Today is the 100th birthday of the entertainment legend Carl Reiner. He was brilliant. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Carl Reiner
DATE OF BIRTH: March 20, 1922
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York City, U.S.
DATE OF DEATH: June 29, 2020
DATE OF DEATH: Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
EDUCATION: School of Foreign Service
FATHER: Irving Reiner (watchmaker-inventor)
MOTHER: Bessie Reiner (homemaker)
BROTHER: Charles Reiner (b. 1919, d. 28-Feb-2001)
WIFE: Estelle Lebost Reiner (jazz singer, b. 1914, m. 24-Dec-1943, d. 25-Oct-2008, three children)
DAUGHER: Sylvia Anne Reiner (orthopedic surgeon, born in 1947)
SON: Rob Reiner (actor and director, b. 06-Mar-1947)
SON: Lucas Reiner (film director, b. 1960)
Young Musicians Foundation Celebrity Director
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6421 Hollywood Blvd (television)
BEST KNOWN FOR: Carl Reiner was an American actor, comedian, director, screenwriter, and author whose career spanned seven decades.
Carl Reiner has kept Americans chuckling since the late 1940s, but as a boy he wanted to be a serious actor. In his teens he participated in dramatic workshops, and in the Army he trained as a radio operator but was transferred to serve under Major Maurice Evans in the Army Entertainment Section. Charged with putting on plays for the troops, they were often on the same bill with trombone man Glenn Miller. After the war Reiner appeared in touring plays, and made his first Broadway bow in the musical-comedy Inside USA with Jack Haley and Jack Cassidy. By then it was clear he was better suited for comedy than drama.
On his first TV series, The Fashion Story in 1948, Reiner played a bumbling fashion photographer, but the show’s primary focus was on its model-star and the stylish clothes she wore. He then joined the live, prime time comedy-variety show 54th Street Revue, which also featured the dancing of 21-year-old Bob Fosse. Reiner left that show to perform comedy on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, a 90-minute live prime time comedy series with Imogene Coca and Howard Morris, still remembered for its outrageous skits and movie spoofs. Reiner started far down in the list of players, but as his popularity grew he was given bigger and better bits to perform. Among Your Show of Show‘s writers were such youngsters as Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, and a brash, bombastic Mel Brooks, who quickly became Reiner’s best friend. Working together, they concocted a funny stage act around a “2000 Year Old Man”, which became a hit comedy album in 1960.
In 1954, Caesar decided that Your Show of Shows was getting stale, and took most of his regular performers, including Reiner, to his new Caesar’s Hour. The show’s best recurring sketches had Caesar, Reiner, and Morris as “The Commuters” on a crowded train, and the same trio as “The Three Haircuts”, spoofing long-haired rock’n’roll singers. Reiner later co-starred in Caesar’s short-lived sitcom Sid Caesar Invites You with Coca.
Through the early 1950s, Reiner was as a frequent panelist alongside Basil Rathbone and Mike Wallace on the game show The Name’s The Same, and he later hosted two game shows. Keep Talking had two teams of celebrities competing in improvised comedy bits; Reiner hosted for the show’s 1958-59 season, replacing Monty Hall, then being replaced by Merv Griffin. In the mid-1960s he hosted The Celebrity Game, where he would ask silly questions and milk funny answers from nine guest stars, Gypsy Rose Lee, Lee Marvin, and Sal Mineo among them. Reiner was apparently instructed not to joke with the celebrity guests, which left him a rather wooden emcee, and the program was quickly cancelled. The next year the same producers tweaked Celebrity Game‘s format — stacking the stars in cubicles and bringing in Peter Marshall to host, it became The Hollywood Squares.
Mining his own life for comedy, Reiner wrote the an autobiographical novel, Enter Laughing, about a young man breaking into show business, which was adapted into a long-running Broadway play that won a Tony for its star Alan Arkin, and a film starring Jose Ferrer and Elaine May. His other books include All Kinds of Love, an amusing novel skewering of the California lifestyle which includes ample bisexuality, interracial, and underage romance, and How Paul Robeson Saved My Life, a collection of short stories.
