Martha wished Jerry Lewis a happy birthday last week, while I was out covering SXSW. I'm returning to Vintage Image of the Day postings just in time to wish a happy birthday to another longtime actor-comedian, also a successful film writer-director: Carl Reiner. These days, he might be recognizable to many filmgoers from his role as Saul Bloom in Ocean's Eleven, but Reiner's film career goes back to 1959, and his TV career began nearly a decade earlier.
Carl Reiner has become so well-known later in life that it's difficult to remember him even in his thirties. The above photo is from one of the first films in which Reiner appeared, The Gazebo, released in 1959. He's the guy on the left kissing Debbie Reynolds; the guy on the right is Glenn Ford. Reiner's character is named Harlow Edison, which sounds weirdly like a science-fiction writer if you have a cold. He progressed from playing Gidget's dad in Gidget Goes Hawaiian to comic roles in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!. Reiner was more successful in TV at that time, writing and directing The Dick Van Dyke Show. And I haven't even mentioned the 2000 Year Old Man routine with Mel Brooks.
Reiner's best decade in film was the 1970s, in which he directed popular comedies like Oh God! and The Jerk. Where's Poppa?, a very dark comedy he wrote and directed in 1970, still has a large cult following. Reiner's directorial efforts in the 1990s were far less memorable (Sibling Rivalry, Fatal Instinct). However, throughout the years he's always been visible onscreen in small, hilarious roles. My favorite is probably his role as Alan Arkin's brother in the 1998 film Slums of Beverly Hills. I hope he's not done yet, and that we'll see him onscreen again soon.