Michael Dunn (1934 - 1973)

A photo of Michael Dunn
Michael Dunn
1934 - 1973
October 20, 1934
August 1973
Other Names
Gary Miller
Michael Dunn was born on October 20, 1934. He died in August 1973 at 38 years old.
Updated: September 26, 2021
Michael Dunn American actor DescriptionMichael Dunn was an American actor and singer. He inspired a number of actors significantly smaller and shorter than most people, including Zelda Rubinstein, Eric The Actor, Mark Povinelli, and Ricardo Gil. Wikipedia Born: October 20, 1934, Shattuck, OK Died: August 30, 1973, Belmond Cadogan Hotel, London, United Kingdom Height: 3′ 11″ Resting place: Norman Nominations: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play
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Michael Dunn
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Michael Dunn
Full name
Gary Miller
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Education He attended Redford High School in Detroit (1947–1951), then entered University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in September 1951, just before his 17th birthday. However, according to his Columbia Studios press kit biography, his studies were interrupted when he was knocked down a flight of stairs during a "student rush", which resulted in a three-month hospital stay. In 1953, he transferred to the University of Miami, College of Arts and Sciences, which offered a better climate and more accessible campus. His transcript shows that, despite scoring at the 97th percentile of ACE placement exams and the 99th percentile of the CTS English test, he did not distinguish himself academically. However, he was a high spirited and well-known figure about campus who sang in the talent show and facetiously joined the football cheerleading squad. Archives at that university's Otto G. Richter Library show that he became first a copy editor and a contributing writer, then managing editor in 1954 of the college magazine, Tempo. (Contrary to information that later appeared in his Columbia Studios biography, Dunn could not take credit for Tempo winning the Sigma Delta Chi Award for best college magazine in the country, since credit went to the Editor-in-Chief.) His classmate John Softness recalled, "He could sing like an angel, and he could act and he could write and he was a brilliant raconteur." Softness ran a campus-wide advertising campaign called "Wheels for Gary," which brought in enough money from student donations to buy a used 1951 Austin outfitted with hand controls, so that Dunn could get around independently. At various points, he held different odd jobs—singing in a nightclub, answering telephones for the Miami Daily News, and working as a hotel detective. ("What a gaff! I got my room free and all I did was play cards with the night clerk and keep an eye open for any funny business in the lobby. Who would ever suspect me of being a detective?") He left college in 1956 after completing only his sophomore year, returned to Michigan, and attended summer classes at the University of Detroit, in 1957.


Dunn had converted to Catholicism and was baptized on September 25, 1954, by Rev. J.M. O'Sullivan at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables, Florida. He was living in Ann Arbor with his parents, working as a professional singer, at the time he entered St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, on February 25, 1958.[9] According to a Capuchin Provincial Archivist, Dunn entered with the intention of becoming a Capuchin non-ordained Brother. He was known by his given name, Gary, since he never became a novice. A testimonial from John F. Bradley, Catholic Chaplain, University of Michigan, states: "He has always been interested in Catholic activities and was president of the Newman Club in another school". In response to a question on the monastery application asking: "How long have you been thinking of entering religious life?" Dunn wrote, "More than three years." Dunn was later quoted in the New York Post explaining that he had wanted to be of service, since he was unfit for the military: "Everyone my age was going to Korea and I had this feeling that singing wasn't exactly doing my part." However, monastery records entered by the Master of Novices show that the physical demands of monastic life in a huge, 19th-century building with no elevator proved too strenuous. Dunn left of his own accord on May 8, 1958, in order to pursue a stage career in New York.


