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David Schramm, veteran of stage and TV’s ‘Wings,’ dies at 73

  • COURTESY NBC

    COURTESY NBC

David Schramm, the veteran stage actor best known for playing rival airline owner Roy Biggins on “Wings,” died over the weekend in New York. He was 73.

The news was confirmed by the New York-based The Acting Company, of which Schramm was a founding member. The cause of death is not yet known.

“We mourn his loss and will miss him,” said Acting Company co-founder Margot Harley in a statement.

Besides his eight seasons on the ’90s NBC comedy “Wings” opposite Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Tony Shalhoub, Thomas Haden Church and Rebecca Schull, Schramm also appeared in the TV movie “The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story” in 1990 and the 1983 miniseries “Kennedy” (as Robert McNamara). His film credits include “Let It Ride,” “Johnny Handsome” and “A Shock to the System.”

Over the course of four decades, Schramm appeared in multiple Broadway productions, including The Acting Company’s 1975 repertory productions of “The Three Sisters,” “The Time of Your Life,” “Edward II” and “The Robber Bridegroom.” Later, Schramm appeared in “Bedroom Farce” (1979); “Goodbye Fidel” (1980); “The Misanthrope” (1983); “Tartuffe” (1996); “London Assurance” (1997) and the 2009 revival of “Finian’s Rainbow.”

He also worked extensively in regional theaters including the Kennedy Center, Philadelphia Drama Guild, the New York Theatre Workshop, Pasadena Playhouse, George Street Playhouse, Shakespeare Theatre Company. He directed Arthur Muller’s “The Price” at Chicago’s American Theater Company and Ronald Ribman’s “The Rug Merchants of Chaos” at Pasadena Playhouse.

The Louisville, Ky. native took acting classes at Western Kentucky University before attending Juilliard from 1968 to 1972, when John Houseman and Harley founded the Acting Company. Besides Schramm, the historic repertory group’s original ensemble included Patti LuPone, Kevin Kline and David Ogden Stiers.

A 1988 Pasadena Playhouse production of “Born Yesterday” opposite Rebecca De Mornay gave Schramm’s career a boost and earned him comparisons to both Jackie Gleason and John Belushi.

“Because of those reviews, I landed in every casting office in town,” Schramm recalled in 1989. “I was the flavor of the month. I ended up doing movies, TV gigs and plays. If I told you where I’ve been this past year, you won’t believe me.”

“My specialty seems to be playing the loud, pompous, bombastic, verging-on-hysteria guy,” Schramm said. “But I’d rather establish a totally different persona each time. It’s why I act. It makes traveling more tolerable.”

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