News Release: January 30, 2009
Carl Reiner and Victoria Riskin to Receive WGAW’s Valentine Davies Award
2009 Award Recipient
Writers Guild of America West members Carl Reiner and Victoria Riskin have each been selected to receive the WGAW’s 2009 Valentine Davies Award in recognition of their contributions to the entertainment industry and community at large, which have brought dignity and honor to writers everywhere. Past Valentine Davies recipients include Fay Kanin, Hal Kanter, Phil Alden Robinson, Norman Lear, Neal Baer, Larry Gelbart, and last year’s honoree, Tom Schulman. Reiner and Riskin will be feted along with other honorees at the 2009 Writers Guild Awards’ West Coast ceremony on Saturday, February 7, 2009, in Los Angeles.
“The Valentine Davies award honors Writers Guild members whose humanitarian work and community service has made a difference in people’s lives,” said WGAW President Patric M. Verrone. “Both Carl Reiner and Vicki Riskin have each done extraordinary work that has positively impacted individuals and entire communities.”
Reiner has been a longtime advocate for the education, well being, and artistic development of America’s youth. Among the many community-based projects he has been involved with, he hosted for many years both the Young Musicians' Foundation annual major fundraiser and Big Brothers of America’s annual awards show. For the past two decades-plus, he has had a charitable tennis tournament established in his name to benefit The ERAS Center, a home for children. More recently, Reiner has been extensively involved in Target’s “…Caught Reading” children’s literacy program.
A former President of the Writers Guild of America West, award-winning writer-producer and human rights activist, Riskin’s humanitarian efforts continue to extend far beyond the page. A founding member of Human Rights Watch/California, the largest U.S.-based human rights organization with a worldwide staff of more than 250 men and women who expose human rights abuses in over 70 countries, Riskin currently serves as its chair in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
Riskin has received numerous service awards, including the Chairman’s Award by the Caucus of Writers, Producers and Directors for her leadership role in the Creative Community’s fight against media concentration, the Justice Rose Bird Person of Courage Award by Death Penalty Focus, the Horace Mann Alumna of the Year Award by Antioch University Los Angeles, and the Human Rights-Defender of the First Amendment Award by the ACLU of Southern California.
Reiner, a twelve-time Emmy Award winner and WGAW member since 1959, is a true Renaissance man of American comedy, having forged a six-decade career in television and film as a writer, director, producer, and actor. Whether a co-star on legendary TV series The Sid Caesar Show or Your Show of Shows, creator and co-star of The Dick Van Dyke Show, screenwriter of such classic films as The Thrill of It All or Enter Laughing, or director of big-screen comedy hits like Oh, God or All of Me, Reiner has entertained and influenced three generations of audiences on both the small and big screen.
Born in the Bronx and the son of a watchmaker, Reiner served in WWII, first training as a radio operator in the Air Force, followed by an assignment to Georgetown University to study French to become an interpreter; then as a teletype operator in the Signal Corps, and later as a comedian/actor with Maurice Evans’ Special Services Entertainment Unit, touring the Pacific for 18 months in G.I. revues. Upon his honorable discharge in 1946, he landed the leading role in the national company of Call Me Mister and, after three years appearing in various Broadway musicals, joined Sid Caesar and Imogene Coco on the classic TV show Your Show of Shows.
In 1961, creator Reiner conceived The Dick Van Dyke Show, which would become one of the most beloved, influential sitcoms in the TV history. During the show’s popular run, from 1961 to 1966, Reiner also co-starred as TV producer Alan Brady. The New Dick Van Dyke Show followed, airing from 1971 to 1974.
In addition to collaborating with comedian Steve Martin on several hit movies – with Reiner directing comedy hits The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (co-written with Martin and Gipe), The Man With Two Brains (co-written with Martin and George Gipe), and All of Me – Reiner has written and directed numerous acclaimed films including The Comic (co-written by Reiner and Aaron Ruben), Enter Laughing (screenplay by Joseph Stein and Reiner), and Bert Rigby, You’re A Fool. His other feature films credits as a director include Oh, God, Where’s Poppa?, Summer Rental, Summer School, The One and Only, Fatal Instinct, Sibling Rivalry, and That Old Feeling. Beyond his numerous TV credits writing and/or co-writing episodes of both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Reiner’s other screenwriting credits include The Thrill of It All (based on a story by Larry Gelbart and Reiner), for which he received a WGA Comedy: Screen nomination, and The Art of Love (based upon a story by Alan Simmons and William Sackheim).
