Carl Reiner, driving force behind American comedy, dies at 98

Carl Reiner, the ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as Sid Caesar’s “Second Banana” and rose to the top ranks of comedy as the creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks“A 2,000-year-old man” has died. He was 98 years old.

Reiner’s assistant Judy Nagy told CBS News he died of natural causes Monday evening at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

He was one of the most beloved men in show business, the tall, bald Reiner was a welcome face on small screens and silver screens, in Caesar’s 1950s cast, like surly Alan Brady wearing a hairpiece of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and in films such as “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.

Carl Reiner.

CBS News

In recent years he was part of the thug gang in the films “Ocean’s Eleven” with George Clooney and appeared in documentaries such as “Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age” and “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast “.

Tributes have poured in online, including from actor Josh Gadd, who called Reiner “one of the greatest comedic minds of all time,” and writer Bill Kristol, who said: “What a life ! ” Actor Alan Alda tweeted: “His talent will live on for a long time, but the loss of his kindness and decency leaves a hole in our hearts.”

Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and George Takei on g …


The films he directed included “Oh, God!” with George Burns and John Denver; “All of Me”, with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin; and the 1970 comedy “Where’s Poppa?” He was especially proud of his books, including “Enter Laughing,” an autobiographical novel later adapted into a movie and Broadway show; and “My Anecdotal Life”, a dissertation published in 2003. He recounted his childhood and his creative journey in the 2013 book, “I remember me”.

But many remember Reiner for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one of the most popular TV series of all time and a model of ensemble play, physical comedy and timeless, good-natured wit. It starred Van Dyke as a TV comedy writer working for a demanding and eccentric boss (Reiner) and living with his wife (Mary Tyler Moore in her first major TV role) and young son in the suburbs of New York. Rochelle, New York.

The show, which ran for five seasons on CBS, was a big hit. Reiner ended up playing the pompous boss, Alan Brady. But the rest of the series mirrored his life. In fact, Mary Tyler Moore’s Laura Petrie was inspired by the real woman where Reiner used to come home every night.

A young GI during World War II, he had met Estelle Lebost, an artist eight years his senior. “He was just extremely handsome,” Estelle told CBS News in 2007.

“The Van Dyke show is probably the most exciting of my accomplishments because it was very, very personal,” Reiner said. “It was about me and my wife, living in New Rochelle and working on the Sid Caesar show.”

Reiner is the father of actor-director Rob Reiner. The young Reiner played the role of Archie Bunker’s son-in-law in “All in the Family” and went on to direct films such as “When Harry Met Sally …” and “The Princess to be Married”. Carl Reiner would praise Rob as his favorite director, and Rob would speak with open admiration and some trepidation of his famous father.

“He was the nicest man, a decent man, a smart, talented man, and everyone loved him,” Rob Reiner told The Associated Press in 1992.

Rob Reiner said in a tweet Tuesday that his “heart ached. He was my beacon.”

Carl Reiner has won several Emmy Awards for his television work. In 2000, he received the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor. When the audio system broke at the start of the ceremonies, Reiner called from the balcony, “Does anyone have four double A batteries?

Besides “All of Me”, Reiner directed Martin in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid”, “The Man With Two Brains” and “The Jerk”.

Carl Reiner was born in 1922, in the Bronx neighborhood of New York, one of the two sons of Jewish immigrants: Irving Reiner, a clockmaker, and his wife, Bessie. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood, where he learned to imitate voices and tell jokes. After high school, Reiner attended drama school, then joined a small theater company.

“It was a great experience, but I wasn’t getting any money for it,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal in 1963. “One day I got angry – after all, the public was paying $ 22 to 88 cents for admission – and I demanded to be paid. They settled for a dollar per performance and I … became their most expensive actor. “

During World War II, Reiner joined the military and visited bases in the South Pacific in GI variety shows for a year and a half. Removed from uniform, he landed several roles on stage, piercing Broadway in “Call Me Mister”.

He married his wife, Estelle, in 1943. In addition to his son Rob, the couple had another son, Lucas, a filmmaker, and a daughter, Sylvia, a psychoanalyst and author. Estelle Reiner, who died in 2008, had a small but memorable role in Rob Reiner’s “When Harry Met Sally …” – as a woman who hears Meg Ryan’s ersatz ecstasy in a restaurant and says: “J ‘will get what she has. “

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