There is sad news for the entertainment world. Carl Reiner, one of the most prolific entertainers in Showbusiness, is dead 98. Today, TMZ reported that Reiner died last night at his home in Beverly Hills with his family around him.
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Carl Reiner, a veteran in the entertainment world, actor, comedian, and director best known for his role in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the “Ocean’s” films, died at age 98 on Monday night June 29.
Reiner’s assistant Judy Nagy broke the news to the Associated Press that Reiner died of natural causes at Beverly Hills, California. The filmmaker’s son, in a tweet on Tuesday, confirmed his father’s death.
He wrote, “last night, my dad passed away. As I write this, my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.”
The veteran actor-director was one of those rare entertainers who never fell out of favor or out of sight, always busily maintaining his career and popularity from the very first day that he joined Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows” in 1950. His favor continued right up to his part in the big-screen “Ocean’s Eleven” family and his role as Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer’s stepfather on “Two and a Half Men.”
Carl Reiner shared a tweet just days before his death, reflecting on his life and family.
He wrote, “nothing pleases me more than knowing that I have lived the best life possible by having met & marrying the gifted Estelle (Stella) Lebost.” Reiner, in his tweet Saturday, pointed out that Stella partnered with him in bringing Rob, Annie & Lucas Reiner into this needy & evolving world.”
A younger generation may know him best as the father of actor/director Rob Reiner (and Rob’s siblings Lucas and Annie), but they still know who he is, and that can’t g said of every founder from TV’s first Golden Age.
And let’s say this upfront: If all he’d ever done were create “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one of the best and most influential sitcoms ever made, that would have been enough to ensure his place in the American cultural Hall of Fame. Everything else is just more icing on top of the cake.
Tall and physically imposing, yet more put-upon than threatening, Reiner’s gifts as a comic actor were probably most fully exploited in his decade-long stint with Caesar. (Though fans of his work with close pal Mel Brooks on the legendary “The 2000 Year Old Man” albums might disagree.) Drawing on his early acting experience in such stage reviews as “Call Me Mister” and “Inside U.S.A.,” Carl Reiner proved to be a master of the sharp, sly dig and the explosive, agitated outburst while showing he could hold his own with the best in the business.
He was also, however, self-aware in a way many performers aren’t. When Caesar’s runs finally came to an end, Reiner made a push for the star spot by creating his sitcom, “Head of the Family.” When the network rejected “Head,” fearing Reiner didn’t have the onscreen warmth required to keep the audience invested in the story of a TV writer, he could have sulked and balked. Instead, he reworked the show as a vehicle for a young Broadway actor and gave the world “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Perfectly cast and agelessly funny, Van Dyke brought a new level of wit, sex, and sophistication to the genre. He switched back and forth between Rob Petrie’s job as a writer on the fictional “Alan Brady Show” with his role as a suburban husband to the highly-desirable Laura (Mary Tyler Moore). Reiner helped create both the modern workplace sitcom and the contemporary concept that co-workers are another kind of family. And he also slipped in a perfect role for himself – the vainglorious, hilariously puffed-up TV star Brady, for whom Rob slaved.
Despite what many suspected Carl Reiner always insisted, there was very little of Caesar in the often-reprehensible Brady. Instead, he said, Brady was an amalgam of Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, and the Phil Silvers’ character from “Top Banana.” I worked nine years with Sid,” he once said. “You can’t do that with someone you don’t like.”
The legendary writer-director-producer-actor told USA TODAY in May 2019 why “Van Dyke” still resonates as it returned to the classic rerun schedule of MeTV (Memorable Entertainment Television).
“When I started that show, I had a feeling it was going to have a long life because it h based on something real: my life,” Reiner said. For longevity’s sake, “I told myself, ‘No slang of the day. No politics. Just ethics.’ The only thing that remains for a long time is ethics. (And) this show did have a life that should go on after I’m gone.”
Reiner cited his favorite “Van Dyke” episodes as “the ones people said wouldn’t work.”
“One of those was ‘It May Look Like a Walnut,'” Carl Reiner said. “I decided to do a version of ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ Instead of pods, I used walnuts. Rob, who thinks he’s having a nightmare, opens the closet, and a thousand pounds of nuts come sliding out, filling the floor, with Mary Tyler Moore riding the crest of the wave on her stomach.”
“Van Dyke” was canceled in 1966, but Reiner was not done yet with TV. He did voiceover work in animated series, including “Family Guy,” “Bob’s Burgers” and “American Dad,” among others, and had a recurring role in “Hot in Cleveland,” alongside Betty White.
But he also made his mark on the big screen, making his debut as a director and screenwriter with “Enter Laughing,” the 1967 movie adaptation of his bestselling autobiography. His career in film was not as groundbreaking as in TV, but it did include such well-regarded comedies as “Where’s Poppa?”, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” “Oh God!,” “The Jerk,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” and “All of Me.”
All of him will get missed. Reiner was married for 64 years to Estelle Lebost, who died in 2008; his children survive him.
Contributing: Robert Bianco, USA TODAY; The Associated Press