Has Tom Cruise been caught short?
Domestic harmony can be jeopardised by differing heights, says Judith Woods
By the surreal standards of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes's relationship, the couple's wedding portrait was, at first glance, disappointingly conventional. The groom wasn't leaping on a sofa, punching the air or even locked with his new bride in an "eternal Scientology kiss" – theirs only lasted three minutes.
No, Holmes, 27 was demurely nestling up to her 44-year-old husband who was – hang on, what's with the "up to" business? It's well-known that at 5ft 9in, Holmes is a good two inches taller than her spouse.
She routinely towers over him, yet in the official picture they are not only cheek to cheek, but the Mission: Impossible actor is, quite distinctly, a touch taller.
Having given birth this year, Holmes shed pounds at an alarming rate and had shrunk to a UK size four for her big day. But it's unlikely for even the most highly strung bride-to-be to have lost a couple of vertebrae.
Admittedly, Cruise's crucial photo-finish final inch could have been down to a deceptive blow-dry – but even so, discounting suggestions of camera trickery (the photographer insists the picture has not been doctored), there seems little doubt that Holmes was dutifully bending her knees beneath her ivory-silk Armani frock or had been dug a designer trench to stand in.
Cruise may have reached the dizzying stratosphere of Hollywood's A-list and the inner circle of Scientology (which believes that humans are descendants of aliens known as Thetans) but he clearly still has little-big-man hang-ups about his height.
Nor is he alone. In an industry where leading men are expected to conform to society's expectations of desirability, some vertically challenged actors go to great lengths to disguise their shortcomings.
Alan Ladd, a diminutive 5ft 4in, sometimes had to clamber on to an orange box to kiss his leading ladies or take a swipe at his enemies. In Boy on a Dolphin, Sophia Loren was forced to stand in a hole to play opposite him. James Cagney was 5ft 5in, but cultivated a tough-guy image. And although about 5ft 8in, Humphrey Bogart was often mocked for his height.
It's easier for character actors to carve a niche for themselves: Danny DeVito (5ft), Dustin Hoffman (5ft 6in) and the late Dudley Moore (5ft 2½in) have all received critical acclaim. All three married glamorous, taller, women – a testimony, perhaps, to their personalities rather than physical stature.
But there's no doubt that, on an evolutionary level, women prefer tall men, as they associate height with superior genes. A survey by the Open University for the National Child Development Study has shown that short men will always lose out to taller rivals in love.
As a result, a man of average height (5ft 9in in the UK) is less likely to marry than a 6ft 1in man. Tall men also earn an average of 10 per cent more than their short counterparts, because height is associated with leadership.
On the plus side, however, men shorter than 5ft 6in are less likely to commit suicide, because they develop better psychological self-defence skills to compensate. In fact, it is often this carapace of self-confidence that can give a short man the drive and charisma to attract a trophy mate. Just look at Bernie Ecclestone (5ft 4in) or Rod Stewart (5ft 8in).
Indeed Stewart's fiancée, Penny Lancaster (6ft 1in), has been known to step off the kerb for paparazzi shots, just as Diana (5ft 10in) wore low-heeled shoes and slumped at the shoulders to make Prince Charles look taller than his 5ft 11in height (she ditched the flatties as the marriage disintegrated).
But can a match between a tall woman and her shorter celebrity spouse ever last the distance? Cruise's ex-wife, Nicole Kidman (5ft 10in), famously remarked in the wake of their divorce: "At least I can wear high heels now." That said, she is now married to country singer Keith Urban, who claims to be 5ft 8in and is currently in rehab, so there's a hidden price to be paid for whipping on those Jimmy Choos again.
Whether there will be a hidden price in TomKat's Scientology vows – in which Cruise promised Holmes "dresses, food and perhaps even a cat", while she promised to keep him content – perhaps only the Thetans can tell.
But if domestic harmony is jeopardised by height, the elegant Mrs Cruise could soon give new meaning to the concept of an Armani trench.