He created a sitcom called Head of the Family, about the office and home life of Rob Petrie, a comedy writer on a variety show. Reiner starred in the pilot episode, but the show did not click until the lead was re-cast with Dick Van Dyke, leaving Reiner to play the Caesar character — ‘Alan Brady’ — on what became The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the series’ many flashback episodes, to Petrie’s Army days and early dates with his eventual wife Mary Tyler Moore, most of the memories were based on Reiner’s life.
Among his many movie roles, he played Glenn Ford’s annoying neighbor in The Gazebo, the girl-midget’s father in Gidget Goes Hawaiian, the only un-panicked person in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming with Arkin and Jonathan Winters, and the oldest con man in Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen with George Clooney and Brad Pitt. He also had a long and successful run as a screenwriter and director. Reiner wrote and directed The Comic with Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid with Steve Martin and Rachel Ward, and The Man with Two Brains with Martin and Kathleen Turner. He directed Where’s Poppa? with George Segal and Ruth Gordon, Oh God! with George Burns and John Denver, the underrated The One and Only with Henry Winkler and Kim Darby, The Jerk with Martin and Bernadette Peters, and All of Me with Martin and Lily Tomlin.
Reiner has won five Emmys, two for Caesar’s Hour, two for The Dick Van Dyke Show, and one for a guest appearance on Mad About You with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt, where he reprised his ‘Alan Brady’ character from the Van Dyke Show.
On June 29, 2020, Reiner died at his home in Beverly Hills, California in the company of his family. He was 98 years old. According to his nephew, George Shapiro, Reiner fell while leaving his TV room at around 10:00 p.m. Pacific Time and lost consciousness. His cause of death was officially confirmed to be natural causes.
Fellow comedians and other figures in the entertainment industry gave tributes and remembrance, including Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Alan Alda, Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Dick Van Dyke, Carol Burnett, George Clooney, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, and Sarah Silverman.
Father of the Pride Sarmoti (voice, 2004-05)
The Dick Van Dyke Show Alan Brady (etc., 1961-66)
Caesar’s Hour George Hanson (1954-57)
Your Show of Shows Regular (1950-54)
FILMOGRAPHY AS DIRECTOR
That Old Feeling (4-Apr-1997)
Fatal Instinct (29-Oct-1993)
Sibling Rivalry (26-Oct-1990)
Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool (24-Feb-1989)
Summer School (22-Jul-1987)
Summer Rental (9-Aug-1985)
All of Me (21-Sep-1984)
The Man with Two Brains (3-Jun-1983)
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (21-May-1982)
The Jerk (14-Dec-1979)
The One and Only (3-Feb-1978)
Oh, God! (7-Oct-1977)
Where’s Poppa? (9-Jul-1970)
The Comic (19-Nov-1969)
Enter Laughing (25-Feb-1967)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR Toy Story 4 (14-Jun-2019) [VOICE] Dumbbells (10-Jan-2014) Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (13-Oct-2007) · Himself Ocean's Thirteen (24-May-2007) Ocean's Twelve (8-Dec-2004) Good Boy! (10-Oct-2003) [VOICE] The Majestic (11-Dec-2001) · Studio Executive [VOICE] Ocean's Eleven (5-Dec-2001) · Saul Bloom The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (24-Jun-2000) · P. G. Biggershot Slums of Beverly Hills (14-Aug-1998) Fatal Instinct (29-Oct-1993) · Judge Ben Arugula The Spirit of '76 (12-Oct-1990) Summer School (22-Jul-1987) Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (21-May-1982) · Field Marshall VonKluck Skokie (17-Nov-1981) The Jerk (14-Dec-1979) · Himself The End (10-May-1978) · Dr. Maneet Oh, God! (7-Oct-1977) Generation (15-Dec-1969) The Comic (19-Nov-1969) A Guide for the Married Man (25-May-1967) The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (25-May-1966) · Walt Whittaker The Art of Love (30-Jun-1965) John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (24-Mar-1965) It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (7-Nov-1963) · Air Traffic Control Gidget Goes Hawaiian (2-Jun-1961) · Russ Lawrence The Gazebo (16-Dec-1959) · Harlow Edison Happy Anniversary (10-Nov-1959)