May 31, 2008 / 12:18 AM / 10 years ago

Harvey Korman dead at age 81

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comic actor Harvey Korman, who co-starred on the U.S. television classic “The Carol Burnett Show” in the 1960s and 1970s and in “Blazing Saddles” and other Mel Brooks movies, died on Thursday at age 81.

File photo shows actor Harvey Korman at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences 15th annual Hall of Fame ceremony November 6, 2002 in Beverly Hills. Korman, who co-starred on U.S. television's "The Carol Burnett Show" in the 1960s and '70s and in "Blazing Saddles" and other Mel Brooks movies, died on Thursday at age 81. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Korman died of complications from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm he suffered four months ago, according to a statement issued by the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center.

“It was a miracle in itself that he survived the incident at all,” his daughter, Kate Korman, said in a statement.

“Everyone in the hospital referred to him as ‘miracle man’ because of his strong will and ability to bounce right back after several major operations. Tragically, after such a hard-fought battle he passed away,” she added.

Starting off in small roles on Broadway, the tall, lanky actor first gained notice as a featured performer on “The Danny Kaye Show,” a CBS musical variety series where he perfected his talents as a sketch comedy artist.

In 1967, he joined the cast of another popular CBS variety hour, “The Carol Burnett Show,” and spent the next decade as Burnett’s leading sidekick in an ensemble of comedy regulars whose chemistry turned the show into a prime-time classic.

Regular bits included the “Ed & Eunice” sketch, in which he and Burnett played an unhappily married couple who were at each other’s throats as much as they were with Eunice’s elderly mother, played by Vicki Lawrence. A spin-off series based on the sketch, “Mama’s Family,” ran on NBC several years later.

Comedian Harvey Korman (C) and the cast of The Carol Burnett Show" are honored at the TV Land Awards show in a 2005 photo. Korman died on Thursday at age 81. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Korman also was famed on the show for his pairings with frequent guest star and eventual cast member Tim Conway, who had a knack for getting Korman to break from character and succumb to fits of laughter in the middle of their act.

Korman earned four Emmy Awards for his work on the show, but left the series in 1977 to pursue other projects, though he never quite achieved the same level of success.

In motion pictures, he played a prominent supporting role as the domineering character Hedley Lamarr in the 1974 western spoof “Blazing Saddles,” and appeared in two other Brooks films, “High Anxiety” and “The History of the World: Part I.”

He also appeared in two “Pink Panther” sequels in the 1980s as a character named Professor Auguste Balls.

Korman was known, too, for his voice-over work, providing the snooty voice of “The Flintstones” character the Great Gazoo, the diminutive, green helmeted alien who referred to Fred and Barney as “dum-dums.”

Actor Harvey Korman poses at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' 15th annual Hall of Fame ceremony in Beverly Hills in this November 6, 2002 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

In more recent years he provided voice-overs for the children’s TV cartoon series “Hey Arnold!” and as the character Dictabird in the 1994 live-action feature film “The Flintstones.”

Reporting by Steve Gorman and Jill Serjeant; editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh

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