Dom DeLuise Dead at 75

“Cannonball Run,” “Blazing Saddles” funnyman died in his sleep in Santa Monica.

Last Updated: May 6, 2009 @ 1:42 PM

Larger than life funnyman Dom DeLuise died in his sleep Monday night at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, according to his son Michael DeLuise.

 

He was 75 and had suffered from a long undisclosed illness. DeLuise’s agent Robert Malcolm told the Associated Press that the actor had high blood pressure and diabetes but "seemed fine as recently as two weeks ago."

 

DeLuise’s family said in a statement, "It’s easy to mourn his death, but easier to remember a time when he made you laugh." 

 

The portly actor was known for his broad comedy in movies like "The Cannonball Run" and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and as a staple of Mel Brooks’ comedies such as "The Twelve Chairs;" Blazing Saddles;" "Silent Movie;" "History of the World, Part I;" "Spaceballs" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights."

 

"Dom DeLuise was a big man in every way," Brooks said in a statement. "He was big in size and created big laughter and joy. He will be missed in a very big way."

 

"I was thinking about this the other day. As you get older and start to lose people you love, you think about it more and I was dreading this moment," Burt Reynolds, whom DeLuise played the sidekick to in "Whorehouse," "Smokey and the Bandit II," and the "Cannonball" movies, said in a statement. "Dom always made you feel better when hew as around, and there will never be another like him. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much."

 

Sally Field, who also acted alongside DeLuise in "Cannonball," said in a statement: "I adored him, adored him, adored him…always and forever."

 

"I loved him from the moment we met. Not only did we have the greatest time working together, but I never laughed so hard in my life as when we were together," said Doris Day, who co-stared with DeLuise in 1966’s "The Glass Bottom Boat." 

 

Born in Brooklyn in 1933, DeLuise graduated from the School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan. He got his start at the Cleveland Playhouse, appearing in productions ranging from "Kiss Me Kate" to "Hamlet." 

 

DeLuise’s show-business break came in the early 1960s when Gary Moore saw his performance in "Here’s Love" on Broadway and consequently hired the actor to play the magician "Dominick the Great" on "The Garry Moore Show." 

 

DeLuise reprised the character on Dean Martin’s TV series and had his own summer series in 1968, replacing Jackie Gleason, and again in 1988.

 

In 1973, he starred in a situation comedy, "Lotsa Luck," but it proved to be short-lived. DeLuise’s other TV credits included, "The Munsters," "Sabrina the Teenaged Witch," and "The Carol Burnett Show." 

"To know Dom was to love him and I knew him very well. Not only was he talented and extremely funny, but he was a very special human being," said Burnett, who also starred with DeLuise on TV show "The Entertainers" in the ’60s.

DeLuise focused on voiceover work during his later years, providing voices for characters on animated shows including "Duck Dodgers," "The Wild Thornberrys," "Hercules" and "All Dogs Go to Heaven: the Series." 

In addition to his acting work, Deluise authored two Italian cookbooks titled "Eat This" and "Eat This, Too" and two children’s books, "Charlie the Caterpillar" and "Goldie Locks & the Three Bears: The Real Story!"

 

He was married to actress Carol Arthur in 1965 and had three sons, all actors: Peter, Michael and David. He appeared with his sons on the 1990’s TV series "SeaQuestDSV," on which Peter and Michael were regular cast members. 

 

DeLuise is also survived by his sister, Anne, and three grandchildren. The family said memorial services will be private.