Carl Reiner

Carl Reiner Headshot

Director • Actor • Comedian • Producer • Writer

Birth Date: March 20, 1922

Death Date: June 29, 2020

Birth Place: Bronx, New York

Children: Rob Reiner

An exuberant and prolific personality both onscreen and off, actor-writer-director Carl Reiner's illustrious career straddled the line between the earnest, the intelligent and even the outrageous, while boasting collaborations with comic heavyweights like Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks, Dick Van Dyke and Steve Martin. Having received his start on the Broadway stage, Reiner famously began his career with Caesar, which later led to a successful run as the creator and co-star of the legendary television sitcom, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (CBS, 1961-66). It was on that show that he began his directing career, which produced later comedy classics like "Oh God!" (1977) and "The Jerk" (1979). In fact, his collaboration with Martin led to other comic hits such as "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" (1982), "The Man with Two Brains" (1983) and "All of Me" (1984). Meanwhile, Reiner's son, Rob Reiner, became a noted actor and director in his own right, and often surpassed his father in terms of critical and box office success. Nonetheless, Reiner maintained a steady presence both before and behind the cameras, directing the farcical "Fatal Instinct" (1992) and the romantic comedy "That Old Feeling" (1997), while playing an elderly con man partnered with a motley crew of criminals in the caper comedy "Ocean's Eleven" (2001), and the sequels "Ocean's Twelve" (2004) and "Ocean's Thirteen" (2007). After spending over seven decades in the business, Reiner reigned supreme as one of the greatest comic legends of all time. Carl Reiner died June 29, 2020 at the age of 98.

Reiner was born on March 20, 1922 in the Bronx, NY, where he was raised along with his older brother, Charles. His watchmaker father, Irving Reiner, supported his wife Bessie and his two boys, but despite a keen sense of invention, was unable to translate these ideas into fortunes. As a teen, Reiner had a job as a shipping clerk and assisted in a machinist's shop. At 16, his brother turned him on to a classically-influenced drama workshop put on by the Works Progress Administration. After joining up, Reiner was strongly bitten by the acting bug and always credited his sibling with steering the course of his later career. By 18, Reiner had his first professional acting jobs in "As You Like It," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Comedy of Errors" and "Hamlet," staged across America with the Avon Shakespearean Touring Company. Reiner joined the Army Signal Corps during World War II, where he was training as a radio operator, but he narrowly missed heading off to the famous invasion at Iwo Jima. Instead, he was recruited by his superior to travel around the Pacific as part of Maurice Evans' Special Entertainment Unit, which entertained the GIs with comedy revues during the 1940s. While on the tour a year later, Reiner acted out his co-written show, "Shape Ahoy," in front of his old unit members when the tour reached Iwo Jima on VJ Day.

On Christmas Eve of 1943, Reiner, then 21, married his girlfriend Estelle Lebost, 29. After his Army stint was over in the mid 1940s, he naturally grew into the activities of family life, having become the father of their first son, Robert, in 1947, and soon after, daughter Sylvia. Back in New York, Reiner resumed acting, headlining "Call Me Mister" and appearing in "Inside U.S.A.," among several others on Broadway. Luckily, his stage work ended up bringing him to the attention of comedian Sid Caesar, who hired him for his popular sketch series "Your Show of Shows" (NBC, 1950-54), on which he sharpened his teeth as a performer and sometime writer alongside Caesar and such unknowns as Mel Brooks, Neil and Danny Simon and Larry Gelbart. Reiner received an Emmy Award nomination in 1954 for his supporting acting roles on the series. When Caesar moved onto another sketch series called "Caesar's Hour" (NBC, 1954-57), he brought Reiner along with him. His acting work was, again, a quick favorite with Emmy voters, netting him a nomination in 1956 and two wins; one in 1957 and a year later in 1958.

