Dom DeLuise, the portly and jovial comic actor, has passed away last evening, May 4, 2009, in Santa Monica, CA. He was 75.
DeLuise is perhaps best known for a string of comedies he made appearing opposite his good friend Burt Reynolds. The duo had their first significant pairing on screen in the 1978 dark comedy The End. (Previously, the two met on screen in director Mel Brooks’s Silent Film (1976) in which DeLuise starred and Reynolds cameoed.) DeLuise co-starred as a mental patient trying to help Reynolds’s terminally ill character commit suicide. The pair reteamed for Smokey And The Bandit II, two years later and the screen adaptation of the hit Broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas (1982).
The duo’s most popular pairing would be in the 1981 comedy The Cannonball Run and its 1984 sequel. The pair stood out from the ensemble cast as racers driving an ambulance in an illegal, cross-country race. Comedically complicating things was DeLuise’s character’s insistence that he was really a superhero named Captain Chaos.
DeLuise was a favorite actor of comic director Mel Brooks, ever since Brooks cast him in his 1970 film The Twelve Chairs. Brooks would cast him as one of the leads in 1976’s Silent Movie and have him make appearances in numerous other films including History Of The World: Part 1 (1981), Spaceballs (1987) and Robin Hood: Men In Tights (1993).
Many of DeLuise’s smaller roles were essentially one or two scene walk-ons. Be it as the Pope in Johnny Dangerously (1984), the agent in the rowboat who tells a swamp-dwelling Kermit the Frog to head to Hollywood in The Muppet Movie (1979) or the effeminate movie musical director whose production gets interrupted by the brawling townsfolks and badguys of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles (1974), DeLuise always made the most of them, oft times stealing those scenes right out from under the other actors.
Other screen comedies DeLuise appeared in include The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (1975), The World’s Greatest Lover (1977), The Cheap Detective (1978), The Last Married Couple In America and Wholly Moses! ( both 1980). He also headed the cast lists for such films as Hot Stuff (1979, which he also directed), Fatso (1980), and 1987’s Going Bananas. DeLuise would also lend his voice to the animated films The Secret Of NIMH (1982), An American Tail (1986), Oliver And Company (1988) and All Dogs Go To Heaven (1989).
Born in Brooklyn, New York on August 1, 1933, DeLuise studied at Manhattan’s High School of Performing Arts. He later attended Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Oddly enough, his first film role of note was in the Cold War drama Fail Safe (1964). He soon found his niche for comedy with roles in films like The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) and 1971’s Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?.
In addition to his film work, DeLuise had appeared in numerous stage productions, including a Broadway mounting of Neil Simon’s The Last Of The Red Hot Lovers, as well as numerous guest shots on a variety of television series. He was also known as a gourmet chef and had authored two cookbooks.