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Brad’s Musings and Meanderings

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"Don't be a lichtenfreudal tissue." - Christi Adkins

olive5.jpgIt’s encounters like the one that I had with Olive Brasno that make me believe in fate. Had I not been browsing Bob’s book The Munchkins of Oz by Steve Cox during my 1995 visit to California, and had I not then fortuitously met that same Steve Cox at the Hollywood Collectors Show that very same week, and finally had I not had a trip to Florida planned several weeks later, it is likely that I would have never crossed paths with Olive. As it was, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to meet an actress that I had long admired.

Olive was a midget, who along with her brother – also a midget – performed in Vaudeville during the 1930′s. My interest with her was that she starred in two of the Our Gang films Shrimps for a Day (1934) and Arbor Day (1936) along with her brother George. Her role in Shrimps particularly delighted me so it was with a gleeful shreik that I saw a picture of her in Steve’s book, posing with her husband Gus Wayne. Gus was one of the Munchkin soldiers in The Wizard of Oz. Olive herself had not appeared in Oz as she and her brother were making far too much money in Vaudeville to travel to California for such a ‘tiny’ role.

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Olive in Shrimps for a Day. I did not actually get this photo signed until two years later.

So the first words that came out of my mouth when I met Steve was “So what has become of Olive Brasno?” He was thrilled that I knew who Olive was, so he told me that she was residing in Lakeland, Florida. Then I mentioned that I would soom be taking a trip to Florida – and then checked and found that Lakeland was right on the way between Orlando and Clearwater. The rest, as they say, was history.

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Steve sent along some photos from Charlie Chan at the Circus to have Olive sign. They were very dark – so I was thrilled when she gave me this crisp photo and signed it to me.

I contacted Olive a couple of weeks before we left and she agreed to allow me to visit. When the time came on Wednesday, August 2, 1995, and we remarkably maneuvered to the nice moblie home park in which she was living, I was surprised to see that she was even tinier than I had a anticipated. Lisa and I offered to take her out to the lunch of her choice. She picked a run-down cafeteria and consumed exactly one-half of a hotdog. She also insisted on riding in the back seat of our car, which even at the age of 77, she deftly maneuvered.

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I took the picture above and below of photos hanging on her wall. Above is Olive and her brother George as children.

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Gus Wayne and Olive Brasno’s wedding photo

I did a short interview with her, which I subsequently published in my Dante’s Info #15 during the Winter of 1996 (I held the story for over six months!). Mostly, Olive was very surprised that we were more interested in her career as opposed to her husband’s (who was still living at the time in a nearby nursing home). It took some coaxing to get her to sign her autographs with her maiden name as she would usually sign photos of her husband at Wizard of Oz festivals as Mrs. Gus Wayne.

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Olive absolutely insisted that we not crouch down to take photos with her

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Proud of her stature, Olive poses with Lisa

Amazingly enough, I actually did meet up with Olive again two years later, not long before her death in January of 1998 at a Wizard of Oz festival…but that is a story for another time.

Return to the Florida trip

Continue on to our meeting with Karl Slover

See the Brasnos final resting place here

33 Responses to “Meeting Olive Brasno 1995”

  1. It takes a certain type of person to be interested in someone like Olive. I feel the same way about her as you do. I am sorry I did not follow through as you did. I really commend you. I have a similar interest with anything associated with the Hal Roach Studio. I almost had a book published about the death of Thelma Todd. During that time I inteviewed quite a few people associated with Thelma and the studio. I even interviewed Hal Roach and have a lot of cool pictures. Anyway, Olive had a great personality that came off the screen and she was a beautiful, young lady. Do you know what happened to her brother George and did she have any children?

    Rich King

  2. Olive’s brother George died in 1982. Their younger brother Richard – who was also a midget – was killed in a motorcycle accident in the mid-1970′s. Olive never had any children.

    Brad

  3. Do you mind if I copy some of this into TCM movies?

    Bill Markuly

  4. I had not even known of Olive Brasno, until I had seen “Charlie Chan at The Circus”. Of course, I am sure that I had seen her before, as she appeared in “Little Rascals” among other features.
    The reason I searched her out was because I was very impressed with her and George’s dancing in that movie. It was amazing! And Olive herself may have been tiny, but she was very pretty. I had to know whether or not she was really a small person, or a child actor.
    I have to tell you, I was very impressed by her and George, even in a “B” movie, they were standouts. I will be looking for more of them.

