Carl Reiner, comedy icon and ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’ creator, dead at 98


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Hollywood veteran and multihyphenate personality Carl Reiner, best known as the creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and director of several Steve Martin films like “All of Me”, passed away at the age of 98.

Reiner died of natural causes on Monday night at his Beverly Hills home, his assistant Judy Nagy confirmed to Variety.

“Last night my dad passed away. As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light,” Reiner’s elder son, filmmaker-activist Rob, tweeted.

A writer, filmmaker, actor, and voice artiste, Reiner first came to prominence as part of comic legend Sid Caesar’s team “Caeser’s Hour” and “You Show of Shows” in the late 1950s, and won multiple Emmy awards, including five for “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the next decade.

In the show, he played the role of Alan Brady, a temperamental comedian who terrorised Dick Van Dyke’s character and the other writer.

Reiner was active in showbiz well into his sunset years with roles in the popular “Ocean’s Eleven” series as the elderly con man Saul Bloom, and recurring roles on TV sitcoms like “Two and a Half Men” and “Hot in Cleveland”.

“Two and a Half Men” star Jon Cryer remembered Reiner as a lovely man who lived a wonderful life and brought joy to literally millions.

“Working with, and getting to know Carl Reiner were two of the great thrills of my career,” Cryer tweeted.

In 2017, Reiner, his longtime friend and frequent comedy partner Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Kirk Douglas and other contemporary Hollywood legends were featured in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast,” examining the secrets to longevity in a fickle industry.

His longtime friend, actor Alan Alda said Reiner’s talent will live on for a long time, “but the loss of his kindness and decency leaves a hole in our hearts“.

A man who walked with the times, Reiner was a steady presence on social media and used his social capital to voice his opposition to President Donald Trump.

“As I arose at 7:30 this morning, I was saddened to relive the day that led up to the election of a bankrupted and corrupt businessman who had no qualifications to be the leader of any country in the civilized world…” read one of his many tweets on the last day of his life.

In a photo that appears to have been taken during Brooks’ 94th birthday on June 28, the director, along with Reiner and Reiner’s daughter, author Sylvia Annie were seen sporting Black Lives Matter T-shirts.

Born in the New York borough of The Bronx, Reiner graduated from high school at 16 and worked as a machinist while studying acting.

After trying out his hand on the Borscht Belt circuit, a popular vacation spot for the city’s Jews between 1920s-60s, he enlisted in the Army during the Second World War.

He was noticed for his acting chops by Maurice Evans’ special services unit, where Reiner first met future “Show of Shows” collaborator Howard Morris. For the remainder of the war he toured South Pacific bases in GI revues, a multi-act popular theatrical entertainment by the soldiers of the US Army or Air Force.

After returning home from the War, he starred in a GI revue “Call Me Mister” and in 1948 appeared in the Broadway musical revue “Inside USA”, starring Beatrice Lillie and Jack Haley.

He also started appearing on the small screen in ABC show “Fashion Story” simultaneously.

Reiner and Brooks worked on an elongated skit in which Reiner played an interviewer to Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man”. A 1961 recording of the skit was a runaway success and churned many sequels, the last of which, “The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000” (1998) won the duo a Grammy.

Reiner then starred in films such as “The Gazebo”, “Happy Anniversary” and “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World“.

He made his feature directorial debut in 1967 with the big screen adaptation of his own novel “Enter Laughing”, loosely based on his own experiences. The book had got a stage production by David Merrick earlier.

A man of letter, Reiner penned and directed “Something Different”, a farcical Broadway show; helmed “Tough to Get Help“; wrote the book for the musical “So Long, 174th Street“; and directed “The Roast” for the stage in 1980.

His directing credits in film include the cult favourite comedy “Where’s Poppa?”, and other Martin hits like “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “The Man With Two Brains“.

Some of his less successful titles from ‘60s to ‘90s, as actor and contributor to script, include “The Comic”, “Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool”, “Sibling Rivalry” and a 1993 spoof of “Basic Instinct” called “Fatal Instinct“.

His last directorial was the 1997 romantic comedy “That Old Feeling”, starring Bette Midler and Dennis Farina.

Reiner appeared in guest roles on “Frasier”, “Ally McBeal”, “Boston Legal”, “House”, and reprised his role of Alan Brady on an episode of “Mad About You“.

“Boston Legal” star William Shatner said though he knew Reiner “peripherally”, it was a pleasure to have known him.

“We lost a person who gave us great times-countless laughs. He was brilliant. And kind…” actor Mia Farrow tweeted.

He also did voice work for shows including “Family Guy”, “American Dad”, and “Bob’s Burgers“.

Reiner had also received several awards for his writing – Writers Guild’s Laurel Award, the Mark Twain Prize for Humor, and the WGA’s Valentine Davies Award.

He was married to actor Estelle since 1943 till her death in 2008. Reiner is also survived by younger son, photographer-painter Lucas.

The Indian Telegraph
Established in 2007, The Indian Telegraph is a multi award winning digital media company based in Australia.

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