I REMEMBER ME
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Carl Reiner may be best known for his role as third banana to Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on Your Show of Shows and the creator of The Dick van Dyke Show. In his latest memoir, I Remember Me, Reiner practically ignores those and other cultural touchstones, electing instead to focus his memories on his family, friends, and more minor show business triumphs.
Over the course of the many short chapters, we are introduced to Reinerís parents, particularly his father, his wife, Estelle (who he notes had a famous line in When Harry Met Sally, but who comes across in more detail when Reiner describes their courtship), and his children (where it is sometimes difficult to remember that Robby has a high profile career of his own).
Reiner passes along the stories of his fatherís difficult life, pre-Carl, as well as his memories of growing up with his father, Irving, with relish. Interestingly, his mother, Bessie, is practically invisible in this book. Riner does, however, discuss his wife, Estelle, and his daughter , Annie, and their achievements at length throughout the book.
When Reiner does talk about his life in show business, it is often to highlight the work of others, and his relationship with them. He discusses the rocky relationship he forged with Shelley Winters on the set of Enter Laughing and how he overcame her diva-like behavior. He talks about relatively minor actors, like Maurice Evans, under whom he served in World War II and who he cast in several of his shows and films. Although these vignettes donít focus on Reinerís work, it does allow him to show an interconnectedness not just within Hollywood, but life in general.
For fans of Reinerís work, one of the most intriguing parts of the book are when he tells stories about his own life that provided the basis for scripts. Perhaps most notable might be his story about his honeymoon with Estelle, in which he had to go AWOL in order to spend time with her. Reiner used the same idea, with few embellishments, for The Dick Van Dyke Show episode ďHoneymoons Are for the Lucky.Ē These sorts of stories bring extra depth to The Dick van Dyke Show and other projects Reiner participated in and demonstrate how much of his work has been semi-autobiographical in nature, although to assume autobiography when Reiner was shooting for entertaining, is a mistake.
Given that Reiner has demonstrated himself as a master story teller in various episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show and films such as Dead Men Donít Wear Plaid and The Comic, it is a little surprising that Reiner has elected to complete forego the narrative style in favor of a memoir comprised of vignettes. The reader is left with a series of impressions about Reinerís live, relationships, and work, but with a distance from the subject, not as if Reiner is trying to hide anything, but rather as if he is teasing the reader with his memoirs while attempting to preserve his privacy. While Reiner has, of course, every right to his privacy, it does come off a little strange in a memoir.I Remember Me is a quick and entertaining book for anyone who has sat in front of a television and watched Carl Reiner on Caesarís Hour or the world of suburbia and work in The Dick van Dyke Show. Although Reiner may not tell a cohesive story in the book, or focus on his work in Hollywood, he does offer himself up as a man who seems to be every bit as friendly and welcoming as his portrayals on various shows, even when losing his temper as Alan Brady.
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