Dom DeLuise, Comic Actor of Stage and Film, Dies at 75 | Playbill

Obituaries Dom DeLuise, Comic Actor of Stage and Film, Dies at 75
Dom DeLuise, who used his ample figure and burlesque instincts to comic ends in dozens of film comedies and a handful of stage shows, died May 4 at a Los Angeles hospital. He was 75.

Mr. DeLuise played every human vice and virtue — sloth, hunger, cowardice, ambition, kindness, sorrow — to overblown, comedic excess. Even when standing still, he seemed to be bathed in panicky flop sweat, his plump face quivering with reactive emotion. Along with Gene Wilder, Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman and Harvey Korman, he was a member of Mel Brooks' unofficial repertory company, and is perhaps best remembered for a string of films he made with the director, beginning with "The Twelve Chairs," and including "Blazing Saddles," "Silent Movie," "Spaceballs" and "History of the World, Part I." In the latter, he played a louche Caesar who burped, scratched himself, passed gas, bit into a bunch of grapes and spat before he even uttered a single word.

He typically excelled as a second banana, providing asides and reactions for the likes of Brooks, frequent co-star and benefactor Burt Reynolds ("The Cannonball Run," "Smokey and Bandit II," "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and "The End"), and Wilder ("The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother," "The World's Great Lover."). He took on a rare leading part in the 1980 Anne Bancroft-directed film "Fatso," a comedy in which he played a man struggling with his weight.

Dom DeLuise was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 1, 1933, the son of a garbage man who spoke only Italian. He graduated from Manhattan's High School of Performing Arts. He had no luck finding acting work, however, and went back to school, attended Tufts University in Medford, MA, with the idea of becoming a teacher.

Afterward, however, he was hired by the Cleveland Playhouse, appearing in stage productions such as Kiss Me, Kate and Hamlet. "I worked two years solidly on plays and moving furniture and painting scenery and playing parts," he said in a 2006 interview. "It was quite an amazing learning place for me." He also working in summer stock in Provincetown, where he met his wife, Carol Arthur.

He appeared in the short-lived Broadway comedy The Student Gypsy in 1963 and as a replacement in Here's Love, but first gathered attention — ironically, given his subsequent career — in a dramatic role in the 1964 Henry Fonda film "Fail Safe," playing a nervous soldier. Further fame came with regular appearances on "The Dean Martin Show" as a terrible magician named "Dominick the Great," a character he first created for "The Gary Moore Show." His catch phrase, repeated in broken English after each failed trick, was "No Applause Necessary, Sava to the End." As the 1970s were beginning, he replaced James Coco as the lead in the Neil Simon comedy Last of the Red Hot Lovers, one of his more challenging assignments.

His taste in films wasn't always discriminating. Among the critically drubbed comedies he appeared in were "The Cheap Detective," "Sextette," "Cannonball Run II," "Johnny Dangerously," "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" (a less fortunate, latter-day Brooks film) and "Going Bananas."

Always a fan of food, he was well-regarded as a cook and authored two cookbooks, "Eat This!" and "Eat This, Too!"

He is survived by his wife Carol Arthur, and his three sons, Peter DeLuise, Michael DeLuise and David DeLuise.

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