At age 35, Reiner formally began to try his hand at writing on the page. After "Caesar's Show" ended in 1957, his wife encouraged him to develop his own series, positing that the variety show offers coming his way were somewhat lacking in quality. By the summer of 1958, Caesar was back for another series, "Sid Caesar Invites You," on which Reiner appeared, but this one was cancelled by the fall. Also that year, Reiner published his first book, Enter Laughing, an autobiographical look at his entry in show business, before starting work on his own television project. Writing about what he knew, his life as a writer with a wife and two children, he quickly churned out the pilot for "Head of the Family," knocking out another dozen episodes in two months. Reiner and Mel Brooks, meanwhile, had been refining a routine at various parties called "The 2,000 Year Old Man," which gently mocked the absolute wisdom of the ages and was inspired by a TV interview in which a man ludicrously claimed to be privy to covert plans of Joseph Stalin. The two recorded the routine in 1960, with Reiner playing the role of the interviewer and Brooks the subject. The performers were skeptical about how it would be received, but as the project improved, Reiner and Brooks allowed its release, to great success.

The couple had a son, Lucas, in 1960, just as Reiner finally birthed the character of TV writer Rob Petrie in his pilot. Network executives did not pick up the pilot, however, thinking Reiner and his East Coast sensibilities were too specific to translate to a mass audience. Disappointed in its failure to find a network home, Reiner began writing movies instead - including his satire on instant celebrity, "The Thrill of it All" (1963) - but was continually coaxed by producer-director Sheldon Leonard to return to his sitcom pilot. Leonard wisely figured a different actor could perhaps get "Head of the Family" off the ground. Recast with actor Dick Van Dyke and renamed a year later, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" hit the airwaves, establishing Reiner's career along with those of Van Dyke and his comely co-star, Mary Tyler Moore. The series focused on Rob Petrie's family life as well as his professional life on the writing staff of the fictional "The Alan Brady Show." Before deciding to inhabit the role himself, Reiner voiced the toupee-clad Brady for the first few years, while holding out for the right name to play him on camera. He was also overseeing the show, producing and story editing, and writing the first 40 episodes. The series netted Reiner five Emmy nods and four wins, including three for writing between 1962-65.

While busy on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," Reiner continued to act in other projects, including appearing as a tower controller in "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World" (1963), guesting on the popular ABC action series "Burke's Law" (1963-67), and in several films for Norman Jewison, including his co-written Dick Van Dyke comedy, "The Art of Love" (1965). Jewison also directed Reiner as the intuitive playwright Walt Whittaker in "The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming" (1966). "The Dick Van Dyke Show" came to a close in 1967, just as Reiner and Joseph Stein had adapted Reiner's book, "Enter Laughing" (1967) into a film. The ever busy Reiner also re-teamed with Van Dyke for "The Comic" (1969), co-starring and directing the film, about a fictional silent comedic actor Billy Bright, which Reiner wrote specifically for the silent movie aficionado, Van Dyke. Into the early 1970s, Reiner consulted, wrote and directed for an edgier "The New Dick Van Dyke Show" (1971-74), but quit in the first year due to CBS' meddling censorship of the episodic content. He went on to write the TV movie "Starring: Nancy Clancy" (1973) for Van Dyke to direct, but the actor's subsequent disputes with the network over the sitcom - similar in many respects to Reiner's beef - would end the run of "The New Dick Van Dyke Show." Despite it all, Reiner managed to get an animated special version of "The 2,000 Year Old Man" (1975) aired on the network.

By the late 1970s, Reiner began turning his attention to movies, a medium he had only lightly explored in the past. He took the reins for a character far older than 2,000 years, directing comedian George Burns in "Oh, God!" (1977), Larry Gelbart's adaptation of the novel. He then landed in, arguably, one of his greatest collaborative periods with actor-stand-up comedian Steve Martin, which yielded a slew of well-regarded comedies. First up was the Martin-scripted classic, "The Jerk" (1979), which followed a dim-witted naïf on a strange path to entrepreneurial success. In 1982, Reiner rolled out the film noir send-up "Dead Man Don't Wear Plaid," with Martin as the detective Rigby Reardon and co-writer-director Reiner playing the villainous role of Wilfred von Kluck. Through each successive film with Martin, a screwball sensibility was further unleashed within Reiner - most evident in the pair's crafting of "The Man with Two Brains" (1983), an off-the-wall comedy about brain surgery and romance. Martin finally capped off their hot creative run as the unwanted beneficiary of Lily Tomlin's departing spirit in Reiner's hilarious body switching comedy, "All of Me" (1984).

