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 told CBS News he died Monday night of natural causes his home in Beverly Hills, California.
He was one of show business’ best liked men, the tall, bald Reiner was a welcome face on the small and silver screens, in Caesar’s 1950s troupe, as the snarling, toupee-wearing Alan Brady of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and in such films as “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
In recent years, he was part of the roguish gang in the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies starring George Clooney and appeared in documentaries including “Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age” and “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”
Films he directed included “Oh, God!” starring George Burns and John Denver; “All of Me,” with Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin; and the 1970 comedy “Where’s Poppa?” He was especially proud of his books, including “Enter Laughing,” an autobiographical novel later adapted into a film and Broadway show; and “My Anecdotal Life,” a memoir published in 2003. He recounted his childhood and creative journey in the 2013 book, “I Remember Me.”
But many remember Reiner for “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” one of the most popular television series of all time and a model of ensemble playing, physical comedy and timeless, good-natured wit. It starred Van Dyke as a television comedy writer working for a demanding, eccentric boss (Reiner) and living with his wife (Mary Tyler Moore in her first major TV role) and young son in suburban New Rochelle, New York.
The show, which ran for five seasons on CBS, was a major hit. Reiner wound up playing the pompous boss, Alan Brady. But the rest of the show mirrored his life. In fact, Mary Tyler Moore’s Laura Petrie was inspired by the real-life woman Reiner went home to every night.
As a young GI during World War II, he’d met Estelle Lebost, an artist eight years his senior. “He was just extremely handsome,” Estelle told CBS News back in 2007.
They married in 1943, and had three children — Annie, Lucas and actor-director Rob Reiner, who tweeted that his father was his “guiding light.”