Editor’s Note: Whether on screen or off, Hollywood can always be counted on to keep us entertained. This is especially true when it comes to politics. Join us each week as we shine the spotlight on Tinsel Town’s A-listers and their whacky and sometimes inspiring takes on today’s current events.
Goodbye to a Legend: Carl Reiner
Carl Reiner (1922 – 2020) was 98 when he died from natural causes on June 29. The funny man was famous for his talent as a comedian, actor, and scriptwriter. He was also credited with launching careers, including that of Steve Martin.
Reiner was born in the Bronx, his father, a watchmaker, working out of the family’s three-room apartment. After graduating high school, he worked as a machinist for $8 a week until Charlie, his older brother, told him about a free workshop for dramatics. And that is where the young man got his taste for the theater.
Over his decades-long career, Reiner held many acting jobs before making it into the big leagues. For just $1 a week, Reiner performed in plays near Central Park, finally graduating to earn free room and board. During WWII, he was a radio operator for the Air Force, later learning French to become an interpreter. While serving in the Pacific as a comedian with the Special Services Entertainment Unit – which was run by Maurice Evans, who would later become an actor on Bewitched – Reiner put on plays for the troops.
His career began to blossom in the 1950s when he became a performer and writer on variety programs, such as Your Show of Shows and Caesar’s Hour, the latter of which helped trigger careers for Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Neil Simon, and others. It was in the writers’ rooms that he and Brooks struck up a friendship that would last a lifetime. The two worked together and created The 2000 Year Old Man, which got them five comedy albums, appearances with Ed Sullivan, an animated television special in 1975, and a Grammy Award.
In 1959, Reiner was offered sitcom work, but he didn’t care for any of the scripts. Estelle, his wife, told him that he could write one that would be better. In an interview, the comedian said, “Well, I live in New Rochelle. I’m married. I have two kids. I work in New York. I’m a writer on a television variety show, Your Show of Shows. Write about that. And that’s how Head of the Family, which would become The Dick Van Dyke Show, was born.”
The show aired from October 1961 to June 1966. It was the first of its kind to air reruns, gaining it a larger audience. The series earned 14 Emmys, including five that Reiner received.
Steve Martin owes his career success to Reiner as well. The elder directed Martin in four films, including his debut screen hit, The Jerk.
There are too many accomplishments to be named in such a short piece. Reiner and his legendary work will live on in Hollywood, actors, and films for generations to come.
And the Award Goes to … BLM
In today’s “woke” society, it seems everyone is scrambling over their own two feet to try and make sure they prove they are not racist and vow to do whatever they can to end racial injustice. From police officers washing the feet of black people to actors speaking out, claiming, “I take responsibility,” everyone is working extra hard to create a reverse racist society. Here are a few of the recent actions taken by Hollyweird in its endeavor to be more respectful to the black community:
Netflix has announced it will divert 2% of its cash holdings to banks that “directly support Black Communities.” This, folks, adds up to about $100 million. The company said, “We believe bringing more capital to these communities can make a meaningful difference for the people and businesses in them, helping more families buy their first home or save for college, and more small businesses get started or grow.”
Playing the Role
If you are a white person, you’d better not audition for any part that isn’t a strictly “white” character. “Woke” actors are coming out to say they have learned their lesson and that it is insensitive and unprofessional to play the parts (you know, “act”) of something they are not.
Emma Stone, “The whitest Asian person Hollywood could find,” faced jokes and criticism after being cast as Allison Ng in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha, a romantic comedy that featured Stone’s character of Hawaiian and Asian heritage. The actress felt shamed enough to apologize in a post. “I’ve become the butt of many jokes,” she said. “I’ve learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is. It’s ignited a conversation that’s very important.” She did admit, however, that “the character was not supposed to look like her background which was a quarter Hawaiian and a quarter Chinese.”
Appearances can be deceiving, but what about voice? Can you automatically tell a person’s skin color by their voice alone? Tinsel Town thinks so.
Actress and comedian Jenny Slate has stepped down from her job as the voice for Missy, a biracial character on the animated series Big Mouth. “[B]lack characters should only be played by black people,” she said, adding that her role was “an act of erasure of black people.”
Kristen Bell, who was the voice for Princess Anna from the wildly popular Frozen, decided to remove her voice from the character Molly in Central Park. As an explanation for the decision, she said she was “happy to relinquish this role to someone who can give a much more accurate portrayal. This is a time to acknowledge our acts of complicity.”
Tune in next week to see what else Tinsel Town has planned.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.