During the early years of television comedy from 1950 to 1957, he co-wrote and acted on Caesar's Hour and Your Show of Shows, starring Sid Caesar. In the 1960s, Reiner was best known as the creator, producer, writer and actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show. He also had great success as a film director and writer and in the 1970s and 1980s co-wrote and directed some of Steve Martin's most successful films, including 1979's The Jerk.
Reiner formed a comedy duo with Mel Brooks in "2000 Year Old Man" and acted in films such as The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and the Ocean's film series (2001–2007). Reiner has won nine Emmy Awards and one Grammy Award during his career. He is the father of actor and director Rob Reiner, author Annie Reiner and grandfather to Tracy Reiner.
Reiner in 1960
|Born||March 20, 1922|
The Bronx, New York City, U.S.
|Medium||Stand-up, film, television, theatre|
|Genres||Observational comedy, black comedy, deadpan, surreal humor, sketch comedy, satire|
|Subject(s)||American culture, human interaction, pop culture, current events, self-deprecation|
(m. 1943; died 2008)
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. His older brother Charlie served in the 9th Division's 37th Infantry at 11 major World War II battles and had his ashes buried at Arlington National Cemetery. At age 16, Charlie read in the New York Daily News about a free dramatic workshop being put on by the Works Progress Administration and told Carl about it (he later credited Charlie with having changed his career plans.) His uncle Harry Mathias was the first entertainer in his family.; he had previously been working as a machinist repairing sewing machines.
In 1943, Reiner was drafted into the Army Air Forces and served during World War II, eventually achieving the rank of corporal. He had initially trained to be a radio operator, but after spending three months in the hospital recovering from pneumonia, he was sent to Georgetown University for ten months of training as a French interpreter; it was here that he had his first experience as a director, putting on a Molière play entirely in French. In 1944, after completing language training, he was sent to Hawaii to work as a teleprinter operator. The night before he was scheduled to ship out for an unknown assignment, he attended a production of Hamlet by the Special Services entertainment unit. Following an audition for actor and Major Maurice Evans, he was subsequently transferred to Special Services. Over the following two years, Reiner performed around the Pacific theater, entertaining troops in Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima until he was honourably discharged in 1946.
Reiner performed in several Broadway musicals (including Inside U.S.A. and Alive and Kicking) and had the lead role in Call Me Mister. In 1950, he was cast by Max Leibman in Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows, appearing on air in skits while also working alongside writers, such as Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. Reiner also worked on Caesar's Hour with Brooks, Simon, Larry Gelbart, Mel Tolkin, Mike Stewart, Aaron Ruben, Sheldon Keller, and Gary Belkin.
Starting in 1960, Reiner teamed with Brooks as a comedy duo on The Steve Allen Show. Their performances on television and stage included Reiner playing the straight man in 2000 Year Old Man. Eventually, the routine expanded into a series of 5 comedy albums and a 1975 animated television special, with the last album in the series winning a Grammy Award for Spoken Comedy Album. The act gave Brooks "an identity as a comic performer for the first time," said Reiner. Brooks's biographer, William Holtzman, called their 12-minute act "an ingenious jazz improvisation ...", while Gerald Nachman described Reiner's part in guiding the act:
The routine relies totally on the team's mental agility and chemistry. It's almost heresy to imagine Brooks performing it with any other straight man. Reiner was a solid straight man to Caesar, but with Brooks he is the second-banana supreme...guiding his partner's churning comic mind.
In 1959, Reiner developed a television pilot titled Head of the Family, based on his own personal and professional life. However, the network did not like Reiner in the lead role for unknown reasons. In 1961, it was recast and re-titled The Dick Van Dyke Show and became an iconic series, making stars of his lead actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. In addition to writing many of the episodes, Reiner occasionally appeared as temperamental show host Alan Brady. The series ran from 1961 to 1966. In 1966, Reiner co-starred in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.