After his years working with Martin, Reiner spent the later 1980s under a director-for-hire approach. It was a perpetual summer for the multi-hyphenate, who grabbed the keys for John Candy's genial vacation comedy, "Summer Rental" (1985) and signed up for a comic lesson in school time apathy with "Summer School" (1987). Reiner then went back to writing and directing, tailoring a deeply personal role for actor Robert Lindsay, who he coaxed to star in as an aspiring actor in "Bert Rigby, You're a Fool" (1989). The subsequent studio work, however, including the dark, murderous "Sibling Rivalry" (1990), the thriller spoof entry "Fatal Instinct" (1993), and the breezy, rekindled romance of "That Old Feeling" (1997) stalled commercially and creatively. Still, despite his directing duties, Reiner was still in command of his own creations. He won an Emmy Award for his guest appearance as Alan Brady, whom he had continued to revisit every so often over the years at the behest of Hollywood's adorers, and on the sitcom "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99) in 1995 - the same year he continued the story of Bronx-born actor David Kokolovitz in the novel, Continue Laughing. He and Brooks also re-teamed for a CD and follow-up book of more cultural observations from The 2,000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000; in the process acquiring a 1998 Grammy statue before Reiner racked up yet another Emmy nomination in 2000 for his guest work on Showtime's "Beggars and Choosers" (1999-2001).

With Steven Soderbergh's inspired remake of "Ocean's Eleven" (2001), Reiner took to playing the comic elder statesman. It was a strong third act to a career marked by perfectly-suited collaborations. Amongst a cast of career criminals led by actor George Clooney and his youthful gang of clownish co-stars, Reiner's reluctantly retired character, Saul Bloom, provided the essential comedic counterpoint. An in-demand Reiner went back to the small screen for some prominent guest spots on network television, including a guest appearance on the finale of "Ally McBeal" (Fox, 1997-2002), and as the recurring TV station owner Mr. Portinbody of "Life with Bonnie" (ABC, 2002-04) - even adding another Emmy Award nomination to the count before slipping back into the shoes of Alan Brady, now animated for TV Land's "The Alan Brady Show" (2003).

Much like his "Ocean's" character, Reiner - by now into his eighties - no longer needed to work consistently except on projects that fueled his fire. He had stepped into the international heist of "Ocean's Twelve" (2004), with Saul Bloom again grudgingly coaxed out of retirement, and enjoyed voicing one of Siegfried & Roy's white lions on NBC's short-lived primetime cartoon "Father of the Pride" (2004-05). But as always, was most comfortable working alongside familiar companions. Hence, the return for "Ocean's Thirteen" (2007) was a natural move. With the gang back on Vegas soil, Reiner was back to his best tricks, accruing casino fortunes as well as laughs. Turning to the small screen once again, Reiner had memorable roles on "House, M.D." (Fox, 2004-2012) and "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003-15), while voicing characters on animated series like "The Cleveland Show" (Fox, 2009-13) and "American Dad" (Fox, 2005- ). He went on to a guest starring role on "Parks & Recreation" (NBC, 2009-15), where he played the president of a senior citizens group whose endorsement is sought by both Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Bobby (Paul Rudd) in their run for city council. Active on social media up until his death, Reiner became politically outspoken, backing and endorsing left-leaning causes and candidates. Carl Reiner died on June 29, 2020 at the age of 98.

Credits

The Dick Van Dyke Show -- Now in Living Color!

Actor
Alan Brady
Show
2021

The Automat

Self
Self - Comedian
Movie
2021

The Dick Van Dyke Show -- Now in Living Color! A Special Tribute to Carl Reiner

Actor
Sergei Carpetna
Show
2020

Mel Brooks UnwrappedStream

Self
Movie
2019

The Dick Van Dyke Show -- Now in Living Color!

Writer
Show
2018

Duck Duck Goose

Voice
Larry
Movie
2018

The Great Buster: A Celebration

Self
Movie
2018

The Dick Van Dyke Show -- Now in Living Color!

Actor
Alan Brady
Show
2017

The Dick Van Dyke Show -- Now in Living Color!

Executive Producer
Show
2017

The Dick Van Dyke Show -- Now in Living Color!

Writer
Show
2017

Carl and Rob Reiner: Like Father, Like Son

Guest
Show
2017

Carl Reiner: We're Still Laughing

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Show
2017

If You're Not in the Obit, Eat BreakfastStream

Actor
Movie
2017

Wait for Your Laugh

Self
Movie
2017

The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now in Living Color!

Actor
Alan Brady
Show
2016

The Dick Van Dyke Show - Now in Living Color!

