British actor David Rappaport earned more roles and respect than most guys his size (or any size for that matter) who attempted a professional acting career. Born with the genetic condition dwarfism (he was 3′ 11″), he was often typecast in bizarre, sometimes silly and demeaning roles; but, like others before (Michael Dunn) and after (Peter Dinklage), he rose to the challenge and proved himself a talent to be reckoned with.
He was born David Stephen Rappaport on November 23, 1951, to a London Jewish family and showed musical prowess at an early age. He learned how to play both the drums and the accordion, which helped him out financially during the lean years. He studied psychology at the University of Bristol in 1969 and graduated with a degree while developing a side interest in theatre and performing in plays and revues. Following graduation, he married his college girlfriend, Jane, and had a son, Joe, the following year. He gave school teaching a try but left in 1977 to focus on his first love – acting.
Returning to England, he built up his reputation on TV and developed celebrity status. He acted in and wrote for the program “Beyond the Groove” and performed in a couple of children’s series to boot. Film showcases for David came unexpectedly with the scene-stealing role of “Randall”, the ringleader of a motley group of time-traveling thieves, in Time Bandits (1981), and in The Bride (1985) as “Rinaldo”, a little person who befriends a giant. American audiences were given a good taste of David’s charm, intelligence and razor-sharp wit with the popular but short-lived series, The Wizard (1986), as “Simon McKay”, the inventor of odd and exciting toys who derived great pleasure out of being a good Samaritan. He followed this with the attention-getting role of slick attorney “Hamilton Skylar” in a few episodes of L.A. Law (1986).
Despite his successful professional career, David was beset by personal unhappiness and acute depression. He was booked to play the darkly comic role of Zibalian trader Kivas Fajo on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (episode “The Most Toys,” subsequently played by gifted Canadian actor Saul Rubinek). However, on May 2, 1990, Rappaport’s third suicide attempt was successful, as he shot himself in the chest with a .38 caliber revolver he had bought 15 days earlier. The 38-year-old actor was buried at the Waltham Abbey cemetery in England.
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