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Dick Van Dyke

Dick Van Dyke was born in West Plains, Missouri, in 1925 and was then raised in Danville, Illinois. As a young boy he spent a lot of time alone teaching himself music, magic and pantomime. He was a baritone, and he appeared in school plays, ran track, served as junior class president and worked part time on a local radio station.

Van Dyke joined the Air Force at 18 and was quickly recruited for a radio show called Flight Time. After a year of duty in the States, he went back to Danville and worked briefly in advertising, then, in 1946, he joined another local entertainer, Phil Erickson, in a record-pantomime act called The Merry Mutes. During a lengthy run of appearances in Los Angeles, Van Dyke sent for his Danville girlfriend, Marjorie Willet, and the two were married on the radio station's program Bride and Groom.

In 1955, Van Dyke went from radio to television, as host of The CBS Morning Show, where Walter Cronkite served as news anchor, Barbara Walters wrote news copy and Merv Griffin provided the music. By 1958, after trying other formats including a kids' show, a talk show, a game show and a pilot, Van Dyke was released by CBS. He soon landed a spot in the revue called The Boys Against the Girls. From there, he starred opposite Chita Rivera in Bye Bye Birdie, in which Van Dyke introduced Put on a Happy Face and won a 1960 Tony Award.

While performing in Bye Bye Birdie, Van Dyke was invited to read scripts for Sheldon Leonard and Carl Reiner for an untitled series. That led to The Dick Van Dyke Show, which premiered in 1961 and still enjoys worldwide syndication. In five seasons, Van Dyke won three Emmy awards.

While on periodic hiatus, Van Dyke starred in many feature-length films, including the film version of Bye-Bye Birdie (1963) and the Disney classic Mary Poppins (1964). Other features included Lt. Robinson Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966), Divorce American Style (1967), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), The Comic (1969), Some Kind of a Nut (1969), Cold Turkey (1971) and The Runner Stumbles (1979). The Dick Van Dyke Show left the air while it was on top after five seasons.

Dick's next project was a dramatic television movie, The Morning After, adapted from Jack Weiner's novel about a talented and successful family man whose life was destroyed by alcoholism. With it unrelenting theme and downbeat ending, the film broke ground for television dramas and earned Van Dyke an Emmy nomination.

Then Van Dyke went back to song, dance and comedy, starring in 13 Van Dyke and Company variety specials. In 1979, he was back in theater touring as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man, before taking it to Broadway. The following year, he toured in Damn Yankees.

Van Dyke won his fifth Emmy for the 1982 CBS Library Special Wrong Way Kid. Other TV movies included Drop-Out Father; Found Money, with Sid Caesar; the PBS special Breakfast with Les and Bess, with Cloris Leachman; the miniseries Strong Medicine; and a Showtime production of The Country Girl, with Faye Dunaway.

Van Dyke has been honored with many awards, including the Dace Legend of the Year award from the Professional Dancers Society of America, the 1998 Disney Legend Award, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Comedy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1993). The Dick Van Dyke Show was inducted into the Producers Guild Hall of Fame, and in 1995, Van Dyke was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

Mark Sloan, the crime-solving MD, was introduced in an episode of Jake and the Fat Man before becoming the central figure in several TV movies and the series Diagnosis Murder, which ran on CBS for eight seasons through the 1990s until 2001, followed by two additional Dr. Sloan movies in 2002. The series is now syndicated worldwide.

In 2003, nearly 40 years after The Dick Van Dyke Show, Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore reunited to play two lonely retirees in D.L. Coburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Gin Game on PBS Hollywood Theater. They were together again the following year as Rob and Laura Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.

Divorced in 1984, Van Dyke has two sons, two daughters, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He and the former Michelle Triola live in Malibu.


Note: This profile was written in or before 2006.
Read earlier biographies on this page.

Dick Van Dyke Facts

Birth NameRichard Wayne Van Dyke
OccupationActor
BirthdayDecember 13, 1925 (91)
SignSagittarius
BirthplaceWest Plains, Missouri, USA
Height6' 1" (1m85)  How tall is Dick Van Dyke compared to you?

Selected Filmography

Classic TV Bloopers: Uncensored
Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition
Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition
Night at the Museum
Curious George
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Diagnosis Murder// Complete Collection/8 Seasons 178 Episodes
Trollz
Bye Bye Birdie
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