Rob Reiner

On this date in 1947, actor and filmmaker Robert Norman Reiner was born in Bronx, N.Y., to Estelle (née Lebost) and Carl Reiner. His parents were both actor/entertainers and his father would gain further acclaim as a TV and movie producer and director.

The Jewish family was not religiously observant. Although Reiner was bar mitzvahed, his younger brother was not, nor would Reiner’s two sons be years later. The family moved from New Rochelle, N.Y., to California when he was 13. His best friend at Beverly Hills High School, where he graduated in 1964, was Richard Dreyfuss.

Reiner had minor TV acting roles in shows such as “Batman,” “That Girl,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Room 222,” “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.” He and Steve Martin joined “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in 1968 as writers and were the youngest writers on the show.

In 1971 he took the role he became famous for as Michael Stivic, Archie Bunker’s liberal son-in-law, on Norman Lear‘s “All in the Family,” the most-watched show for the next five seasons. To Carroll O’Connor’s conservative Archie, he was “Meathead” in a 1970s version of the culture wars. (Reiner wore a toupee on the show.) 

He later reflected after building a career as a director, producer and screenwriter that “I could win the Nobel Prize and they’d write ‘Meathead wins the Nobel Prize.’ ” He won the 1974 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor. 

He married actress Penny Marshall in 1971, the co-star with Cindy Williams in the “Happy Days” spinoff “Laverne & Shirley” (1976-83). He adopted Marshall’s daughter Tracy before their 1981 divorce. He married photographer Michele Singer in 1989. Their children are Jake (b. 1991), Nick (b. 1993) and Romy (b. 1997). He and Singer had met on the set when he was directing “When Harry Met Sally,” written by Nora Ephron, including the memorable line “I’ll have what she’s having,” spoken by Reiner’s mother in Katz’s deli after Meg Ryan’s character Sally feigns orgasm at the table.

He directed 20 films from 1984-2017, starting with “This Is Spinal Tap” and including “Stand By Me” (his personal favorite), “The Princess Bride,” “Misery,” “A Few Good Men,” “The American President,” “The Bucket List,” “Being Charlie” (drawing from his son’s drug addiction), “LBJ” and “Shock and Awe.”

He also had numerous acting roles in films of that period, including “Throw Momma From the Train,” “Postcards From the Edge,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Bye Bye Love,” “The First Wives Club,” “Primary Colors” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Reiner co-founded Castle Rock Entertainment, a TV and film production company, in 1987. Its more than 125 films include some of those mentioned above as well as “In the Line of Fire,” “City Slickers,” “Miss Congeniality” and “The Shawshank Redemption.” It also produced the very successful “Seinfeld” TV series (1989-98). Castle Rock relaunched its film division in 2021 with a $175 million fund to develop, produce and finance movies.

Appearing on “Real Time with Bill Maher” (Jan. 13, 2012), he agreed with Maher that atheists don’t have equality despite “Nones” making up 17 percent of the population: “You’re right about that, that we don’t have that representation. I include myself in that same 17 percent.” He said later that year that Buddhism was the only religion “that kind of makes sense to me. I don’t believe in organized religion, but I do believe in a lot of the concepts of Buddhism.” (Huffington Post, Aug. 23, 2012)

Reiner has devoted considerable time, energy and money to liberal activism. “The most important thing is that you be a good person and you live by the golden rule of do unto others. If you live by that, that’s all I care about.” (The Jewish Chronicle, Aug. 30, 2012) 

PHOTO: Reiner at the 2016 Montclair Film Festival in New Jersey; photo by Neil Grabowsky under CC 2.0.

Freedom From Religion Foundation