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Harvey Korman; Comic Known For 'Burnett,' 'Blazing Saddles'

Harvey Korman, left, and Tim Conway, shown in 1978, won Emmys on
Harvey Korman, left, and Tim Conway, shown in 1978, won Emmys on "The Carol Burnett Show." In their 70s, the pair toured the country with their own show. (By David Yarnold -- Associated Press)
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By Bob Thomas
Associated Press
Friday, May 30, 2008

Harvey Korman, the tall, versatile comedian who won four Emmys for his outrageously funny contributions to "The Carol Burnett Show" and played a conniving politician to hilarious effect in "Blazing Saddles," died May 29 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 81.

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Mr. Korman had complications from the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm four months ago, his family said in a statement released by the hospital. His daughter Kate Korman said that it was a "miracle" that her father had survived the aneurysm and that he had had several major operations.

A natural second banana, Mr. Korman gained attention on "The Danny Kaye Show," appearing in skits with the star. He joined the show in its second season in 1964 and continued until it was canceled in 1967. That same year, he became a cast member in the first season of "The Carol Burnett Show."

Burnett and Mr. Korman developed into the perfect pair with their burlesques of classic movies such as "Gone With the Wind" and soap operas such "As the World Turns" (their version was called "As the Stomach Turns").

Another recurring skit featured them as "Ed and Eunice," a staid married couple who were constantly at odds with the wife's mother (a young Vicki Lawrence in a gray wig). In "Old Folks at Home," they were a combative married couple bedeviled by Lawrence as Burnett's troublesome young sister.

Burnett was devastated by the news, said her assistant, Angie Horejsi.

Mr. Korman revealed the secret to the long-running show's success in a 2005 interview: "We were an ensemble, and Carol had the most incredible attitude. I've never worked with a star of that magnitude who was willing to give so much away."

After 10 successful seasons, he left in 1977 for his own series. Dick Van Dyke took his place, but the chemistry was lacking and the Burnett show was canceled two years later. "The Harvey Korman Show" also failed, as did other series starring the actor.

"It takes a certain type of person to be a television star," he said in the 2005 interview. "I didn't have whatever that is. I come across as kind of snobbish and maybe a little too bright. . . . Give me something bizarre to play or put me in a dress and I'm fine."

His most memorable film role was as the outlandish Hedley Lamarr (who was endlessly exasperated when people called him Hedy) in Mel Brooks's 1974 Western satire, "Blazing Saddles."

He also appeared in the Brooks comedies "High Anxiety," "The History of the World Part I" and "Dracula: Dead and Loving It" as well as two "Pink Panther" movies.

Mr. Korman's other films included "Gypsy," "Huckleberry Finn" (as the king), "Herbie Goes Bananas" and "Bud and Lou" (as legendary straight man Bud Abbott to Buddy Hackett's Lou Costello). He also provided the voice of Dictabird in the 1994 live-action feature "The Flintstones."

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