On The Dick Van Dyke Show, he began his directing career. After the series ended its run, his first film feature was an adaptation of Joseph Stein's play Enter Laughing (1967), which, in turn, was based on Reiner's semi-autobiographical 1958 novel of the same name. Balancing directing, producing, writing, and acting, Reiner has worked on a wide range of films and television programs. Films from his early directing career include Where's Poppa? (1970), Oh, God! (1977), and The Jerk (1979).
In one of his memoirs, he writes, "Of all the films I have directed, only Where's Poppa? is universally acknowledged as a cult classic. A cult classic, as you may know, is a film that was seen by a small minority of the world's film goers, who insist it is one of the greatest, most daring, and innovative moving pictures ever made. Whenever two or more cult members meet, they will quote dialogue from the classic and agree that 'the film was ahead of its time.' To be designated a genuine cult classic, it is of primary importance that the film fail to earn back the cost of making, marketing, and distributing it. Where’s Poppa? was made in 1969 for a little over $1 million. According to the last distribution statements I saw, it will not break even until it earns another $650,000."
Reiner had a large role in the early career of Steve Martin, by directing and co-writing four films for the comedian: The Jerk in 1979, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid in 1982, The Man with Two Brains in 1983, and All of Me in 1984. Reiner also appeared in both The Jerk, playing a version of himself, and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.
In 1989, he directed Bert Rigby, You're a Fool. In 1990, he narrated the Grimm children's story "The Musicians of Bremen" (music by Bernard Rogers) for a CD of classical music for children. In 2000, Reiner was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. A year later, he portrayed Saul Bloom in Steven Soderbergh's remake of Ocean's Eleven, and later reprised the role in Ocean's Twelve (2004) and Ocean's Thirteen (2007). From 2004 to 2005, Reiner voiced Sarmoti in Father of the Pride.
Reiner is the author of several books, including his 2004 memoir My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir and novels, such as his 2006 novel NNNNN: A Novel. In American Film, he expressed his philosophy on writing comedy: "You have to imagine yourself as not somebody very special, but somebody very ordinary. If you imagine yourself as somebody really normal and if it makes you laugh, it's going to make everybody laugh. If you think of yourself as something very special, you'll end up a pedant and a bore. If you start thinking about what's funny, you won't be funny, actually. It's like walking. How do you walk? If you start thinking about it, you'll trip."
In May 2009, he guest-starred as a clinic patient on the season finale of House. Reiner also voiced Santa in Merry Madagascar and reprised his role in the Penguins of Madagascar episode "The All Nighter Before Christmas." In December 2009, he guest-starred as a television producer on Two and a Half Men.
In June 2010, Reiner guest starred in Hot in Cleveland as Elka Ostrovsky's date and reprised the role in July. He also made appearances in The Cleveland Show as Murray and wrote the story for the episode "Your Show of Shows", named after the program that started his career. In October 2013 and January 2014, Reiner reprised his role on Two and a Half Men.
On December 24, 1943, Reiner married singer Estelle Lebost. The two were married 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 is the father of Rob Reiner (b. 1947), poet, playwright, and author Sylvia Anne (Annie) Reiner (b. 1949), and painter, actor, and director Lucas Reiner (b. 1960). Reiner has six grandchildren (four from Rob and two from Lucas) and five great-grandchildren.
Reiner has described himself as a Jewish atheist. He has said, "I have a very different take on who God is. Man invented God because he needed him. God is us." He also told Moment journalist Lynda Gorov that he developed atheism as the Holocaust progressed.
The 2000 Year Old Man is a comedy sketch, originally created by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner in 1961.
Mel Brooks played the oldest man in the world, interviewed by Carl Reiner in a series of comedy routines that appeared on television, as well as being made into a collection of records. In a Yiddish accent, Brooks would improvise answers to topics such as the earliest-known language ("basic Rock"); manufacturing the Star of David ("I employed six men, see, each with a point. They would run together in the middle of the factory, and in the great speed, they would fuse, thus creating a star. I would make two a day, because of the many ACCidents"; manufacturing the cross ("It was simple. I didn't know then it was eloquent! Two men run together … BANG! You got a cross! I could have fired four men!"), and Joan of Arc ("KNOW her? I WENT with her, dummy, I WENT with her!").
