Dick van Dyke is a film and television actor. Two of his most memorable pieces of work were the movie Mary Poppins and the (s)hit syndicated daytime TV drama Diagnosis Murder. I dimly recall that there was at one time a Dick van Dyke Show, although I have never seen it myself. Anyway, there are at least two reasons why he is notable :

His accent in Mary Poppins, as a half-Australian, half-Swedish cockney chimneysweep. To this day, any American tourists wishing to blend in in the East End of London can simply affect his highly authentic tones and be instantly accepted as one of the fold;

His name, when run though a v-chipped TV closed captioning system, is rendered "Jerk van Gay". Excellent.

Oh, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Dick Van Dyke has led a full and devoted life in the world of comedy. He has been a man of pure humor and entertainment even to this day.

In the Beginning...

Born on December 13, 1925 to a trucking agent in West Plains, Missouri, Van Dyke soon moved to make Danville, Illinois his new hometown. Then, he served for two years in the United States Air Force during World War II. After being discharged, he went on to open an advertising agency with a friend back in Danville. However, the agency was short-lived, and after becoming bankrupt, Van Dyke had no other choice but to move to another line of work. So, me moved on to start "The Merry Mutes" (later known as "Eric and Van"), a comedy-pantomime act with his old friend Philip Erickson. Together they toured around the country to nightclub circuits, doing quite well until they went their separate ways in 1953. Van Dyke began appearing solo in nightclubs, and soon got a job at a television station in Atlanta, Georgia. Here, he was the emcee of the two daytime shows, The Merry Mutes Show and The Music Shop. His next step up was when he signed a seven-year contract with the CBS TV network after moving to New York City in 1955. He started off by hosting the CBS Morning Show, and then an evening program Cartoon Theatre. Van Dyke asked that he be released from this contract though, when CBS would not fulfill his requests for his own daytime show. After leaving CBS, he became a regular on The Andy Williams Show and Pantomime Quiz on ABC, and also the emcee on NBC in 1959.

Breaking Through in Showbiz

Van Dyke first appeared on Broadway in the show The Girls Against the Boys. Then, the big break that he had been waiting for came when he co-starred in the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie in 1960. His outstanding performance in that musical earned him a Tony Award, and then shortly a film debut of the movie version of the play in 1963 that was quickly a hit. Oddly enough, by the time that he appeared in his first movie, he was already popular with audiences by being the star of his own CBS sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show that kicked off in 1961. Playing the part of a comedy writer and lovable family man Rob Petrie with his on-screen wife Mary Tyler Moore let him to win two Emmy Awards for Best Actor two years in a row, 1964 and 1965. The Dick Van Dyke Show ran until 1966 and led the way for the TV sitcoms of today. Van Dyke moved on to more movies, capturing the hearts of children and families as Burt the Chimney Sweep in the popular Disney movie Mary Poppins.

Stumbling block

Unfortunately, other future movies and sitcoms could not live up to his previous success and started a downturn for the funny guy Van Dyke. He shocked his fans by announcing he was a struggling alcoholic, and the unexpected divorce from his wife Marjorie after 30 years of marriage. He struggled professionally through the 1970's and 1980's.

Closing with a Bang

Van Dyke regained some ground after appearing in some dramatic TV movies such as Drop-Out Father and Strong Medicine. Showing what an energetic person he was, he embarked on the TV venture series Diagnosis Murder in 1993 at the age of 68. This series brought him to one of his most successful television positions in years. "Later, in 2000, at a gala tribute for The Dick Van Dyke Show creator Carl Reiner, Van Dyke announced his retirement from television."

Family Life

Dick Van Dyke has four children: Christian (son), Barry (son), Stacey (daughter) and Carrie (daughter). Barry can be seen playing the real life role as Van Dyke's son in the Diagnosis Murder series. Van Dyke's younger bother Jerry, who was a past performer in nightclubs has appeared in the well known series Coach. Van Dyke now lives with Michelle Triola Marvin, his longtime companion, in Malibu.


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