Abraham “Little Johnny” Mirkin

Abraham “Little Johnny” Mirkin

Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 28 Jul 1986 (aged 68)
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA
Burial Springfield, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, USA
Memorial ID 106422643 · View Source
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Although his appearance on the silver screen made him one of the most recognized and beloved characters in all movie history, it is unlikely that anyone can be found who has ever heard the name Abraham Mirkin. For the most part, his name has faded into obscurity; and the role he played in movie history has been lost to time; so much that most reference materials credit his role to others. To me, he was simply "Little Johnny", and although he never grew taller than 4'6", to me his character made him one of the biggest men I ever knew.

Abraham Mirkin was born in Philadelphia to immigrant parents from Russia. He attended South Philadelphia High School, where he was a classmate of actor and Rat Packer Joey Bishop.

After High School, Abraham was working as an usher at one of Philadelphia's movie palaces, when he was spotted by a Vice President of the Phillip Morris Tobacco Company. Two years earlier, in 1933, Phillip Morris had revived an old but successful advertising campaign, by hiring a young man named Johnny Roventini, who became famous as the uniformed bell-hop in the "Call for Phillip Morris" radio and print advertisements. Before long, the ad campaign had become so successful that additional "Little Johnnys" were needed to meet the growing public appearance schedule and free up Roventini for the live radio commercials necessary to sustain the campaign. Abraham was the second to put on the Phillip Morris bell-hop uniform. Abraham spent six years pitching cigarettes for Phillip Morris for $30.00 a week, which, for an eighteen year old at the height of the Great Depression, he considered "big money".

By 1939, Abraham was in Hollywood, where he was cast as the Mayor of Munchkinland in the classic L. Frank Baum story, "The Wizard of Oz". Unfortunately, Abraham does not get credit for this role; since the munchkins were billed collectively as "The Singer Midgets", Abraham's name is not listed in the film's credits. As a result, a number of others have since been credited with having played the role of Mayor, including Charlie Becker and Billy Bletcher, to name a few. But it was Abraham who actually played the part.

Abraham went on to play parts in a few other movies in the 1940's; among them: San Diego, I Love You (1944); Dragon Seed with Katherine Hepburn (1944); and Ghost Catchers (1944).

After his brief Hollywood stint, Little Johnny bought a successful bar in Philadelphia, which he ran until he retired to Miami Beach in 1959. In the early 1970's, he moved to Tallahassee, where, on the advice of one of his friends at Phillip Morris, he bought an ice cream shop in the Northwoods Mall, which he aptly named "Little Johnny's Ice Cream Parlor". He still had his Phillip Morris bell-hop uniform, which was proudly displayed in a case behind the counter. It was here that I first met Little Johnny.

I was only 14 years old when he hired me to work in his ice cream shop; I started at just .65 cents an hour, but what he taught me in responsibility was worth much more. Johnny trusted me enough that he often gave me the responsibility of running the place during his time off and when he went on vacations. It was a lot of work, but it taught me the value of working hard. I worked for him for three years, until he decided to sell the shop. After that, it just wasn't the same, so I went to work in a grocery store; but I've never forgotten the little man who was such a big part of my life.

Looking back, he never called me "Mike" as did everyone else; instead, he insisted on calling me by my middle name - "David". I like to think that he did this so that I would remember him in years to come. I know that he always treated me with genuine respect; as for me, I will always carry a deep and lasting affection for him in my heart.

As for his role as the Mayor of the Munchkins, there is no doubt to me that he was the Mayor who appeared in the film. His mannerisms were exactly those of the Mayor, down to the nod he always gave when pleased, to the rocking back and forth on his heels when standing. I've also seen the photographs in his scrapbook of him during the shooting of the film, both in and out of his Mayor costume. So, despite all the information to the contrary, I know that Abraham Mirkin was the real Mayor of the Munchkins.

Michael D. Snell
Memphis, Tennessee

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  • Created by: Michael D. Snell
  • Added: 9 Mar 2013
  • Find a Grave Memorial 106422643
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Abraham “Little Johnny” Mirkin (6 Aug 1917–28 Jul 1986), Find a Grave Memorial no. 106422643, citing Mount Sharon Cemetery, Springfield, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by Michael D. Snell (contributor 47605203) Non-Cemetery Burial.