Film News: Carl Reiner of ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show,’ Dies at 98

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LOS ANGELES – If there ever was a living embodiment of show business history from the mid 20th Century to now, it was Carl Reiner. The producer, director, writer and sometimes actor worked in the business from 1938 to the present, and is probably best known for creating “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1961-66). He died of natural causes in Los Angeles on June 29th, 2020.

Reiner touched all forms of media, up to and including the modern social media, where he was active on Twitter (read one of his last tweets below). His incredible resume includes film director (“Oh, God” and “The Jerk,” among others), TV series creator (two Dick Van Dyke shows, “Lotsa Luck”) and movie/TV performer (Alan Brady on “Van Dyke,” “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” The Ocean’s Eleven Series and “The Cleveland Show”).

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Carl Reiner in a Recent Publicity Picture
Photo credit: Carl Reiner

Carl Reiner was born in the Bronx, New York, and first tried theater as a 16-year-old during the Depression (1938). He was drafted into the Army Air Forces during World War II and eventually landed into Special Forces, entertaining the troops until his honorable discharge in 1946. He went back to New York City to begin his professional career.

He was performing on Broadway in the early 1950s, when he was brought onto the staff of Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” as a performer and writer. That famous writing staff (which included the show “Caesar’s Hour”) included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart and Woody Allen. Reiner would later team with Mel Brooks for their famous 1960s comedy bit the “2000 Year Old Man,” where he played the straight man.

In 1959, he wrote a TV pilot for CBS called “Head of the Family,” and was the title character when the pilot was shot. CBS-TV wouldn’t risk an unknown as star, so Reiner morphed the series into “The Dick Van Dyke Show” two years later. The iconic series has since ran in perpetuity in reruns, and has been revived during the holidays in colorized versions.

He moved into film direction after the rigors of TV production (he wrote an entire season of Van Dyke episodes) and teamed with Steve Martin for the hilarious “The Jerk” (1979), “Dead Man Don’t Wear Plaid” (1982), “The Man with Two Brains” (1983) and “All of Me” (1984). As an actor, he had a revival in all three “Ocean’s” films, and made appearances on TV in series as diverse as “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Frasier,” “Mad About You” (reprising Alan Brady), “The Larry Sanders Show” and “Two and a Half Men.” His final role was a voiceover in “Toy Story 4,” as Carl Reineroceros.

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Carl Reiner on colorized “The Dick Van Dyke Show”
Photo credit: Calvada Productions/CBS-TV

He was married to Estelle Lebost for 65 years (until her death in 2008) and had three children, including actor/writer/director Rob Reiner. He was also the author of astounding 16 books, including fiction, and lived long enough to pen five autobiographies, including his final book, “Too Busy to Die” (2017).

In an interview with Patrick McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com, Rob Reiner said this about his father … “When I was a kid growing up, he was an idol to me, I loved what he did and I loved him so much. I wanted to be like him. My mother tells a story about when I was eight years old I came up to her, and told her I wanted to change my name. Immediately she thought, ‘Oh, the poor kid, it’s the pressure of living under the shadow of a famous father.’ She asked me what I wanted to change my name to, and I answered, ‘Carl’ [laughs]. I wanted so much to be like him.”

One of Carl Reiner’s final tweets, written on the day he passed, was “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 … "

Sources for the this article are from Variety.com and Wikipedia.com. Carl Reiner 1922-2020. For the full HollywoodChicago.com interview of Rob Reiner, click here. For Carl Reiner’s Twitter account, click here.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Editor and Film Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2020 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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