I don't know when I last saw Dom DeLuise, but I can assure you one thing.
He was most likely smiling.
DeLuise, the rotund actor/food enthusiast, passed away Monday, in his sleep, according to reports. He was 75.
I don't remember ever seeing DeLuise not smiling. He was a jolly, big man with a case of the giggles, particularly when working with longtime film castmate Burt Reynolds.
One of the staples of Reynolds/DeLuise movies was the inclusion of bloopers during the closing credits. Usually they involved DeLuise, laughing so hard that tears were rolling down his face, as Reynolds would try to get Dom to straighten up by slapping him across the face.
Naturally, that only made Dom laugh even harder. And I think Burt knew that would be the result. Maybe he just liked slapping DeLuise's big, round, bearded face.
One of the funniest films you'll ever see, and trust me on this, is something called The End, the story of a man (played by Reynolds) who's hell bent on killing himself once he finds out he has an incurable disease. DeLuise is a mental patient who meets Reynolds in a psychiatric ward, and the two of them pal around, thinking of ways Reynolds can kill himself.
But with every "attempt", Burt either chickens out or the plans don't work. The hilarity that ensues, heightened by the obvious chemistry between Reynolds and DeLuise, is considerable.
The movie closes with Reynolds walking into the ocean to drown, but in mid-stroll he has an epiphany and decides he wants to live after all. DeLuise has other ideas.
Then the movie gets really funny.
Dom liked his food, which was crystal clear by the size of his waistline. He wrote cookbooks and would often appear on cooking shows. Ironically, he bore a great physical resemblance to renowned chef Paul Prudhomme.
DeLuise (left) and chef Prudhomme; they could be twins
His books of Italian recipes were titled "Eat This!" and "Eat This, Too!"
That's funny, as well.
There were the Cannonball Run movies, which were hardly Oscar-caliber but were fun romps, directed by former stuntman Hal Needham. DeLuise again teamed with Reynolds in those, too--which were filled with star-studded casts.
Dom played the Pope in Johnny Dangerously, an underratedly funny film starring Michael Keaton and Joe Piscopo. He was Pizza the Hutt, a play on Star Wars' Jabba the Hutt, in Mel Brooks' science fiction send-up, Spaceballs. Brooks also used Dom in Blazing Saddles and History of the World: Part One.
He was funny, Dom DeLuise was, and you could tell that he had great fun being funny. And he didn't at all mind that many of the laughs were because people were laughing at him.
His sons were actors, and he appeared with them a couple of times in various TV shows, including 3rd Rock from the Sun, in which David DeLuise had a recurring role.
Here's how Dom DeLuise once described himself, and his on-screen persona.
"I'm actually a thin serious person," Dom said, "but I play fat and funny, but only for the movies."
God better make sure they have enough pasta upstairs.