Tuesday, May 05, 2009

RIP Dom DeLuise

We're fast losing a whole generation of funny people I enjoyed in movies and on TV back when I was a kid--Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, and now the Brooklyn-born DeLuise. I don't think I'll ever forget him fumbling around Gene Shalit's feet on the Today Show, twiddling with his shoes and asking, as if he were a salesman, "Do we have these in blue?" Maybe you had to have been there, but it cracked me up when I was 11 and he and Gene Wilder were promoting The World's Greatest Lover in 1977 . A little DeLuise could go a long way, particularly if he had to vamp too strenuously when the material was lacking. But he was the best thing about several awful (and awfully popular) Burt Reynolds pictures (his "Captain Chaos" got me through the near-unbearable Cannonball Run films, and he showed how much he could do with a stronger part in Reynolds' more buttoned-down The End), added to the anything-goes flavor of Mel Brooks movies like The Twelve Chairs (1970), Blazing Saddles (1973) and Silent Movie (1976), and was a good foil to Wilder in their films together, appearing in drag in 1986's Haunted Honeymoon. He could play it straight--that's him as a nerve-jangled airman in 1964's Fail-Safe--and could hold himself back, as in the 1980 comedy-drama Fatso and his own, underrated comedy caper, 1979's Hot Stuff.


Arbogast said...

I don't think I ever found DeLuise funny but always a touch disturbing - like John Wayne Gacy without the body count. (I take that back - I actually did find him funny in The End, and I'm probably the only person in the world to find anything funny about that movie.) It's weird to think he was only in his 40s when he did The Cannonball Run.

Robert Cashill said...

Reviewing Silent Movie, John Simon wrote that DeLuise had the "distasteful personality of a swish baby." That can't be good.

There's a scene in The Twelve Chairs where he's stuck atop a rocky crag or something, and he calls down to his confederates, "Oh, boys...!" That made me laugh. He was best in small doses, the opposite of today's comics, some of whom work so minimally they're beyond Beckett.