Night at the Museum
In the 1960s, Dick Van Dyke was famous for his role as TV writer Robert ‘Rob’ Simpson Petrie in the acclaimed sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1961-1966), which gave him three Emmy Awards and another Emmy nomination. Formerly giving a Tony-winning performance in the musical play “Bye, Bye Birdie” (1960), Van Dyke later exhibited his comedic talent in the film Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966), “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” (1971-1974, received a Golden Globe nomination), the TV special Van Dyke and Company (1975, earned an Emmy nomination) and its spin-off series, “Van Dyke and Company” (1976, won an Emmy Award and an Emmy nomination). Recently, the veteran performer could be seen acting with Ben Stiller and Carla Gugino in the fantasy comedy Night at the Museum (2006).
Van Dyke, who once flirted with the idea of becoming a Presbyterian minister, has served as an elder in the Presbyterian Church. In 1970, he published the collection of humorous anecdotes “Faith, Hope and Hilarity: a Child’s Eye View of Religion.” Also in the same decade, he had a battle with alcohol.
Van Dyke, who in 1999 became an honorary life member of The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America (SPEBSQSA), Inc., recently developed a special interest in computer animation and CGI. The ex-husband of Margie Willett (1948-1984, has 4 children) now lives with partner Michelle Triola.
The Merry Mute
Childhood and Family:
Richard Wayne Van Dyke (later famous as Dick Van Dyke) was born in West Plains, Missouri, on December 13, 1925, and grew up in Danville, Illinois, with brother Jerry Van Dyke (also entertainer) and friends Gene Hackman and Bobby Short. While studying at Danville High School, Dick joined the school drama club and a community theatre.
Dick, whose surname is a form of the Dutch “van Dijk,” was highly interested in Laurel & Hardy films. After serving as a radio announcer and performer in the Air Force during World War II, he failed at an attempt to build a Danville advertising agency. Dick then worked in local radio and TV stations in Atlanta and New Orleans before performing with the duo pantomime act called “The Merry Mutes,” which he formed with friend Philip Erickson.
Dick has four children from his marriage with Margie Willett (1948-1984): Barry Van Dyke, Carrie Beth van Dyke, Christian Van Dyke and Stacy Van Dyke. He has seven grandchildren, including Shane Van Dyke, Carey Van Dyke, Wes and Taryn. For the last several decades, Dick has lived with partner Michelle Triola.
While hosting at a local TV station, Dick Van Dyke signed a contract with CBS and soon appeared as a host for the network’s “The Morning Show” (1955-1956), replacing Johnny Carson. In addition, he became a guest in the music show “Frankie Laine Time” (1955) and the host of “CBS Cartoon Theater” (1956). Van Dyke made his acting debut in two episodes of the comedy series “The Phil Silvers Show” (1957-1958).
Attempting the stage world, Van Dyke appeared in the Broadway play “The Girls Against the Boys” (1959) before earning immediate recognition through his role in the successful musical “Bye, Bye Birdie” (1960), which garnered him a coveted Tony award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Musical. Actor Carl Reiner, who saw Van Dyke’s performance in the play, then cast him in the role of Robert ‘Rob’ Simpson Petrie, a writer staff member for the fictional TV show The Alan Brady Show, in the highly rated and critically acclaimed CBS sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1961-1966). For his witty turn in the series, Van Dyke won three Emmys and took home an additional Emmy nomination.
While starring in the sitcom, Van Dyke also became a guest panelist in the game show “Pantomime Quiz” (1962) and reprised his stage role in the movie Bye Bye Birdie (1963). The next year, he delivered a fine performance as Bert, the chimney sweep with a famous Cockney accent, in the Julie Andrews-starring classic Mary Poppins (1964, was nominated for a Golden Globe and a Golden Laurel award). Also performing the songs “Jolly Holiday,” “I Love to Laugh,” “Chim-Chim-Cheree,” “Step in Time” “A Man Has Dreams,” “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the actor won a Grammy for his soundtrack work.
Following his Golden Laurel-nominated performance as struggling painter Paul Sloane in the comedy The Art of Love (1965), the performer presented a witty portrayal of a navy pilot in Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. (1966) and was given a Golden Laurel award for his effort. Van Dyke, who cited the late Stan Laurel as his comic inspiration, later accepted leading roles in such comedic films as Divorce American Style (1967), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and The Comic (1969).
After hosting the TV special Dick Van Dyke Meets Bill Cosby (1970), the comedian revisited his sitcom triumph with “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” (1971-1974, earned a Golden Globe nomination), where he was cast as local talk show host Dick Preston. Van Dyke also took the dramatic role of alcoholic Charlie Lester in the drama The Morning After (1974, TV, was nominated for an Emmy) and Paul Galesko in Columbo: Negative Reaction (1974, TV).
Van Dyke wrote and headlined the TV special Van Dyke and Company (1975, earned an Emmy’s Best Writing nomination). Its spin-off series, the self-penned “Van Dyke and Company” (1976), brought him an Emmy award and another Emmy nomination.
Next up for Van Dyke, he became a regular player in the last season of “The Carol Burnett Show” (1977), starred as Father Brian Rivard in the disastrous drama film The Runner Stumbles (1979) and was seen in the TV film How to Eat Like a Child (1980). On stage, he appeared in a short-lived revival of the musical “The Music Man” (1980).
Attempting to resurrect his fame after an alcoholism period, Van Dyke took part in TV films like Drop-Out Father (1982), Found Money (1983), Strong Medicine (1986) and Ghost of a Chance (1987). His effort in the CBS sitcom “The Van Dyke Show” (1988, as Dick Burgess) was unsuccessful, but his guest appearance as Ken in the sitcom “The Golden Girls” (1989) earned him an Emmy nomination.
Subsequent to Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990) and Daughters of Privilege (1991, TV), Van Dyke portrayed Dr. Mark Sloan, alongside son Barry Van Dyke, in the detective TV movie Diagnosis Murder (1992), as well as its spin-off projects: The House on Sycamore Street (1992, TV), A Twist of the Knife (1993, TV) and the series “Diagnosis Murder” (1993-2001). He then reunited with Carl Reiner in the TV cartoon film The Alan Brady Show (2003, voiced Webb) and the special show The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited (2004).
In 2006, Van Dyke appeared as Dr. Jonathan Maxwell in the Barry Van Dyke-starring TV movie Murder 101 and lent his voice for Mr. Bloomsberry in the big screen version of the popular children’s books Curious George, along with Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore and Eugene Levy. He recently also shared the screen with Ben Stiller and Carla Gugino in the fantasy comedy Night at the Museum (2006).