Cliff Thompson was born in Ramsey County, North Dakota, in 1904. None of his family were unusually tall. A Blatz trade card he widely handed out bore a photo of him with his father. That Thompson was much taller and larger than most people became apparent while he was still young but he did not stop growing until he was 27 years old.
Thompson was a North Dakota native who moved with his family to Wisconsin when he was seven. He intended to be a science or math teacher after graduating from Stevens Point State Teachers College but by the time he graduated, he figured that he would earn more money by going to work with the circus and he spent many years as the “Tall Man.”
Thompson was 8′ 7″ tall and was second behind Alton, Ill.’s Robert Wadlow, who was four inches taller and the undisputed World’s Tallest Man. Thompson weighed 460 pounds, was 44 inches at the waist and wore a size 22 shoe.
Still a young man, Cliff made personal appearances and traveled with the Ringling Brothers organization and later with the Cole Brothers Circus.
In 1932 Cliff received screen credits in a short film, “Seal Skins,” with Zasu Pitts and a monkey named Jocko. In 1934 he appeared in feature length pictures, including “Twentieth Century,” with John Barrymore and Carole Lombard and “Murder in the Private Car” with Charles Ruggles and Una Merkel. These were largely “walk on” roles designed to startle the audience.
Cliff went back to the circus, where he met and fell in love with Mary Mars, a 5 foot, 6 inch dancer from Milwaukee who had left her career as a night club performer to join Cole Brothers in 1938. Seeking a more stable lifestyle once they were married, they moved to Milwaukee where Thompson sought to capitalize on his fame and size as a product spokesman for a Ford dealer and milk producers. That is when Blatz beer came into his life.
When the State Fair concluded, Thompson went to the Blatz head offices in Milwaukee where he convinced the management to hire him as spokesman for their products. As shown here, Blatz would give him cards to give out to customers with him and his wife and information on the back.
The financial security of the job allowed Cliff and Mary to wed. At the time he was 34 years old and she was 32. Over the next few years on behalf of Blatz, the couple traveled by automobile all over the United States.
When he grew weary of life on the road–he slept diagonally on two hotel room beds pushed together–he enrolled in law school at Marquette University in Milwaukee. He earned his law degree, presumably becoming at that point the World’s Tallest Lawyer, and practiced law in Iowa and Los Angeles before finally settling in Portland, Oregon where he worked until he died at age 50 in 1955.
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