Hollywood writer/directors Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner both served in World War II, and both men, still close friends after half a century, were interviewed for the film on December 14, 2014, at Reiner’s house in Los Angeles.
Although they didn’t know each other during their service, both were selected for the ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program), and were trained as low speed radio operators.
Brooks served as a combat engineer in the European theater, while Reiner served in an entertainment unit, performing for the troops in the Pacific. Bringing a light touch and a sense of humor to a serious subject, the two comedians reflected on anti-Semitism, racism, the everyday life of Jewish American servicemen, and how their service influenced their later work. Their personal accounts were surprising, thoughtful and moving.
Both men shared memorabilia they had saved from the war – Brooks brought along his army jacket (it still fit), and Reiner took out his dog tags. He also saved “boxes and boxes” of letters that he wrote to his wife Estelle during his service. Married in 1942, they were separated for three years and wrote every day. “I think that’s where I became a writer,” he said during the interview, “learning how to not only talk about how much you love each other, but what’s going on in your life, and what’s in the world.”