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|Also Known As:||Dom De Luise,Dom Deluises,Dominick Deluise||Died:||May 4, 2009|
|Born:||August 1, 1933||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Brooklyn, New York, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor author chef|
An energetic comic talent with a hysterical and infectious laugh, Dom DeLuise was a character actor who lent stellar support to some of the biggest names in entertainment in for three decades. A dependable laugh-getter on television in the 1960s, his popularity brought him to features, where he was put to superb use in films by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder; he was also a frequent sidekick to Burt Reynolds, who seemed incapable of keeping a straight face when DeLuise was around. Not content to rest on his acting alone, he directed two features, contributed performances to countless animated projects, appeared in several operas with the New York Met, and found considerable success as the author of several best-selling cookbooks and children's books.
Born Dominick DeLuise in Brooklyn, NY on Aug. 1, 1933, he was the son of civil servant John DeLuise and his wife Vincenza, whose culinary skills inspired several of his cookbooks. After graduating from Manhattan's High School of the Performing Arts, he was a regular in New York theater and children's television like "The Shari Lewis Show" (NBC, 1960-63). He made his off-Broadway debut in 1960s "The Jackass" before treading the boards on the Great White Way three years later in a production of "The Student Gypsy." By that point, DeLuise was also making the rounds as a comedian on national variety shows like "The Garry Moore Show" (CBS, 1964-67) and "The Entertainers" (CBS, 1964-65). The "Moore Show" gave him one of his most memorable bits, a disastrously inept magician named "Dominic the Great," which made him an audience favorite on numerous programs - most notably "The Dean Martin Show" (NBC, 1965-1974). DeLuise's feature film debut came with Sidney Lumet's nail-biting nuclear drama "Fail-Safe" (1964), where he played an understandably terrified soldier.
DeLuise balanced his television career with regular returns to the stage in the mid and late 1960s and early 1970s, including a stint in Neil Simon's hit "The Last of the Red Hot Lovers;" one of these productions introduced him to actress Carol Arthur, whom he married in 1965. He got a shot at his own variety series in 1968, but "The Dom DeLuise Show" (CBS, 1968) proved short-lived, and he returned to regular guest appearances on "The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour" (CBS, 1969-1972) and Dean Martin's variety show and roasts. In 1970, he made "The Twelve Chairs," an eccentric comedy based on the satirical Russian novel of the same name, which marked his first collaboration with Mel Brooks. DeLuise would soon be a member of Brooks' regular company for most of the features that followed. He was film director Buddy Bizarre in "Blazing Saddles" (1974), played Brooks' nitwit assistant Dom Bell in "Silent Movie" (1976), and was the obvious choice to play Emperor Nero in "History of the World Part 1" (1981). Deluise later voiced Pizza the Hut - a monstrous mound of cheese and pepperoni - in Brooks' "Star Wars" parody "Spaceballs" (1987) and delivered his tried-and-true Marlon Brando imitation in "Robin Hoods: Men in Tights" (1993). Brooks' frequent collaborator Gene Wilder later brought DeLuise aboard for his own comic efforts, including "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" (1975), which gave audiences a taste of the actor's vocal talents in his turn as a hilariously vain opera singer.
In 1978, DeLuise made his first feature with longtime friend Burt Reynolds - the broad comedy "The End," which saw both actors as mental patients who attempt to aid each other's suicide attempts. It was not a sizable hit, but the pair had undeniable chemistry, and would team up on screen for numerous subsequent films. The most popular of these was undeniably "The Cannonball Run" (1981), an all-star vanity project which allowed Reynolds' celebrity pals to mug furiously in between car crash sequences. DeLuise consumed the most scenery as Reynolds' milquetoast mechanic, who transformed into the caped superhero "Captain Chaos" at the most inopportune times. The duo naturally appeared in the lame sequel "Cannonball Run II" (1984), though DeLuise's best turn in his features with Reynolds was that of an eccentric televangelist who targets the "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (1982) as a den of iniquity. Both actors would also contribute their immediately identifiable voices to the popular animated film "All Dogs Go to Heaven" (1989) and DeLuise would earn a Daytime Emmy nomination for reprising the role on the subsequent series (ABC/syndicated, 1996-99).
The popularity of his collaborations with Brooks and Reynolds allowed DeLuise to occasionally step out on his own as lead actor, which yielded varying results. He made a competent debut as director in the broad comedy "Hot Stuff" (1979), which featured cameos by many of his celebrity friends, as well as his wife and sons Peter and David, who later enjoyed acting careers of their own (a third son, Michael, also followed in his father's footsteps). DeLuise took a rare dramatic turn for first-time director Anne Bancroft in "Fatso" (1980) as a heavy-set bachelor looking for love. And he made a third attempt at a television series with "The Dom DeLuise Show" (syndicated, 1987-88), a sitcom based in a barbershop which was highlighted by guest appearances by celebrity pals.
By the late 1980s, DeLuise was finding steady work as a voice performer for animated series and features; he made his debut in that field with 1982's unsung "The Secret of NIHM," and won over countless younger viewers as the friendly cat Tiger in the Stephen Spielberg-produced "An American Tail" (1986) and its sequels and spin-off series. He also scored with his first cookbook, Eat This It Will Make You Feel Better (1988), which compiled stories and recipes from his mother's kitchen. A 1997 follow-up also earned favorable sales on bookshelves, and DeLuise later branched out into children's books with 1990's Charlie the Caterpillar and several others. And in 1990, he made his first of several appearances as the jailer Frosch in the New York Metropolitan Opera's productions of "Die Fledermaus." DeLuise also returned to television in the 1990s; first as the host for a daytime syndicated version of "Candid Camera" (1991-93) and later as a recurring character on the revived "Burke's Law" (CBS, 1994-95).
Though still exceptionally active as an actor and voice talent from 2000 on, DeLuise devoted much of his time to his second career as a celebrity chef. He contributed recipes and cooking tips on the syndicated radio series "On the House with the Carey Brothers," and maintained a brisk business in book sales and recipes via his web site, domdeluise.com. In 2006, he suffered a brief health scare when he collapsed in his home; his medical records were also a matter of public record when they were involved in a 2008 news story about hospital staff snooping into confidential files of celebrity patients. A year later, the beloved actor died in his sleep after battling a long illness. He was 75 years old.
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