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Michael Dunn Born October 20, 1934 in Shattuck, Oklahoma, USA Died August 29, 1973 in Knightsbridge, London, England, UK (complications from chondrodystrophy) Birth Name Gary Neil Miller Nickname Mike Height 3' 11" (1.19 m) Mini Bio (1) Michael Dunn was born Gary Neil Miller in Oklahoma. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Miller. They moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1938. Dunn was 5 years old when he knew he'd be a dwarf but was determined not to let it stop him or make him dependent. He graduated from Detroit's Redford High School in 1951, where he had been active in many school activities, including the student council, and was captain of the cheer-leading team. At 18 he enrolled as a student at the University of Michigan, but a leg injury incurred when he was accidentally knocked down a flight of stairs forced him to leave. Later he transferred to the University of Miami, where he acted, was a cheer leader and editor of the college newspaper, and he received his degree in 1956. He'd supported himself during school by singing at local bars, and knew by graduation that he wanted to be an actor. "Frankly", he told a reporter, "I knew there wouldn't be too much competition for roles. There are a great many professional midgets, but there aren't too many dwarfs who can act". Waiting for his big break, he found employment as a sports reporter, a hotel detective and a missionary. When he hit New York he finally got some acting parts in off-Broadway plays--and when he was nominated for a Tony Award in 1963 (for his role in Edward Albee's "Ballad of A Sad Cafe"--his luck changed for the better. He even landed an Oscar nomination for his role as narrator in Ship of Fools (1965). Still, Dunn was frustrated by the lack of variety in the parts he was offered. While filming The Abdication (1974) on location in England in 1973, the 3'11" actor died. He was 38. - IMDb Mini Biography By: Tiffany Banks Spouse (1) Joy Talbot (14 December 1966 - ?) ( divorced) Trivia (9) Had an IQ of 178. Was a concert pianist at age 15, until he suffered from chondrodystrophy, crippling his elbows and ruining his career as a pianist. He then took up acting. Rumors of suicide have been unfounded. He did develop an acute alcohol problem and liver cirrhosis probably hastened his early death. The general consensus is that he died of heart failure in his sleep as a result of the disease. In the 60s, encouraged by actor Roddy McDowall, he and actress Phoebe Dorin formed a slightly bizarre but popular New York song-and-comedy nightclub act, which eventually led to their being cast on TV's The Wild Wild West (1965) as evil Dr. Loveless and his assistant, Antoinette. Was nominated for Broadway's 1964 Tony Award as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe." Michael Dunn was buried in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, by his parents, as they thought they would be moving there; however, they both died in their native state of Oklahoma and were buried in Sunset Memorial Park in Norman, Oklahoma. In July of 2007, three of Dunn's cousins, his closest living kin, were able to have his remains moved from Florida to Oklahoma, where he was buried in the same cemetery as his parents. Phoebe Dorin, Dunn's singing partner and The Wild Wild West (1965) co-star, is extensively interviewed about their relationship in Tom Weaver's book "Science Fiction Confidential" (McFarland & Co., 2002). A photograph of Dunn in his role as Mr. Big in the original series Get Smart (1965) appears during the opening credits of Get Smart (2008). Chondrodystrophy (i.e. cartilage maldevelopment) that defined Dunn's physiology refers to a skeletal condition caused by one of myriad genetic reasons that can affect the cartilage resulting thus a form of dwarfism. Personal Quotes (1) "Here's a midget part", [producers] say. "Mike's available". Then they soft-soap me about what a great [actor] I am. I don't want to play Charlton Heston parts, but there are a lot of roles I can do.

Personal Life

He developed into a dedicated philanthropist toward children with dwarfism who would write fan letters to him confiding their loneliness and despair. According to Dorin, Dunn often traveled to visit such children at his own expense, delivering encouragement to them and stern counsel to overly protective parents.