Executive Producer
Show
2016

The Last Laugh

Self
Movie
2016

The Late Late Show With James Corden

Guest
Talk
2015

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: Single Shots

Actor
Show
2014

Young & HungryStream

Guest Star
Bernie
Series
2014

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy FallonStream

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Talk
2014

Dumbbells

Actor
Donald
Movie
2014

Tom Green Live

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Show
2013

50PlusPrime

Guest
Show
2013

The Queen Latifah Show

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Talk
2013

The Big Interview With Dan RatherStream

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Series
2013

The Arsenio Hall Show

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Show
2013

Comedians in Cars Getting CoffeeStream

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Talk
2012

Mel Brooks & Carl Reiner: Excavating the 2000-Year-Old Man

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Show
2012

Vaudeville Comedy, Then and Now

Actor
Movie
2012

Lunch

Actor
Movie
2012

DreamWorks Holiday Classics

Actor
Show
2011

Jerry Lewis: Method to the Madness

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Show
2011

Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett Together Again

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Show
2011

On Story

Guest
Show
2011

Jake and the Never Land PiratesStream

Guest Star
Captain Treasure Tooth
Series
2011

Bob's BurgersStream

Guest Voice
Henry
Series
2011

ConanStream

Guest
Talk
2010

The Talk

Guest
Talk
2010

Hot in ClevelandStream

Guest Star
Max
Series
2010

The 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors

Guest
Show
2009

In the House With Peter Bart & Peter Guber

Guest
Show
2009

Merry Madagascar

Voice
Santa
Show
2009

The Cleveland ShowStream

Guest Voice
Murray
Series
2009

The Cleveland ShowStream

Story
Series
2009

The Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien

Guest
Talk
2009

Parks and RecreationStream

Guest Star
Series
2009
93%

The Bonnie Hunt Show

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Talk
2008

Éléphant bleu

Voice
Movie
2008

Ocean's ThirteenStream

Actor
Saul Bloom
Movie
2007
70%

Talkshow With Spike Feresten

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Show
2006

American DadStream

Guest Voice
Mailbox 1
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2005

The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson

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Talk
2005

HouseStream

Guest Star
Eugene Schwartz
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2004
90%

Boston LegalStream

Guest Star
Series
2004
86%

Father of the Pride

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Sarmoti
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2004

The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited

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2004

Tavis Smiley

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Talk
2004

Ocean's TwelveStream

Actor
Saul Bloom
Movie
2004
55%

Two and a Half MenStream

Guest Star
Marty Pepper
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2003
65%

The Alan Brady Show

Voice
Show
2003

The Bronx Boys

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2003

Real Time With Bill MaherStream

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Talk
2003

Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

Guest
Talk
2003

Good Boy!

Voice
Shep
Movie
2003

Life With Bonnie

Guest Star
Series
2002

The Bernie Mac ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
2001

Crossing JordanStream

Guest Star
Series
2001

Ocean's ElevenStream

Actor
Saul Bloom
Movie
2001
83%

The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

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P.G. Biggershot
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2000

