Comedian Dom DeLuise died on Monday, and the listing of the movie roles has begun. Most obituaries will mention his long partnership with Mel Brooks: as a lead bumbler in Silent Movie, the megaphone-toting director cameo in Blazing Saddles, the gluttonous Emperor in History of the World Part 1. More will play up his long friendship with Burt Reynolds: Cannonball Run 1 & 2, Smokey & the Bandit 2, All Dogs Go to Heaven -- you know, the greats. But I will bet you dollars to donuts (a bet DeLuise made often, and lost) that few, if any, will mention Haunted Honeymoon. Probably because it seems to turn up on a couple of "worst movies of all time" lists, but it's the one I know him best from, and it's one of my favorite films of all time. Despite a brilliant performance by DeLuise and a slew of genuinely funny moments from him, Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner, it doesn't seem to get much respect. My ringing endorsement isn't going to change that, but here goes nothing.
When I was younger, so much younger than today, my cousins and I stumbled upon a comedy album in my aunt's record collection. It was called Eat Out More Often. We thought it was about going to McDonald's. We were quite wrong. The comedy routine described -- well, never mind, but it was my introduction to Rudy Ray Moore, who died on October 19th of this year. Moore entertained two generations of 'hood rats with his incredibly blue humor and unfortunate penchant for being middle-aged, paunchy and consistently naked both in movies and on his album covers. Rappers like Snoop Dogg credit RRM's "rappin' and tappin'" delivery as an inspiration. While Moore wasn't as well known as his contemporary, Redd Foxx, he was most remembered as the character he played in movies and on record, Dolemite. Mack Daddy Dolemite was so tough not even death could touch him. Life doesn't always imitate art.
Paul Newman died on Friday, and the whole world mourned. There isn't much to say about Paul Newman that hasn't been said already, and better. Well, there is actually probably a great deal more to say, but it's hard to find the words, or the means, to sum up the man. I use the word "man" here because he was so much more than an actor, even though he was one of the best of his time. But "actor" is too small -- and, frankly, unimportant -- compared with what he did with his life. He was a family man, a race car driver, and a philanthropist.
Ricardo Montalban, an actor well known for his work on screens both large and small, passed away Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88 years old. To me, there are three Ricardo Montalbans. There's the white-suited Mr. Rourke, who had the most righteous wish-granting powers this side of Aladdin's lamp on Fantasy Island; there's the voice from the Chrysler commercials that could get even my dedicated Ford-driving great aunt to buy a Chrysler because that rich Corinthian leather just sounded sexy, and, probably closest to my heart, there was Khan. Pectoral-tacular, Captain Kirk-infuriating, best Star Trek villain ever, Khan. (And if you are a Trekkie who disagrees, just try yelling "Booooooooooooorg!" It doesn't feel quite right, does it?)
The man who birthed a thousand creatures is gone. Hollywood visual effects master Stan Winston passed away on Sunday from multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood cells he had been dealing with for seven years, at the age of 62. He is survived by a wife, son, daughter, brother, four grandchildren and an army of dinosaurs, aliens, robots and mutants that he has helped bring to life over the years.
David Carradine is dead, and I feel guilty. I had nothing to do with it, of course; it happened in Thailand, and I'm in New York, as far as you or the authorities know. But I feel guilty nonetheless. Why? Because I have not seen nearly enough David Carradine movies. In fact, I have seen very few. How few? Three. And two of those are Kill Bill.
When watching movie trailers, audiences are usually so entranced by the images they're shown that few people think about the voice that's telling them what the movie's about. Of course, if the voice is doing its job right, you don't have to think about it; only a bad voice-over jars you out of the scenes you're watching. A good voice-over will make you think some omnipotent deity is inside your head, filling you in on the details, and more often than not, Don LaFontaine was that omnipotent deity. Sadly, he passed away on September 1, which means he just got a lot more omnipotent, and one step closer to deification.