In addition to receiving four WGA nominations and a Writers Guild Award for The Sid Caesar Special (1968, Variety: Series or Special: Musical or Comedy, shared with co-writers Mel Brooks, Sam Denoff, William Persky, and Mel Tolkin), Reiner received the WGAW’s prestigious Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television in 1995, honoring his lifetime achievement in outstanding TV writing. Reiner’s other numerous accolades over the years include being inducted in to the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame in 1999, receiving the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize in Comedy in 2001, the Directors Guild of America’s Honorary Life Member Award in 2007, and the Television Critics Association’s Career Achievement Award in 2003, as well as receiving his own star on the Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
Comic duo Reiner and Mel Brooks even scored a 1999 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word/Comedy Album for their collaboration on Rhino Records’ The 2,000-Year-Old Man in the Year 2000 – The Album CD. On the literary front, Reiner’s other books include All Kinds of Love (1993), Continue Laughing (1995), How Paul Robeson Saved My Life (1999), a collection of short stories, My Anecdotal Life (2003), children’s books Tell Me a Scary Story (2003) and The 2,000 Year-Old Man Goes to School (2005), and his latest novel, NNNNN (2006). Reiner has a trio of books slated for publication this year: Just Desserts and Carl Reiner’s Novel Beginnings, as well as a 50th Anniversary edition of Enter Laughing.
As an actor, Reiner has appeared in countless films, including a starring role in The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, as well as featured cameo roles in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World, The End, The Slums of Beverly Hills, and his most recent ensemble role: as Saul in the trio of hit comedy heist capers Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, and Ocean’s 13. His TV acting appearances include stints on Family Law, Boston Legal, The Bernie Mac Show, Crossing Jordan, and Mad About You, for which he earned his most recent Emmy (Outstanding Guest Appearance by An Actor in a Comedy Series), memorably portraying fictional Dick Van Dyke Show character Alan Brady.
A WGAW member since 1994, Victoria Riskin is a television writer-producer, as well as a former WGAW President (2001-2004) – the first woman president in Guild history. During her term as Guild President, in addition to advocating for the rights of television and screenwriters, Riskin was active in opposing media concentration, lobbying in Washington for greater diversity and for more independent voices in television.
Her television career began in 1989 as executive producer of the award-winning telefilm The Last Best Year, based on her own experiences as a psychologist in private practice. She also produced A Town Torn Apart for NBC with Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry. With her husband, past WGAW President David W. Rintels, Riskin produced World War II: When Lions Roared, for which they received the Outstanding Producers of the Year Award from the Producers Guild of America. The acclaimed miniseries received six Emmy nominations and earned one Emmy Award. She was served as executive producer of the television adaptation of Carson McCullers’ The Member of the Wedding. Riskin also penned an adaptation of Willa Cather’s classic novel My Antonia, for which she won the World Media Award Silver Medal for Screenwriting and produced the Emmy-winning film. She has written teleplays for CBS, NBC, and USA Network.
In addition to being a past chair and trustee of the Writers and Producers Pension and Health Fund, Riskin was the founding chair of Hollywood, Health, & Society, a joint project of the Annenberg School of Communications, the Norman Lear Center, the United States Center for Disease Control and the Writers Guild. She is a past Trustee of the American Film Institute and the Museum of Radio and Television, currently serves on the advisory board of the Partnership for Public Service, and is a member of the International Women’s Forum, having lectured widely on women’s rights and the need to expand human rights principles and laws globally. She is currently chair of the Board of Trustees of Antioch University, Santa Barbara.
Riskin’s parents both have strong ties to Hollywood: her mother was iconic screen actress Fay Wray, who starred in over 70 films including King Kong, and her father was Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Riskin, who penned It Happened One Night, Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, and Lost Horizon, among other films. To honor her father, she established the Robert Riskin Screenwriting Award for writing excellence in the USC School of Cinema “for that script which best reflects an appreciation of human values.”