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.