Carl Reiner had a particular genius for comedy. While some of his seminal works, The Dick Van Dyke Show and his directorial debut Enter Laughing, were autobiographical, Reiner was amazingly versatile. Two of his most contrasting pieces, Where’s Poppa? (1970) and Oh, God! (1977) will be included on the bill as Turner Classic Movies celebrates the life and career of the writer, director, actor, and author with TCM Remembers Carl Reiner. The Carl Reiner programming tribute will happen on Tuesday, July 28.
Where’s Poppa? is one of the darkest of comedies with the most devious sensitivity. It is intentionally in bad taste. George Segal wants to drive his own mother to suicide. And he’s a lawyer and knows how to get away with it. It is brilliant. Oh, God! is its polar opposite. George Burns is God, and it might not have been too much of a stretch for him. The ex-vaudevillian had seen it all and knew more than he could ever say, people loved him. But golly, did they love John Denver, just a country boy, mind you, but the most sensitive singer-songwriter with a fiddle at the time.
All of Me is pure screwball joy when Steve Martin is a cynical corporate lawyer who has his body mistakenly invaded by an ailing heiress (Lily Tomlin) who wants a second chance at life. An terrific showcase for Martin’s physical comedic abilities, there are scenes where he must play both himself and Tomlin at the same time, and the viewer never loses the sense of Tomlin’s presence in the scene.
The Comic dares to catch Dick Van Dyke from a bad angle. The actor had only been cast in movies in which he was beloved at this point. He was the chimney sweep in Disney’s Mary Poppins and wrote the kiss off song in Bye Bye Birdie. This is what he’s like when he’s not being funny? Except that it is funny.