Family Law

Guest Star
Series
1999

Family GuyStream

Guest Voice
Old Man
Series
1999

Slums of Beverly HillsStream

Actor
Mickey Abromowitz
Movie
1998
81%

Ally McBeal

Guest Star
Series
1997
61%

King of the HillStream

Guest Voice
Gary Kasner
Series
1997

92nd Street Y

Actor
Show
1997

That Old Feeling

Director
Movie
1997

The Right to Remain Silent

Actor
Norman Friedler
Movie
1996

FrasierStream

Guest Voice
Roger
Series
1993
95%

Fatal InstinctStream

Director
Movie
1993
17%

Mad About YouStream

Guest Star
Alan Brady
Series
1992

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno

Guest
Talk
1992

Sibling Rivalry

Director
Movie
1990

Spirit of '76

Actor
Dr. Von Mobil
Movie
1990

Bert Rigby, You're a Fool

Director
Movie
1989

Summer SchoolStream

Actor
Mr. Dearadorian
Movie
1987
57%

Summer SchoolStream

Director
Movie
1987
57%

Summer RentalStream

Director
Movie
1985
17%

Those Wonderful TV Game Shows

Host
Show
1984

All of MeStream

Director
Movie
1984
85%

The Man with Two BrainsStream

Director
Movie
1983
79%

Dead Men Don't Wear PlaidStream

Actor
Field Marshall VonKluck
Movie
1982

Dead Men Don't Wear PlaidStream

Director
Movie
1982

Skokie

Actor
Abbot Rosen
Movie
1981

CBS News Sunday Morning

Guest
News
1979

The JerkStream

Actor
Man at Disco Party
Movie
1979
83%

The JerkStream

Director
Movie
1979
83%

America 2Night

Guest Star
Show
1978

The One and Only

Director
Movie
1978

Oh, God!Stream

Actor
Dinah's Guest
Movie
1977
75%

Oh, God!Stream

Director
Movie
1977
75%

Dick Van Dyke & Company

Actor
Show
1976

The Fabulous Funnies

Actor
Show
1976

Mitzi... Roarin' in the 20s

Self
Show
1976

Good Heavens

Actor
Mr. Angel
Show
1976

Good Heavens

Director
Show
1976

Good Heavens

Executive Producer
Show
1976

Medical Story

Actor
Dr. Reiber
Movie
1975

Lotsa Luck

Creator
Series
1973

Ten From Your Show of Shows

Actor
Movie
1973

The New Dick Van Dyke Show

Creator
Show
1971

The New Dick Van Dyke Show

Director
Show
1971

The New Dick Van Dyke Show

Guest Star
Show
1971

The New Dick Van Dyke Show

Producer
Show
1971

The New Dick Van Dyke Show

Writer
Show
1971

The First Nine Months are the Hardest

Director
Movie
1971

Night Gallery

Actor
Series
1970

Night Gallery

Guest Star
Series
1970

¿Dónde Está Papá?

Director
Movie
1970

Where's Poppa?Stream

Director
Movie
1970
82%

The Wonderful World of Pizzazz

Actor
Show
1969

The Comic

Director
Movie
1969

The Comic

Producer
Movie
1969

The Comic

Screenwriter
Movie
1969

A Time for Giving

Actor
Stan Herman
Movie
1969

The Dick Cavett ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1968

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-InStream

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Variety Show
1968

The Carol Burnett ShowStream

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Variety Show
1967

Good Morning WorldStream

Creator
Series
1967

Good Morning WorldStream

Director
Series
1967

Good Morning WorldStream

Executive Producer
Series
1967

Good Morning WorldStream

Guest Star
Himself
Series
1967

Enter Laughing

Director
Movie
1967

Enter Laughing

Producer
Movie
1967

That GirlStream

Guest Star
Series
1966

Alice of Wonderland in Paris

Voice
Anatole
Movie
1966

The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are ComingStream

Actor
Walt Whittaker
Movie
1966
86%

A Salute to Stan Laurel

Screenwriter
Show
1965

The Art of Love

Actor
Rodin
Movie
1965
0%

Linus the Lionhearted

Voice
Show
1964

The Judy Garland Show

Guest Star
Variety Show
1963

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonStream

Actor
Talk
1962

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny CarsonStream

Guest
Talk
1962

The Dick Van Dyke ShowStream

Actor
Alan Brady
Series
1961

The Dick Van Dyke ShowStream

Creator
Series
1961

The Dick Van Dyke ShowStream

Guest Voice
Fight Announcer
Series
1961

The Dick Van Dyke ShowStream

Voice
Alan Brady
Series
1961

The Dick Van Dyke ShowStream

Writer
Series
1961

The Dick Van Dyke ShowStream

Writer (Teleplay)
Series
1961

Gidget Goes HawaiianStream

Actor
Russ Lawrence
Movie
1961

A Date With Debbie

Actor
guest
Show
1960

Head of the Family

Actor
Rob Petrie; father
Show
1960

The Comedy Spot

Director
Show
1960

The Violinist

Voice
Movie
1959

Happy Anniversary

Actor
Bud
Movie
1959

The GazeboStream

Actor
Harlow Edison
Movie
1959

Keep Talking

Host
Show
1958

Sid Caesar Invites You

Actor
Show
1958

The Dinah Shore Chevy Show

Guest
Show
1956

Caesar's Hour

Actor
Show
1954

Droodles

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Panelist
Show
1954

I've Got a SecretStream

Guest
Game Show
1952

Your Show of Shows

Actor
Series
1950

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950

News aboutCarl Reiner