    Joseph M. Loglisci

  5. How wonderful to find something about this delightful actress. After seeing TCM’s “Charlie Chan at the Circus,” I wanted to know more about the talented couple. Not much is out there and no photos on IMDB. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Rayna R. Gardner

  6. I’m also a huge fan of Olive and George Brasno. I didn’t know they had a younger LP brother (mentioned above). I especially appreciate the nice pics you took because there are so few on the web since I’ve been searching since 1999. Before that only a few books in the library even mentioned her name or George’s. She looked in good health and spirits in 1995 at least, though in her last pic (not shown here) where she sits in an oversized (for her) dark sweatshirt (?) or jacket, she looked battleworn and her hands with long boney fingers. I’ll bet she never weighed 80 lbs in her life. She was so adorable in those 1930′s films, George too. I would love to have met Gus and Olive for their stories about their film careers. Who WASN’T an OZ fan here?

    Jerry Lehane III

  7. I just saw Olive for the first time in the Abbott and Costello Christmas show (part of the Colgate Comedy Hour). She is billed as part of “Buster Shaver and Olive,” and BOY! can she dance! Definately worth seeing if you are a fan.

    T.J.

  8. I just saw her on a copy of the Colgate comedy hour myself.
    I was amazed by her dancing and smile.
    Good going in documenting your experience for others on the net to enjoy.

    Chris

  9. Thanks for sharing the story. I always thought she was really beautiful, and she comes off as being a bit brassy in her movies. It is wonderful that you got to meet her and thanks for posting the photos too.

    Samantha

  10. Like Rich King, I have always held an interest in who was affiliated with Hal Roach Studios. I’ve always admired Olive Brasno. My one regret is that I was living in Punta Gorda, Florida in the early to mid 1990′s, doing radio there and in Ft. Myers, while unaware that Olive lived in Lakeland. I wished I had known she lived that close to me, as it would have been an ever so sweet experience to visit with her. No doubt, she was loved by many. Thanks for the memories, Olive!

    Philip North

  11. Olive was a beautiful woman. I saw her in little mrs broadway and thought she was gorgeous

    vicki

  12. Olive Brasno was my great aunt. I lived in South River, NJ for my childhood. Her brother was my grandfather and I used to see her all the time when I was growing up.

    Ryan B.

  13. i remember watching all those little rascal reruns in the 1970s, “shrimps for a day” was one of my favorites, where i especially enjoyed the two “shrunken characters” their mannerisms, brassy language etc. after some searching on line i finally located a video of “shrimps for a day” what a treat to finally see this film again after all these years! one link leads to another etc. etc. etc. where i found this piece on olive and her brother. how delightful to finally find more information about the two “small” characters whose work delighted me so.
    i will most certainly look for some of their other work now that i know who they are.

    i am drawn to the allure of 1930s Hollywood, some of you had mentioned “the Hollywood collectors show”? and the wizard of oz show. are any of these / or are there any other events that someone fond of 1930s Hollywood would enjoy?

    thanks for the info and for such cool esoteric spirit

    pat

    pat

  14. Many thanks for sharing your meeting with Olive. I am a Our Gang/Little Rascals fan and love to watch the episodes with Olive and her brother, they were great. I wish I had had a chance to meet them.

    Sam Flowers

  15. I came across this page during a random search. Could you possibly forward me a copy of your interview with her for a bio I’m preparing on her and brother?

    William

  16. I lived next door to Olive,Gus
    and Richard in Las vegas in the 60′s.They would invite us over to swim in the summers.As a teenager I was intrigued with all the stories.I met olive’s mother
    who was normal size.They were all a joy to be around.Then they moved to Fl.
    They sent me a photo of Richard on his motorcycle shortly before his tragic death.

    robert wagner

  17. I worked in the nursing home that Gus lived in during the year of his death. He trgically died there at the home being crushed by one of the automatic doors there. What a shame! I cared for him every day while I worked there, bathing him, feeding him and helping him walk and get dressed. I asked him one day what he would like if he could have “real food” and he said “steak”. So, I made it happen. Shortly after that he died. It was a pleasure caring for him.

    Jennifer

  18. When I found this I was delighted to find out that somebody had taken such an interest in this woman, seeing as she is my great aunt. She passed away when I was eight, but the memories I have of her are nothing short of sweet. Thank you for appreciating my great aunt (and uncle’s) work. :)

    Jessica

  19. Just saw George and Olive Brasno in Little Ms Broadway, and I have them on “shrimps for a day”, both in color on dvd. And I was thrilled to find your article. I have always loved these to great actors. Thanks for sharing your story about Olive.

    Rita

  20. I have a picture of Olives husband Gus, with my brother from the nursing home where he lived & Jennifer is a liar,My mother was head nurse there & took care of him & he fell out of bed & ended up dying from a brain hemorrhage.

    Carolyn

  21. Woah!! She didn’t have a little brother who was also a midget. I have original pictures of her and her family and they were the only two.

