Venerable actor, stand-up, second banana, producer, director, and author (How Paul Robeson Saved My Life, 1999, etc.) presents additional autobiography—now, he assures us, with more fact than ever before.
Reiner reveals much of his home life, and particularly his life in showbiz, in chapters that resemble sitcom premises and blackout sketches. These disconnected episodes are, he asserts, “96 percent . . . absolutely true.” Tummeling in the Catskills or double-talking on Caesar’s Hour, from the small screen to the big one, he offers an archetypal theatrical memoir, ever benign, complete with rimshot gags, tales of “shmuckery,” and discrete references to flatulence. (To add some class to the proceedings, Reiner employs new orthography to describe the “pharts”.) Many supporting players make appearances; the cast of dozens includes Georgie Jessel, Mickey Rooney, Howie Morris, Dick (not “Dickey”) Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Max Liebman, 2,000-year-old Mel Brooks, and cherished family members, each acting with style and grace under the author’s direction. From youth in the Bronx to playing the White House, his story has few vicissitudes; Reiner seems to have progressed from “Call Me Mister” to “Call Me Mister Show Biz” with little hesitation. He’s kept the same wife, kids, and forebears he started with, and, he tells us, he’s never sued anyone or been sued, surely a record in his line of work. His father was an inventive watchmaker, he recalls, and clearly our good-natured author has inherited a nice sense of timing.
Something sweet, with a little spice and a lot of schmaltz: maybe not haute cuisine, but served warm it’s a good recipe for palatable recollections.