Carl Reiner, the writer, producer, director and actor who was part of Sid Caesar’s legendary team and went on to create “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and direct several hit films, has died. He was 98.
He died of natural causes on Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, his assistant Judy Nagy confirmed to Variety.
Reiner, the father of filmmaker and activist Rob Reiner, was the winner of nine Emmy awards, including five for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” His most popular films as a director included “Oh God,” starring George Burns, in 1977; “The Jerk,” with Steve Martin, in 1979; and “All of Me,” with Martin and Lily Tomlin, in 1984.
In his later years, Reiner was an elder statesman of comedy, revered and respected for his versatility as a performer and multi-hyphenate. He was also adept at social media. A lifelong Democrat, he maintained a lively presence on Twitter up until the last day of his life. He was vocal in his opposition to President Donald Trump.
Reiner remained in the public eye well into his 80s and 90s with roles in the popular “Ocean’s Eleven” trio of films and on TV with recurring roles on sitcoms “Two and a Half Men” and “Hot in Cleveland.” He also did voice work for shows including “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” “King of the Hill,” and “Bob’s Burgers.”
Reiner first came to prominence as a regular cast member of Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” for which he won two Emmys in 1956 and 1957 in the supporting category. He met Brooks during his time with Caesar. The two went on to have a long-running friendship and comedy partnership through the recurring “2000 Year Old Man” sketches.
Before creating CBS hit “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” on which he sometimes appeared, Reiner and “Show of Shows” writer Mel Brooks worked up an elongated skit in which Reiner played straight man-interviewer to Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man”; a 1961 recording of the skit was an immediate hit and spawned several sequels, the last of which, 1998’s “The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000,” won the pair a Grammy.
Producer-director Max Liebman, who cast him in the 1950 Broadway show “Alive and Kicking,” also hired Reiner as the emcee and a performer on NBC’s comedy/variety program “Your Show of Shows.”
Reiner then freelanced as a panel show emcee on “Keep Talking,” as a TV guest star and in featured film roles in “The Gazebo,” “Happy Anniversary” and “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.” Reiner’s 1958 novel “Enter Laughing,” loosely based on his own experiences, was optioned for the stage by producer David Merrick. Reiner did a legit adaptation in 1963 and then directed the film version in 1967, marking his motion picture directing debut.
For Broadway he wrote and directed the farce “Something Different,” which ran for a few months in 1967-68; helmed “Tough to Get Help” in 1972; penned the book for the musical “So Long, 174th Street,” which had a very brief run in 1976; and directed “The Roast” in 1980.
In 1961 Reiner drew on his experiences with Caesar to create and produced “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” a ratings cornerstone for CBS for the next five years. Reiner made guest appearances as the irascible variety show host Alan Brady. The show won Emmys for writing its first three years and for producing its last two. In 1967, Reiner picked up another Emmy for his writing in a reunion variety show with Caesar, Coca and Morris.
Though the “Enter Laughing” movie was modestly received, Reiner continued to direct steadily over the next few decades. “Where’s Poppa?,” an offbeat comedy he directed in 1970, became a cult favorite. Similarly, two other Martin vehicles, the gumshoe spoof “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “The Man With Two Brains,” found bigger audiences after their release in theaters.
There were also several less-than-successful films, such as 1969’s “The Comic,” to which Reiner also contributed some of the script; two similarly titled mid-’80s misfires, “Summer Rental” and “Summer School”; “Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool”; 1990’s “Sibling Rivalry”; and a 1993 spoof of “Basic Instinct” called “Fatal Instinct.” He also appeared in most of these pics.
While the last film he directed was the 1997 romantic comedy “That Old Feeling,” starring Bette Midler and Dennis Farina, Reiner was an active presence in guest roles on television and in supporting roles in films during the 1990s and 2000s, even as he neared and then surpassed his 90th birthday.
He guested on “Frasier” in 1993; reprised the role of Alan Brady on an episode of “Mad About You” in 1995 and won an Emmy for it; and guested on “Ally McBeal,” “Boston Legal” and “House.”
Bigscreen appearances included 1990’s “The Spirit of ’76,” directed by his son Lucas; “Slums of Beverly Hills” (1998); and all three films in the “Ocean’s Eleven” series.
Reiner was born in The Bronx, New York, on March 20, 1922, to Irving, a watchmaker, and Bessie (née Mathias) Reiner. His parents were Jewish immigrants; his father was from Austria and his mother was from Romania. He graduated from high school at 16 and worked as a machinist while studying acting. After brief stints in summer stock and on the Borscht Belt circuit, he entered the Army during WWII. His acting talents brought him to the attention of Maurice Evans’ special services unit, where Reiner first met future “Show of Shows” cohort Howard Morris. For the remainder of the war he toured South Pacific bases in G.I. revues.
On December 24, 1943, Reiner married singer Estelle Lebost. The two were married for 64 years until her death in 2008. At the time of the marriage, Reiner was 21 and she was 29. Estelle delivered the line “I’ll have what she’s having” in the deli scene of their son Rob’s 1989 film When Harry Met Sally. She died on October 25, 2008, at age 94.
He hit the ground running in New York after the war, landing a part in G.I. revue “Call Me Mister” and in 1948 appeared in the Broadway musical revue “Inside U.S.A.,” starring Beatrice Lillie and Jack Haley. Concurrently he was appearing on television as a fashion photographer in ABC’s “Fashion Story.”
In 1995 Reiner received the Writers Guild’s Laurel Award, a lifetime achievement award for a career in TV writing. In 2000 he won the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, presented by the Kennedy Center. In 2009 he was presented with the WGA’s Valentine Davies Award, recognizing both his writing legacy and valued service to the guild, the entertainment industry and community at large.
Reiner is survived by sons Rob and Lucas Reiner, his daughter Sylvia Anne, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Source: Variety Online