Entertainment

When Carl Reiner and Bob Fosse Were Unlikely Stage Co-Stars

To celebrate Variety’s 115th anniversary, we went to the archives to see how some of Hollywood’s biggest stars first landed in the pages of our magazine. Read more from the archives here.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, but so does showbiz. Carl Reiner and Bob Fosse became showbiz powerhouses starting in the 1950s and ’60s in their very different worlds, so the combination seems incongruous. However, in the early days of their careers, both appeared in the revue “Call Me Mister,” which opened at the Los Angeles Biltmore in 1947, with actor-activist Melvyn Douglas among the producers.

Variety’s review said there were “some funny sketches, ear-catching tunes and neat terp routines.” (Terp was Variety slanguage, short for terpsicore, a dancer.) The comedy headliner was Alan Dreeben, “who does a sock job in several skits and teams with Carl Reiner and Peter Turgeon for more laughs.” In the dance department, there was “a fine eccentric routine by Bob Fosse.”

The word “eccentric” is interesting, and this show may have helped establish the trademark Fosse style — dancing with hats and/or props, twisted arms, pelvic thrusts and dance contortions that are both sexy and mocking of the entire concept of sexuality.

After the revue, Fosse appeared in a few musical films under contract with MGM, but his career really took off on Broadway, as a choreographer, then director.

His “eccentric” work can be seen in the film musicals “Sweet Charity,” “Cabaret” and “All That Jazz” and then two non-musical works about the dark side of showbiz, “Lenny” and “Star 80.”

Reiner, meanwhile, continued to perform but is known best for his writing. On Jan. 13, 1961, Variety’s Army Archerd wrote a short item about “Head of the Family,” a pilot from Reiner, which later that year debuted as “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

The series ran 1961-66 and put Reiner, Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore on the list of TV greats.

While Fosse’s work was always dark and cynical, writer-director Reiner went in a different direction. Some of Reiner’s humor was outrageous and dark in such films as “Where’s Poppa?” (1970) and “The Man With Two Brains.” But there was always warmth and kindness, even in the broadest comedies (“The Jerk,” “Summer Rental”) and fantastical situations (“Oh, God!” and “All of Me”).

Fosse died in 1987 at age 60. Reiner died in 2020 at age 98.




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