: there was nothing under the bandages. I forget how he did it.

  4. Max says: March 23, 20081:23 pm

    I love how Kovacs followed up on this with comments to the effect that there was no miniature girl on the screen, and there was obviously some sort of problem with the viewer’s TV set!

  5. jayessell says: March 23, 20083:34 pm

    I can’t find any vids at YouTube.
    I suppose there’s a DVD collection.

  6. Firebrand38 says: March 23, 20085:41 pm

    Sure is, but I don’t remember seeing the miniature woman…
    It’s worth getting in any case.

  7. Stannous says: March 23, 20087:23 pm

    139 clips on Google and Youtube:…
    Some are full 30 minute episodes-

    (I check Google video first anymore since it also searches Youtube)

  8. Al says: May 23, 20085:53 pm

    Nice job. I’ve never seen this and I pride myself on having seen EVERYTHING Kovacsian! I mention his in our lastest post on the “Ernie Kovacs Blog”:…

    Thanks for posting this.

    Al Quagliata……

  9. Ben Model says: May 24, 20082:47 pm

    Thanks for posting this article. Nice behind-the-scenes photos of “The Ernie Kovacs Rehearsal”, which is what he called his late-nite show on WABD (Dumont network, in NYC).

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