Today’s post was supposed to be the 39th anniversary of “Merlin” which occurred yesterday. While I’d still like to make note of that, late last night came word that film director Ivan Reitman passed away in his sleep Saturday at age 75. Which, as you can imagine, is much more important.
You can’t talk about film comedies without mentioning “Animal House,” “Ghostbusters,” “Stripes,” “Meatballs,” “Twins,” etc. The list of the films he directed or produced goes on and on. His influence on film comedy is undeniable, but his early association with Doug is one of the more unknown, but incredibly important partnerships in both men’s career. It’s not unfair to say if the two of them had never met at McMaster University in the early 1970s, entertainment history might never have been the same.
Doug’s first appearance in Ivan Reitman’s college production of “Li’l Abner” eventually would blossom to what would become “Spellbound,” and finally Broadway’s “The Magic Show.” Ivan Reitman was an integral part of either directing, producing, or representing Doug on his early projects that rocketed him to stratospheric fame.
Their last collaboration was Reitman directing Doug in 1983’s “Merlin” on Broadway. The tales told of this production’s problems are many. But, in the hindsight of 39 years, most people remember the musical with great affection and regret that it didn’t run longer. In turn, the effects work Reitman learned with Doug would eventually help him with his future films, especially “Ghostbusters.”
While the two men would never work together again, their mark on entertainment history is permanent and forever. Similar to Lennon and McCartney before them, a chance meeting in their youth became something much more. It was a partnership that still influences people creatively fifty years on, and for that let us all be grateful.
The above photo was taken in February, 2019 during the filming of my upcoming feature length documentary on Doug’s life and work. Ivan Reitman was gracious enough to participate in the film, and reflect on his many years working with Doug.