Enter Laughing (1967): Carl Reiner’s Directing Debut, Personal Comedy, Starring Jose Ferrer and Elaine May

Comedian Carl Reiner made a disappointing directing debut with Enter Laughing, a strenuous comedy that lacks real wit and humor.

Enter Laughing

Grade: C (1*1/2 out of *****)

The tale, based on Reiner’s autobiographical novel and the stage play of the same name, centers on a Jewish youngster from the Bronx trying to break into the theater.

David Kolowitz (Reni Santoni) works as a delivery boy and assistant for a machine shop in New York City in 1938, and is fascinated with the movies.

Despite the misgivings of his girlfriend Wanda (Janet Margolin), his parents (Shelley Winters and David Opatoshu) and his employer (Jack Gilford), David follows the suggestion of a friend (Michael J. Pollard) and becomes involved with an off-Broadway theater company run by Harrison B. Marlowe (Jose Ferrer). He admires Ronald Colman so he uses the stage name “Donald Colman”.

Marlowe’s daughter (Elaine May) takes a romantic interest in David, who perseveres despite a lack of acting talent and Marlowe’s hostility.

Overcoming all obstacles, he finally makes his acting debut and his parents and girlfriend accept his new interest.

The cast is full of vet actors, but there’s not a single good or funny performance, and some, like Shelley Winters’ Jewish mother is narrowly stereotypical.

Reiner’s inept direction can’t conceal he material’s theatrical trappings.  It would take another two years for him to acquire basic some basic technical skills and show better understanding of the movie medium, manifest in his third feature, Where’s Poppa?

Jose Ferrer as Harrison B. Marlowe
Shelley Winters as Emma Kolowitz
Elaine May as Angela Marlowe
Jack Gilford as Mr. Foreman
Janet Margolin as Wanda
Reni Santoni as David Kolowitz
David Opatoshu as Morris Kolowitz
Don Rickles as Harry Hamburger
Michael J. Pollard as Marvin
Richard Deacon as Pike
Nancy Kovack as Miss B
Herbie Faye as Mr. Schoenbaum
Rob Reiner as Clark Baxter
Danny Stein as Spencer Reynolds
Milton Frome as Policeman
Lillian Adams as Theatergoer
Mantan Moreland as Subway Rider
Patrick Campbell as Butler
Peter Brocco as Lawyer Peabody


Directed by Carl Reiner
Produced by Carl Reiner and Joseph Stein

Screenplay by Carl Reiner and Joseph Stein, based on novel by Carl Reiner and play by Joseph Stein

Music by Quincy Jones
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Edited by Charles Nelson
Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release date: February 25, 1967

Running time: 111 minutes

Films Directed by Carl Reiner

Enter Laughing (1967)

The Comic (1969)

Where’s Poppa? (1970)

Oh, God! (1977)

The One and Only (1978)

The Jerk (1979)

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)

The Man with Two Brains (1983)

All of Me (1984)

Summer Rental (1985)

Summer School (1987)

Bert Rigby, You’re a Fool (1989)

Sibling Rivalry (1990)

Fatal Instinct (1993)

That Old Feeling (1997)