The inspiration for the skit was a tape-recorded exchange between Brooks and Reiner at a party that took place at Brooks' beachfront house in Lonelyville, on Fire Island. The tape recorder was brought into the mix shortly after the opening salvos, as the two comics soon had the party audience in stitches. In 1961, when the duo began doing the skit on television, Brooks had just undergone surgery for gout. Because of his post-surgical discomfort, Brooks quipped, "I feel like a 2000-year-old man," which led Reiner to begin questioning him about what it's like to be a 2000-year-old man and to describe history as Brooks saw it.Brooks and Reiner have released five comedy albums. The 2000 Year Old Man character appeared on one track for each of the first three albums, and the entirety of the final two.
2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961)
2000 and One Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (1961)
Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks at the Cannes Film Festival (1962)
2000 and Thirteen (1973)
The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000 (1997)The last in the series won the 1998 Grammy Award for Spoken Comedy Album.Bert Rigby, You're a Fool
Bert Rigby, You're a Fool is a 1989 American musical film directed by Carl Reiner, and starring Robert Lindsay in the title role.Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid
Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is a 1982 neo-noir comedy-mystery film directed by Carl Reiner. Starring Steve Martin and Rachel Ward, the film is both a parody of and a homage to film noir and the pulp detective movies of the 1940s. The title refers to Martin's character explaining a story about a woman obsessed with plaid which was cut from the film master.Edited by Bud Molin, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is partly a collage film, incorporating clips from 19 vintage films. They are combined with new footage of Martin and other actors similarly shot in black-and-white, with the result that the original dialogue and acting of the classic films become part of a completely different story.
Among the actors who appear from classic films are Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Brian Donlevy, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Cary Grant, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Burt Lancaster, Charles Laughton, Fred MacMurray, Ray Milland, Edmond O'Brien, Vincent Price, Barbara Stanwyck, and Lana Turner.
This was the last film for both costume designer Edith Head and composer Miklós Rózsa.Enter Laughing (film)
Enter Laughing is a 1967 comedy film, directed by Carl Reiner, based on his autobiographical novel and the stage play of the same name. It was Reiner's directorial debut.
The film stars Jose Ferrer, Shelley Winters, Elaine May, Jack Gilford, Janet Margolin and newcomer Reni Santoni. It tells the story of a young Jewish man from the Bronx trying to break into the theater and launch a career in acting.
The film has never been released on DVD or Blu-Ray.Fatal Instinct
Fatal Instinct is a 1993 American comedy film directed by Carl Reiner. It parodies the erotic thriller movie genre, which at the time had reached its commercial peak. The film stars Armand Assante as a lawyer and cop named Ned Ravine who has an affair with a woman named Lola Cain played by Sean Young. Kate Nelligan stars as Ned Ravine's wife and Sherilyn Fenn stars as Laura Lingonberry, Ravine's secretary. The film's title is a combination of Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, both of which starred Michael Douglas.List of The Dick Van Dyke Show episodes
The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom starring Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie, Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie, Morey Amsterdam as Buddy Sorrell, Rose Marie as Sally Rogers, and Richard Deacon as Mel Cooley.
The series ran for five seasons on CBS, lasting 158 half-hour episodes. Creator/writer Carl Reiner had told the cast from the beginning that if the show made it through five seasons, that would be its maximum run.Oh, God! (film)
Oh, God! is a 1977 American comedy film starring George Burns and John Denver. Based on a novel of the same name by Avery Corman, the film was directed by Carl Reiner from a screenplay written by Larry Gelbart. The story centers on unassuming supermarket manager Jerry Landers (Denver), chosen by God (Burns) to spread his message despite the skepticism of the media, religious authorities, and Landers' own wife (Teri Garr).
