Carl Reiner, the veteran comic and film-maker renowned for his double act with Mel Brooks as well as directing a string of hit comedies including The Jerk and The Man With Two Brains, has died 98.
Variety confirmed the news, reporting that his publicist said he died of natural causes on Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills.
His son, film-maker Rob Reiner posted on social media: “Last night my dad passed away. As I write this my heart is hurting. He was my guiding light.”
Along with Brooks, Reiner became an icon of Jewish-American comedy for the pair’s sketch routines, most famously The 2000 Year Old Man which first appeared on record in 1960, and grew out of their work as writers on Sid Caesar’s hit TV comedy Your Show of Shows. Reiner also scored a major TV hit by creating and co-writing The Dick Van Dyke Show, starring the popular entertainer, before going on to achieve renown as the director of Steve Martin’s best known films. Reiner’s son Rob also became an acclaimed film-maker, with such hits as When Harry Met Sally, Stand By Me and This Is Spinal Tap.
The film and TV industry was quick to pay tribute. 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”; while William Shatner wrote: “From the writers room of Sid Caesar to recreating those times for the Dick Van Dyke show, Carl was a master at his craft.” Josh Gad added: “Goodbye to one of the greatest comedic minds of all time. Thank you for always making us laugh and for always giving us joy.” Mia Farrow wrote: “We lost a person who gave us great times – countless laughs. He was brilliant. And kind … He was with us through good times and hard times. Thank you Carl Reiner.”
New York governor Andrew Cuomo also tweeted his condolences, writing: “Carl Reiner, Bronx born and bred, made TV comedy that endures to this day. He made America laugh — a true gift. New York extends our condolences to his family and many friends.”
Born in New York in 1922, Reiner was the son of Jewish immigrants to the US, and served in the US air force during the second world war. After joining the service’s performing unit, Reiner broke into showbiz after hostilities finished, landing a spot on Your Show of Shows in 1950, where he would collaborate with the likes of Brooks and Neil Simon. Reiner stayed with Caesar throughout the 1950s, until he developed his own show about a comedy writer, which was given to Van Dyke as a vehicle along with Mary Tyler Moore.
As a result of its success, Reiner moved into feature-film-making: his directorial debut was Enter Laughing in 1967, adapted from his own autobiography about a Jewish kid trying to break into showbusiness. Subsequent films included the George Burns comedy Oh God! and the Henry Winkler wrestling comedy The One and Only.
In what would become a momentous collaboration, Reiner was asked by then-white-hot stage and TV comic Steve Martin to direct his debut film, and the 1979 film The Jerk was the result. After its impressive box office figures, the pair made three more films in a row – Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983) and All of Me (1984) – all of which were substantial successes.
In subsequent decades, his status as a comedy legend secure he completed numerous guest shots in TV shows such as Frasier, King of the Hill, The Larry Sanders Show and Ally McBeal, while latterday film roles included Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven remake as con artist Saul Bloom and “Carl Reinorcerous” in Toy Story 4.
Reiner was a committed Democrat, and a fervent opponent of President Trump. he remained active on social media, and one of his final posts castigated Trump as “a bankrupted and corrupt businessman who had no qualifications to be the leader of any country in the civilized world”.
In 1943 he married cabaret singer Estelle Lebost, who would become renowned herself for her one-line role in her son’s film When Harry Met Sally: “I’ll have what she’s having.” Lebost died in 2008, and Reiner is survived by three children, Rob, Sylvia and Lucas.