On this day in 1947, the filmmaker and actor Rob Reiner is born in New York City.
Reiner was the son of Carl Reiner, then a regular on Sid Caesar’s famous television comedy program Your Show of Shows and its follow-up, Caesar’s Hour, where he had worked with such talented comedy writers as Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Woody Allen. When Rob was 12, his family moved to Los Angeles, and he began his own acting career as a teenager, appearing in community theater productions and episodes of the TV program Alfred Hitchcock Presents… before co-founding The Session, an improvisational comedy troupe. On the big screen, Reiner debuted in Enter Laughing (1967), directed by his father from a script based on his autobiographical novel.
The younger Reiner’s big career break came in 1971, when he began appearing on the hit TV sitcom All in the Family. Reiner won two Emmy Awards (1974 and 1978) for his portrayal of Michael “Meathead” Stivic, the liberal, hippieish son-in-law of Carroll O’Connor’s stubbornly bigoted Archie Bunker. Also in 1971, Reiner married the comedic actress Penny Marshall; the couple appeared together in recurring guest spots on The Odd Couple, produced by Penny’s brother Garry Marshall, and in a TV movie, More Than Friends (1978), which they co-wrote. Marshall and Reiner divorced in 1979.
In 1984, Reiner launched his career as a film director with the cult hit This is Spinal Tap, a satirical “mockumentary” about a fictitious rock band. Though his follow-up effort, The Sure Thing (1985), made little noise at the box office, Reiner scored massive hits with his next two pictures: 1986’s Stand By Me, a coming-of-age tale based on a Stephen King story, and 1987’s The Princess Bride, a hilarious take on the romantic fairy tale-fantasy genre. With his reputation in Hollywood now well established, Reiner co-founded his own production company, Castle Rock Entertainment, in 1987. (It was named for a town in one of King’s novel.) Castle Rock’s first feature was Reiner’s most successful film to date, the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally… (1989).
With Castle Rock, Reiner also directed the acclaimed hits Misery (1990) and A Few Good Men (1992), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. His next few films varied between hits (1995’s The American President) and misses (1994’s North, 1996’s Ghosts of Mississippi and 1999’s The Story of Us). After several years without releasing a film–during which he increasingly immersed himself in political activism in California, on behalf of such causes as early childhood development and environmental efforts–Reiner came back with two relative disappointments, Alex and Emma (2003) and Rumor Has It (2005). In 2007, he directed Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman in The Bucket List.
In addition to directing and producing, Reiner maintained an acting career over the years, appearing in supporting roles in such films as Postcards from the Edge (1990), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Bullets Over Broadway (1994), Primary Colors (1998) and The Majestic (2001). He also appeared in some of his own movies, including The Story of Us and Alex and Emma.
Reiner and his second wife, Michele, married in 1989; they have three children.