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WAMG Tribute: Comedy Legend Carl Reiner Has Died - We Are Movie Geeks

Obit

WAMG Tribute: Comedy Legend Carl Reiner Has Died

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The word rang out this morning in the world of laughter. A member of comedy royalty had taken his last well-deserved bow.

Here’s how the AP news service spread the word:

NEW YORK (AP) — Carl Reiner, the ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” has died. He was 98.

Reiner’s assistant Judy Nagy said he died Monday night of natural causes at his home in Beverly Hills, California.

While he made significant contributions to the worlds of live theatre, television, recordings, and literature, we at WAMG would like to applaud his body of work in motion pictures: acting, writing and directing. But in order to begin, lets’ double back to TV. Carl first achieved worldwide fame as part of the cast of the live comedy/variety program “Your Show of Shows”. Along with Imogine Coca and Howard Morris, he supported celebrated comic actor Sid Caesar. And Carl was also part of the lauded writing staff which included future superstars Larry Gelbart. Neil Simon, and Carl’s “best friend” Mel Brooks (for their follow-up show “Caesar’s Hour” Woody Allen joined them briefly). In 1973 a feature film compilation of some of their best work was released. Here’s one of the highlights of TEN FROM YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS…

Carl’s career acting in movies really begin in 1959 with supporting roles in comedies such as HAPPY ANNIVERSARY and THE GAZEBO. Two years later he would play the papa in a popular film franchise in GIDGET GOES HAWAIIAN. But his highest-profile film role would come in another couple years as part of the incredible ensemble cast of the blockbuster IT’S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD (Carl may have been the last surviving male co-star. Actress Barrie Chase is still with us). Here’s a taste of the slapstick chaos…

Not content to merely act in front of the camera, Carl spread his writing wings with the script to the Doris Day/ James Garner domestic comedy (with some jabs at Madison Avenue) THE THRILL OF IT ALL…

In 1965 Carl would be writing for James Garner again, along with his TV collaborator Dick Van Dyke, for the France-based farce THE ART OF LOVE. The following year Carl would be part of another huge ensemble comedy hit (though his role was much bigger this time) with THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING!…

Then next year Carl spread his talented wings once more by making his feature film directing debut with the sentimental autobiographical comedy ENTER LAUGHING (based on his novel). From there it was a reunion with Dick Van Dyke for the dark (maybe audience weren’t ready) tragi-comedy THE COMIC. I wrote about it in our look back at the cinema of 1969. Click here to read it. Luckily Carl bounced back the next year with the outrageous cult comedy (and midnight movie staple) WHERE’S POPPA?…

But it would take seven years for Carl to have his first mainstream commercial hit feature film comedy with OH, GOD!…

After a nostalgic wrestling comedy starring Henry (the Fonz) Winkler, THE ONE AND ONLY, Carl would begin a very successful four-film collaboration with Steve Martin, starting with the smash mega-hit THE JERK. Here’s Carl’s crazy cameo…

The two paired again for DEAD MEN DON”T WEAR PLAID, ALL OF ME (co-starring Lily Tomlin) and the under-rated horror/sci-fi spoof THE MAN WITH TWO BRAINS (and remember Merv Griffin is still at large)…

Carl would continue his directing career till the late 1990s working with comedy superstars like John Candy in SUMMER RENTAL, and up and coming TV stars Mark Harmon in SUMMER SCHOOL and SIBLING RIVALRY with Kirstie Alley (who was also in the former). He folded up his director’s chair with 1997’s THAT OLD FEELING starring Bette Midler.

Ah, but the movies weren’t done with Carl Reiner the actor. In 2001 he was part of a hit trilogy as one of OCEAN’S ELEVEN…

And just last year Mr. Reiner joined another big hit movie franchise as the voice of “retired” toy “Carl Reineroceros” in TOY STORY 4.

And that’s a look back at the cinema career of Mr. Carl Reiner, just a modest chunk of his immense talents. Enjoy your rest after giving us several lifetimes of laughter. We’re happy you were with us for so long, though we’re sad that you won’t be sharing that incredible wit with the world any longer. What a wonderful legacy!

Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.

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