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Originally published May 6, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 6, 2009 at 5:58 AM

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Obituary

Dom DeLuise: actor, comedian, chef, author

Dom DeLuise, a pudgy actor whose manic grin and air of desperation added comic bounce to films like "The Twelve Chairs," "Blazing Saddles" and "The Cannonball Run," died Monday in Santa Monica, Calif.

The New York Times

Dom DeLuise, a pudgy actor whose manic grin and air of desperation added comic bounce to films like "The Twelve Chairs," "Blazing Saddles" and "The Cannonball Run," died Monday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 75 and lived in Pacific Palisades.

His agent, Robert Malcolm, said Mr. DeLuise had diabetes and high blood pressure, but gave no cause of death.

Mr. DeLuise first made his mark on television in the early 1960s as Dominick the Great, an inept but determined magician for "The Garry Moore Show" and brought it to the CBS variety series "The Entertainers," where the ensemble cast included Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett, and "The Dean Martin Summer Show."

Before long, Mr. DeLuise was appearing in films, usually in broad comedies as a nervous sidekick, a schmo or a preposterous fraud.

He was a favorite of Mel Brooks, who cast him as the greedy Father Fyodor in "The Twelve Chairs" (1970), the abusive musical director Buddy Bizarre in "Blazing Saddles" (1974), the director's silly assistant in "Silent Movie" (1976), the Emperor Nero in "History of the World: Part I" (1981), the voice of Pizza the Hutt in "Spaceballs" (1987) and the Godfather-like Don Giovanni in "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" (1993).

Burt Reynolds, another fan, teamed up with Mr. DeLuise in several films, including "Smokey and the Bandit II" (1980), "The Cannonball Run" (1981) and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" (1982).

Dominick DeLuise was born in Brooklyn and, after graduating from the High School for Performing Arts in Manhattan, attended Tufts University. He broke into show business in the late 1950s in parts like Tinker the Toymaker in the daytime television show "Tinker's Workshop."

After making his Broadway debut in 1963 in "The Student Gypsy," he appeared as a nervous flier in the Cold War thriller "Fail-Safe" (1964). This serious role was atypical. His chubby face and hysterical laugh made him a natural for comic roles, like the dimwitted spy in the Doris Day film "The Glass Bottom Boat" (1966). He attacked such roles over the ensuing decades with scene-stealing abandon.

Working with Reynolds and Brooks, Mr. DeLuise went on a tear in the '70s and early '80s. Gene Wilder cast him as a hammy opera star in "The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" (1975) and as the mad studio chief Adolf Zitz in "The World's Greatest Lover" (1977).

As his film career declined, Mr. DeLuise found a creative outlet in food. A talented amateur chef, he did cooking demonstrations on television and wrote several cookbooks, including, "Eat This ... It'll Make You Feel Better!" (1988) and "Eat This Too!: It'll Also Make You Feel Better" (1997). He also wrote "Charlie the Caterpillar" and other books for children.

In 1965 he married the actress Carol Arthur, who survives him, as do their three children, Michael, Peter and David, and three grandchildren.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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