    Annie

  22. I just got back from a family funeral in Manville,NJ,and the subject of Olive and George Brasno came up, as they are part of my family.There were four siblings in the Brasno family, Mildred, George, Olive, Richard. Mildred was the only normal sized sibling, she married Michael Zupko of Dunellen,NJ my great Uncle and namesake.I do not remember Richard as I was young when he died, but heard lots of stories, and was never permitted to ride motorcycles because of his death on one.I only remember little of Olive, because she was married to Gus and lived in Florida and did not visit often. I remember George the best, and had the most contact with him, I remember my younger brother threating to “Tell his mother he was smoking a cigar” little did he know George was over Fifty at the time. George loved his cigars, and was friends with Leon Schlesinger the producer of Bugs Bunny, and was the inspiration for the cigar smoking baby in the baby carriage.It is true that Olive and George turned down the Wizard of OZ because their Vaudeville career was so successful.Gus Wayne died from heart failure, and Olive died two days later from heart failure.In 1968 Uncle Mike bought a Tavern at 450 North Ave(route28) Dunellen, NJ George like to go there and have a drink with his brother in law, and I believe he lived with Uncle Mike and Aunt Mil for a while in their home just down the street. The bar passed to Mike’s son Richard(named after his Uncle Richard) and is still in the family as well as the family home.Ritchie Zupko Richards son runs the bar today. They have many pictures of George,Olive,Richard,Mildred,and we talked about some old super 8 movies we remember of them, cousin Ritchie said he needed to look in his Grandfathers attic to see what he can find.If your interested contact them at zupkostavern@yahoo.com

    Michael

  23. I am so ecstatic to see such a biography and interest about my Aunt Olive. Olive and George were my Aunt and Uncle and I have so many memories and joyful times at family gatherings in South River. The best times I shared were at weddings and I was always Uncle Georges dance partner….since, until my late teens, I was on the short tiny side.

    I want to thank all of you for carrying on their memory. They would all be very impressed and thankful.

    Suzanne M Dunich-Hess

  24. I am 74. Olive and I worked together at REECO, Inc. in the 60s…This was when she and Gus lived on Michael Way in Las Vegas. We had many laughs, she was a total gas and always fun. I wish there were a pix of the whole wedding party. Everyone in the wedding party was a “little person”
    You brought back some fond memories.

    Nancy Bradley

  25. Buster Shaver and Olive Brasno are the Dick Clair and Jenna McMahon of Dancing!

    V.E.G.

  26. I really liked Buster Shaver and Olive Brasno! They’re dancing is out of this world! He is tall, she is short!

    V.E.G.

  27. Olive worked for my father at Sonitrol of Polk County (FL). She was a wonderful person, easy going; she knew how to get along with everyone.

    Paul Taggart

  28. Well, this has sure been interesting reading! I only discovered George and Olive Brasno today when I watched my new DVD of “Charlie Chan at the Circus.” I was impressed with them in the movie and, like someone else mentioned, I really wasn’t sure if they were midgets or children, as they both looked so young in the movie. So I decided to see if I could find any info on the web. Brad, not only are your account of meeting Olive and the photos you included very much appreciated, I also enjoyed reading the many comments, several from relatives of Olive and George. (Wonder if we’ll ever really know how Gus Wayne died? There were at least three different accounts of that!) Sounds like Olive was a delightful person, and I think it’s great that you got to meet her. Thanks for letting us all learn more about her.

    Janet

  29. A beautiful article about the beautiful Brasnos I have a couple of photos from my collection of ‘Our Gang / Little Rascals’characters. See Charlie Chan with Colonel Tim and Lady Tiny at theoldmoviemaven.com

    Alan Jacobs

  30. Does anyone know anything about Buster Shaver and his connection with Olive?

    jenny

  31. Jenny there’s a buster shaver video Youtube.It’s B&W 1950′s and grainy looking but wow what energy they had.

    Jerry Lehane III

  32. I saw Buster,Olive & George on a TCM Vitaphone short. Saved it for them and other Vaudeville acts I liked. That was months ago and just watched it again, got curious and started searching. Most fascinating and now I have to see more.

    Kay

  33. I used to visit with Gus and Olive every weekend at the farmers market in Kathleen(Lakeland)…both were so hospitable to everyone who stopped at there booth to browse…most customers had no idea who they were. Gus used to say the children were annoying as they were cruel…parents never had any control over them. Gus had some very interesting things to say about the Oz filming and production. At the time, he was working at Piper aircraft in Lakeland and layoffs were starting.The plant was moving to Vero Beach and alot of people lost their homes due to it. Sure miss him and Olive…flea market has never been the same so I stopped going.

    john greggs

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