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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Culture: Comic Actor Harvey Korman Dies

An Appreciation by Noah Mallin

Harvey Korman, one of the stars of Carol Burnett's long-running TV variety show and of numerous films, died today. On Burnett's show, Korman could often be seen cracking up at the antics of co-star Tom Conway. The two became a duo, flying around the country in recent years to perform together.

Korman also shined in films where he specialized in deeply demented authority figures, not unlike another tall comic actor from across the pond John Cleese. This can best be seen in two outstanding performances for Mel Brooks -- as Hedley Lamarr in the Western spoof Blazing Saddles and as Dr. Charles Montague in the Hitchcock takeoff High Anxiety.

In Saddles Korman got mileage out of his character's name ("It's HedLEY, HedLEY!") and delivered this priceless rejoinder to the idea of killing the town of Rock Ridge's firstborn sons,"Too Jewish." In Anxiety the seemingly buttoned down Doctor goes gaga for Cloris Leachman's dominatrix Nurse Diesel.

Korman did a great deal of television in addition to his stint with Burnett. This includes doing the voice of The Great Gazoo on The Flintstones as well as appearances on The Munsters, F-Troop, The Love Boat, Ellen and on ER. He also played Bud Abbot in the TV movie Bud and Lou and appeared on the now notorious Star Wars Holiday Special.

On the Burnett Show, Korman was very very funny but also took such evident delight in his fellow performers. The famous clip of Burnett as Scarlett O' Hara is that much funnier for Korman breaking up as Rhett.

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