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Personal life Dunn was married on December 14, 1966, to Joy Talbot. Motion Picture Magazine described her as a model, in a photo caption in the March, 1967 issue. The union was unhappy and childless, ending in divorce after a few years. He developed into a dedicated philanthropist toward children with dwarfism who would write fan letters to him confiding their loneliness and despair. According to Dorin, Dunn often traveled to visit such children at his own expense, delivering encouragement to them and stern counsel to overly protective parents.[1][7] His mobility and physical stamina were poor and deteriorated throughout his life. He suffered especially from deformed hip joints (due either to hip dysplasia or coxa vara, with secondary osteoarthritis).[1][10] However, he scampishly disguised his limitations by telling tall tales that a gullible press eagerly reported as the truth. Various accounts describe him as an aviator, skydiver, judo master, football player, and concert pianist, despite clear evidence on film of a severe, waddling limp, permanently flexed limbs, and gnarled fingers. In published interviews, he did hint at his childhood limitations both in football—"I was a great passer"—and in baseball: "I wasn't a very fast runner. I had to depend on sliding."[3][6] Working in New York, Dunn reportedly accrued masses of parking tickets, since disabled drivers had no special privileges. He also received human transport from friend and stuntman Dean Selmier, who often carried Dunn on his shoulders through the streets of Manhattan.[1][7][12] Death Spinal deformities, including scoliosis, caused a distorted ribcage that restricted Dunn's lung growth and function. The resulting respiratory insufficiency caused overload of the heart's right chambers, a chronic condition called cor pulmonale. He died in his sleep in his room at the Cadogan Hotel in London, on August 30, 1973, at age 38, while on location for The Abdication. The New York Times reported his cause of death as undisclosed, leading to decades of repeated public speculation about possible suicide.[11] However, the designation "undisclosed" signified merely that no cause of death had yet been determined. An autopsy was performed on August 31, 1973, by Professor R.D. Teare at St. George's Hospital, London, who noted: "The right side of the heart was widely dilated and hypertrophied to twice its normal thickness. The left ventricle was normal in size." He recorded the cause of death as cor pulmonale.[1] This information is confirmed in the "Report of the Death of an American Citizen" from the U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service, American Embassy in London, made out on October 12, 1973, by Micaela A. Cella, Vice Consul. The report is on record in the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland. A London physician reportedly prescribed and administered two narcotics and a barbiturate for severe arthritic pain, despite the extreme risk of inducing respiratory depression, apnea, and death in a patient with decreased respiratory reserve. Dunn may have needed the drugs in order to tolerate the physical demands of shooting a movie. The autopsy's finding of intense vascular congestion in the lungs also suggests the possibility that a rapidly progressive pneumonia may have been developing.[1] Allegations of chronic alcoholism are unsubstantiated by the autopsy report, which notes only venous congestion of the liver—presumably secondary to Dunn's right-heart failure—without cirrhosis, and without inflammation of the stomach lining or pancreas. One consequence of such liver dysfunction would be jaundice. Another would be intoxication after drinking even small amounts of alcohol, as well as a toxic reaction to the prescribed drugs—either of which could also induce altered mental status (such as disorientation, delusions, faulty memory). This may explain the family's report that Dunn sent home a strange telegram "shortly before his death." ("I'm OK. The cops are looking.") Rumors of foul play and theft of the body are completely unsubstantiated by Scotland Yard.[1] Despite being severely ill and in great pain, Dunn continued working nearly up to the day of his death, living up to his own description of himself as "a both-feet jumper."[5] He was buried on September 10, 1973, in Lauderdale Memorial Park Cemetery, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, near his parents' retirement home in Lauderhill. In July 2007, a first cousin had his remains exhumed and driven to Oklahoma, re-interred near his parents' graves in Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery, Norman, Oklahoma.[13]

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Michael's lifetime.

In 1934, in the year that Michael Dunn was born, on July 22nd, gangster John Dillinger was killed in Chicago. His gang had robbed banks and police stations, among other charges, and he was being hunted by J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI - although many in the public saw him as a "Robin Hood". A madam from a brothel in which he was hiding became an informer for the FBI and, after a shootout with FBI agents, Dillinger was shot and died.

In 1945, he was merely 11 years old when on April 12th, President Roosevelt died of natural causes and Harry S. Truman, his Vice-President, became the 33rd President of the United States.

In 1957, at the age of 23 years old, Michael was alive when on September 24th, the "Little Rock Nine" (nine African-American students) entered Little Rock High School. Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus had previously prevented the students from entering the school at the beginning of the term with the Arkansas National Guard - they blocked the door. President Eisenhower ordered federal troops - the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army - to guard the students and allow them entry.

In 1960, Michael was 26 years old when on May 1st, an American CIA U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile over the Soviet Union. Powers ejected and survived but was captured. The U.S. claimed that the U-2 was a "weather plane" but Powers was convicted in the Soviet Union of espionage. He was released in 1962 after 1 year, 9 months and 10 days in prison.

In 1973, in the year of Michael Dunn's passing, on August 15th, amidst rising calls for the impeachment of President Richard Nixon, Congress imposed an end to the bombing of Cambodia.

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