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Michael Dunn

New York Times, August 31, 1973


Dwarf Was Nominee for TV, State, and Movie Prizes

LOS ANGELES, Aug 30 (AP)--Michael Dunn, the 3’10” film and stage actor, died last evening in London, the Warner Bros. studio announced today. He was 39 years old.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Impressive Performer

Mr. Dunn, who at his death was in London to play the role of Birgito, a dwarf, in “The Abdication,” starring Peter Finch and Liv Ullmann, was an actor of considerable consequence.

In “The Ballad of the Sad Cafe” in 1963, he impressed Broadway and the theater critics with a bravura performance as Cousin Lymon in the Edward Albee adaptation of the Carson McCullers original. He was nominated for a Tony award.

His performance took him from years of minor stage roles and a career as a baritone in small night clubs to fame in the theater, the movies and television.

In addition to the Tony nomination, he received an Academy Award nomination and the Laurel Award as the best supporting actor in “Ship of Fools,” in which he played Karl Glocken, and evil dwarfed hunchback. He also received Emmy nominations for the best guest appearances on television in “Bonanza” and “The Wild, Wild West.”

Had Dislocated Hips

His real name was Gary Neil Miller, and he was born in Shattuck, Okla., of Irish, Scottish, and Indian ancestry. He did not develop normally, with both hips dislocated, which made walking a constant pain throughout his life.

By the time he was 4, he knew he would be a dwarf, and when he was 5 the disease was diagnosed. It was a rare form of nonhereditary dwarfism believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance during gestation.

Mr. Dunn was especially bright and unusually talented. He entered the University of Michigan at 15 and moved to the University of Miami when his illness required a warmer climate.

At Miami, he edited its magazine, acted in plays, became a cheerleader and sang in a nightclub (his voice was booming and resonant despite his size) in order to pay part of his tuition.

Man of Many Talents

He tried many jobs--a sports rewrite man on a newspaper, a hotel detective and small parts as jesters, fools and the like Off Broadway--before turning up on Broadway as the insides of a robot in “How to Make a Man.”

Of Mr. Dunn’s appearance in “The Inner Journey,” a tragedy that was performed at Lincoln Center in 1969, Clive Barnes, drama critic of The New York Times remarked:

“Michael Dunn as the dwarf is so good that the play may be worth seeing merely for him. Controlled, with his heart turned inward, his mind a pattern of pain, Mr. Dunn’s Antaeus deserves all the praise it can be given.”

Mr. Dunn’s films included “You’re a Big Boy Now,” “Madigan,” “No Way to Treat a Lady” and “Justice.” On the stage he drew rave notices in a revival of “Here come the Clowns” and appeared also in “Shinbone Alley,” “Jamaica” and “Malcolm.”


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