Yesterday we learned of the death of comic actor Dom De Luise, at age 75. This is a man who got instant Italian cred (both due to his heritage and his association with Dean Martin, the king of all things Italian American) and Southern cred (due to his association with Burt Reynolds). But his first real role was in 1964's "Fail Safe" with Henry Fonda (who also, strangely, has some Italian heritage, though one would never know it from his WASPy ways). There, Dom played a dramatic role as one of the technicians in the war room during a nuclear crisis.
He'd go on to be a favorite on Dean Martin's variety show, as a slapstick sort of goof, and had a great part in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" as a foppish dance troupe director. He'd go on to star in a number of Brooks' films, but would be even more famous as Burt Reynolds' sidekick in the Cannonball Run movies (as "Captain Chaos!"), the Smokey and the Bandit sequel, and the dark comedy "The End". Burt had a number of good comic partners (Jerry Reed, Jim Nabors) but struck gold with the ludicrous slapstick that Dom provided.
It was a sad loss for fans of '70s and early '80s comedy.