Like any good comic character actor, Dom DeLuise seemed perfectly fine with mocking himself in performance, and as a result, he was always working, appearing in some supporting role somewhere (in recent years he was more than likely doing a quick cartoon voice or showing up in a mediocre straight-to-vid like the notorious Italian-financed Silence of the Hams). Dom broke through in the Sixties, and is well-remembered for his appearances on The Dean Martin Show (see below), where he remained for several years as the house “barber” in goofy segments wherein scripted material gave way to silly improv.
He of course is best known for his work with Mel Brooks and Burt Reynolds (most of the obits forgot he did three movies with Gene Wilder, spinning off of the Brooks orbit). But he was truly all over the place from the Sixties through the Nineties on both TV and in the movies. He was in two glorious early Seventies cult movies, Herb Gardner’s terrific Who is Harry Kellerman…? (1971) and the TV movie Evil Roy Slade (in 1972, preceding his bit in Blazing Saddles by a full year). The nicest thing I can say about Mr. DeLuise is that he seemed like a member of the family (and in fact, I have relatives who he reminded me of).
I have my own favorite Dom moment, which at some point I’ll post on YouTube (since it ain’t up there currently), but for the time being here are some choice bits featuring the big man.
Here is “Dominick the Great” on Dean Martin:
“The French Mistake” in Blazing Saddles:
Reprising his “barber” bit with Tony Orlando:
The only film he directed, an adaptation of Donald Westlake (!), is up on Youtube, the 1979 film Hot Stuff:
Here is a seminal moment from the above, Dom tokin’ a doob, and making like Stan Laurel with his laughter:
The kind of crap he appeared in quite a lot (hey, an actor’s gotta pay-a dem bills, boss). Appearing with a kid, Jimmie Walker, and small-person stuntman “Deep Roy” as a very weird fuckin' monkey in Going Bananas:
One of those godawful numbers they do at the beginning of the Oscars. And yes, this crappy one that Dom does with Telly Savalas and Pat Morita is no better or worse than those terrible things that Billy Crystal did — which sucked in entirely new ways, so the demented remember them fondly — and the recent one Hugh Jackman did:
The dippy Cannonball Run closing-credits blooper reels, all in one place:
A weird comedy outtake from a cooking instructional CD-Rom that Dom made. I’m wondering what the hell they bleeped out (abuse of another celebrity, obscenity, a stray racist remark, an in-joke only the crew got, something completely tame?). Who knows?
And something that can be found on DVD, the failed but funny 1973 sitcom Lotsa Luck. Here’s the opening theme (the first line is “I used to buy a pickle” — don’t ask me why I’ve carried that with me for the past 36 years….)