The film inspired two sequels, Oh, God! Book II (1980) and Oh, God! You Devil (1984), both of which featured Burns reprising his role, but with no other recurring characters from the original story.Summer Rental
Summer Rental is a 1985 comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring John Candy. The film's screenplay was written by Mark Reisman and Jeremy Stevens. An original music score was composed for the film by Alan Silvestri. The film was released on August 9, 1985, by Paramount Pictures.Summer School (1987 film)
Summer School is a 1987 American comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Mark Harmon as a high school gym teacher who is forced to teach a remedial English class during the summer. The film co-stars Kirstie Alley and Courtney Thorne-Smith. It was distributed by Paramount Pictures and produced by George Shapiro and Howard West. The original music score was composed by Danny Elfman.That Old Feeling (film)
That Old Feeling is a 1997 American romantic comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Bette Midler and Dennis Farina.The Art of Love (1965 film)
The Art of Love is a 1965 Technicolor comedy film directed by Norman Jewison and starring James Garner, Dick Van Dyke, Elke Sommer, and Angie Dickinson.
The film involves an American artist in Paris (Van Dyke) who fakes his own death in order to increase the worth of his paintings (new paintings keep "posthumously" hitting the market). His conniving pal (Garner) sells the paintings and withholds the proceeds while the artist toils in a shabby garret.
The picture was written by Richard Alan Simmons, William Sackheim, and Carl Reiner. The supporting cast features Carl Reiner and Ethel Merman.
Jewison noted in his autobiography that the film's flaw was that the script assumes that an artist's death guarantees a huge increase in the sales value of his paintings. That hurt audiences' responses to the movie enormously.
All of the paintings that were used in the movie was the artwork of international artist Don Cincone.The Comic
The Comic is a 1969 Pathécolor comedy film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Carl Reiner. It stars Dick Van Dyke as Billy Bright (which was the original title of the film), Michele Lee as Bright's love interest, and Reiner himself and Mickey Rooney as Bright's friends and work colleagues. Reiner wrote the screenplay with Aaron Ruben; it was inspired by the end of silent film era, and, in part, by the life of silent film superstar Buster Keaton.The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Dick Van Dyke Show is an American television sitcom that initially aired on CBS from October 3, 1961 to June 1, 1966, with a total of 158 half-hour episodes spanning five seasons. The show was created by Carl Reiner and starred Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore. It centered on the work and home life of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (Van Dyke). The show was produced by Reiner with Bill Persky and Sam Denoff. The music for the show's theme song was written by Earle Hagen.The series won 15 Emmy Awards. In 1997, the episodes "Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth" and "It May Look Like a Walnut" were ranked at 8 and 15 respectively on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.
In 2002, the series was ranked at 13 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time and in 2013, it was ranked at 20 on their list of the 60 Best Series.The Jerk
The Jerk is a 1979 American comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and written by Steve Martin, Carl Gottlieb, and Michael Elias. This was Martin's first starring role in a feature film. The film also features Bernadette Peters, M. Emmet Walsh, and Jackie Mason.The Man with Two Brains
The Man with Two Brains is a 1983 American science fiction comedy film directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner.
Written by Martin, Reiner and George Gipe, the film is a broad comedy, with Martin starring as Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, a pioneering neurosurgeon with a cruel and unfaithful new wife, Dolores Benedict (Turner).The New Dick Van Dyke Show
The New Dick Van Dyke Show is an American sitcom starring Dick Van Dyke that aired on CBS from 1971 to 1974. It was Van Dyke's first return to series television since The Dick Van Dyke Show.The One and Only (1978 film)
The One and Only is a 1978 comedy film starring Henry Winkler, directed by Carl Reiner and written by Steve Gordon.The Thrill of It All (film)
The Thrill of It All is a 1963 romantic comedy film directed by Norman Jewison and starring Doris Day, James Garner, Arlene Francis, and ZaSu Pitts. The screenplay was written by Larry Gelbart and Carl Reiner.
Reiner had originally conceived the project for Judy Holliday, who developed cancer and had to bow out of the project, according to Reiner's reminiscence during his videotaped "Archive of American Television" interview. (Holliday died of cancer in 1965 at the age of 43.)
Films directed by Carl Reiner
Awards for Carl Reiner