At the end of the film I got a practical treat. He invited me to a “color temperature” screening, a mysterious affair where the film is shown to the director and cameraman to see if the color is correct. We watched without sound and at double speed to simplify the process. At the end of the screening, Carl said to cameraman Victor Kemper: “Great. Now make it two points easier. “I whispered secretly,” Why? ” He said, “Lighter is funnier.”
During my five or six creative years with Carl, we had lunch almost every day. We ate at Ma Maison, a restaurant where a young Wolfgang Puck created innovative dishes that Carl and I were amazed at.
“I approached Sid at a train station. I told him all he had to do was bring a briefcase to the next stop. I said, “When you get off the train, you see an exceptionally beautiful blonde woman with long, luxurious legs. I will be this woman. ‘”
Another time he told me this story about the greatest thing he ever got:
“I wanted to hire Dean Jones for an episode of ‘Dick Van Dyke’.” (Dean, a born-again Christian, was booked to do religious duties at times when Carl needed him.) “But Dean wanted to do the show so I worked out a schedule where I would do two different shows that I could shoot Dean on Script 1 on Monday, then shoot part of Script 2 on Tuesday, then get Dean back on Thursday to shoot for two days, and then repeat the process the next week moving actors, moving shooting days and moving places. When I called Dean to tell him the plan, he said with relief: “I knew the Lord would find a way.”
I have heard several people say that Carl is like a father to them. But to me Carl was not paternal. He was copy. Five years and four films later, because of a subtle osmosis of features from Carl to me, I was a different person. Carl’s behavior on the set taught me how to behave on the set. His interaction with people gave me a template for how to lead better, more beautifully and with friendliness. His directing results were the same as the bad directors I met later in my career. He also taught me modesty. I called him late one evening to discuss shooting the next day. I asked, “Am I interrupting you?” He said, “No, I’m just lying here and going through a litany of my mistakes.”
When I do comedy, I still hear echoes of my influences. Of course, Jack Benny, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Lenny Bruce, Steve Allen and Carl Reiner. But it’s not Carl’s comedic advice that I appreciate. Rather, it was how it affected my everyday life, the part that has nothing to do with films or acting. Sometimes I deal with people in meetings, social dinners and simple conversations with a foreign impetus and find out: “Oh, that’s how Carl would have done it.”
So, Carl, I raise my glass Selters and leaf through the Rolodex of the words that apply to you: talent, energy, wisdom, humor. But for me one of your characteristics stands out, which is not often quoted in the legacies of the famous: decency. All the time, it was your decency that permeated and animated your incredible gifts.
Thank you, goodbye and greetings, Carl Reiner.