Happy Birthday Dom DeLuise: Remembering Legendary Actor on Would-Be 88th

by Keeli Parkey

Today (Aug. 1, 2021) would have been legendary actor Dom DeLuise’s 88th birthday. The popular performer was known for his comedic performances, as well as his collaborations with such Hollywood icons as Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, and Burt Reynolds.

In memory of the man who made so many people laugh, let’s take a look back at his life and decades-long entertainment career. According to IMDb, he was born on Aug. 1, 1933, in Brooklyn, New York. His parents, John and Vicenza, were both Italian immigrants.

As a youngster, Dom DeLuise wasn’t really part of the cool kids at school. So, he used his sense of humor to make friends and make people laugh. For high school, he went to New York’s High School of Performing Arts. However, when deciding what to study in college, he did not choose the performing arts. Instead, he chose biology as his major at Tufts University.

DeLuise couldn’t shake the notion that becoming a comedian is what he actually wanted to do. So, he decided to make that his career. He started working on his actor craft with the Cleveland Playhouse. There, he appeared in a variety of productions, from “Hamlet” to “Guys and Dolls.” The first time he got paid for his work was for playing a dog in a show called, “Bernie’s Last Wish.”

DeLuise left Cleveland, then returned to New York City. There, he began to make a name for himself in Off-Broadway productions. He even worked with Barbra Streisand, who was 19 at the time, in a revue titled, “An Evening with Harry Stoones.”

Broadway soon came calling for Dom DeLuise. He made his Broadway debut as the character Muffin T. Raggamuffin in the musical “The Student Gypsy, or the Prince of Liederkrantz.” It was during 1971 that he had a very successful turn in “The Last of the Red Hot Lovers” by Neil Simon.

Dom DeLuise Became Famous for His Appearance in Variety Shows

The next step in the career path of Dom DeLuise was television. He gained attention thanks to his character, Dominick the Great, a very untalented magician he played on “The Garry Moore Show.” This was just the start of his television career. DeLuise appeared in such famous variety series as “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” and “The Jackie Gleason Show.” He also worked with Dean Martin and took part in Martin’s famous celebrity roasts.

Films came along for Dom DeLuise in the 1960s. He made his first film in 1964. It was the drama, “Fail Safe,” starring Henry Fonda. His first comedy was “The Busy Body” in 1967. He began collaborating with Brooks in 1970’s “The Twelve Chairs.” DeLuise appeared in other Brooks films – “Blazing Saddles,” “Silent Movie,” “History of the World: Part I,” “Spaceballs,” “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”

His friendship with Reynolds led to roles for DeLuise in such films as “Smokey and the Bandit II,” “The Cannonball Run,” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” He became popular for his voice work in cartoons such as “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”

He married his wife, Carol Arthur, on Nov. 23, 1965. They had three sons together – Peter, Michael, and David. Dom DeLuise died on May 4, 2009, due to cancer at 75.