Dick Van Dyke
Dick Van Dyke was an American actor, comedian, singer, and dancer who was one of the most well-rounded and beloved entertainers in American history. His career spanned seven decades, and saw him working in nearly every medium, from vaudeville to radio to television to Broadway and film, and find success in pretty much all of them. With his winning smile, fearless physicality, and affable manner, Van Dyke charmed audiences well into his nineties, and shows no signs of stopping. Richard Wayne Van Dyke was born in West Plains, MO. Growing up in Danville, IL, Van Dyke was around a number of people who would go on to careers in show business: two of his high school pals, Donald O'Connor and Bobby Short, became an actor and a jazz singer, respectively, while one of Van Dyke's closest friends was the cousin of another famous Danville resident, Gene Hackman. Despite growing up around so many creative people, Van Dyke was originally planning to join the priesthood, inspired by his mother's devout religious belief. Eventually, a high school drama class helped him realize that acting was his true passion, and Van Dyke decided to dedicate himself to do what he had originally wanted to do through religion with his acting: touch people's lives and put smiles on their faces. In 1944, his senior year of high school, Van Dyke dropped out so that he could enlist in the Air Force and fight in World War II. After being denied a number of times (due to being underweight), he was eventually accepted for service as a radio announcer, which kickstarted his career as an entertainer. After the war, in 1947, Van Dyke was working as a radio DJ back home in Danville, when a friend of his named Phil Erickson approached him about starting a comedy duo. They soon became Eric and Van the Merry Mutes, a pair of mimes who found some level of success touring across the country, eventually settling in Atlanta, GA. The next year, Van Dyke married his first wife, Margie Willett. The couple would go on to have four children, including Van Dyke's future co-star, Barry Van Dyke. After finding success in radio and vaudeville, Van Dyke soon moved on to the nascent format known as television, appearing on WDSU-TV New Orleans Channel 6 as a comedian and later as an emcee of a comedy program. In 1954, Van Dyke made his first network TV appearance on an episode of "Chance of a Lifetime" (ABC, 1952-56). He soon landed guest spots on shows such as "The Phil Silvers Show" (CBS, 1955-59), "The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom" (ABC, 1957-1960), and "The Polly Bergen Show" (NBC, 1957-58). In 1959, Van Dyke made his Broadway debut in the show "The Girls Against the Boys." This lead director and choreographer Gower Champion to cast Van Dyke in the lead role of Albert Peterson in the musical "Bye Bye Birdie," which ran from 1960 to 1961. Despite his initial hesitations (he had never danced professionally before), the show was a smash hit, and Van Dyke won a Tony award for his performance. He would go on to reprise the role for the 1963 film adaptation, which was a hit at the box office. By this time, of course, Van Dyke was already a superstar, thanks to a groundbreaking sitcom that bore his name: "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (CBS, 1961-66). Created by Carl Reiner and based on his own career as a TV comedy writer, the show centered around the everyday lives of Van Dyke's neurotic, accident-prone comedy writer, Rob Petrie, and his eternally patient wife, Laura Petrie, played by Mary Tyler Moore. Van Dyke would go on to win three Emmy awards for his efforts, while the show would be crowned Outstanding Comedy Series four times. While "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was on the air, Van Dyke managed to pull off what was in that day impossible: he became just as big a star in the movies as he was on TV. In 1964, he pulled double duty as Bert the chimney sweep and the banker Mr. Dawes Senior in Walt Disney's adaptation of "Mary Poppins" (1964). Though Van Dyke's attempts at a cockney accent were widely mocked, the film became an instant family classic. After a cool period which saw a number of his films flop, including the likes of "The Art of Love" (1965), "Divorce American Style" (1967), and "Never A Dull Moment" (1968), Van Dyke bounced back when he played Caractacus Pott in yet another instant family classic, "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (1968). He rounded out the decade by getting dark, playing a self-destructive silent film era comedian in Carl Reiner's film "The Comic" (1969). Though it wasn't a huge hit, critics were impressed with Van Dyke's dramatic range. Van Dyke soon returned to familiar territory, starring in "The New Dick Van Dyke Show" (CBS, 1971-74). Once again developed by Carl Reiner, this series saw Van Dyke playing a local TV talk show host, with Hope Lange as his wife. Unfortunately, the creative team were unable to catch lighting in a bottle for a second time, and the series was cancelled after three seasons. Van Dyke quickly bounced back, earning an Emmy nod for his portrayal of an alcoholic businessman in the made-for-TV movie "The Morning After" (ABC, 1974). It was fitting, as Van Dyke had recently overcome a real-life drinking problem, one which sadly ended his marriage to Margie Willett, though the two would wait until 1984 to officially finalize their divorce. 1976 proved to be a banner year for Van Dyke: he lead the cast of the short-lived sketch comedy show "Van Dyke and Company" (CBS, 1976), which helped launch the careers of Andy Kaufman and Bob Einstein and won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy-Variety Series, despite being on the air for only three months. That same year he also met his long-time partner, Michelle Triola, whom he would live with for more than 30 years, until her death in 2009. The next year, Van Dyke joined the cast of "The Carol Burnett Show" (CBS, 1967-1978) just in time for the legendary sketch program's final season. After this, Van Dyke slowed down a bit, and spent most of the 80s appearing in forgettable made-for-TV movies and making one-off guest appearances on shows like "Matlock" (NBC, 1986-1992/ABC, 1992-95), "Airwolf" (CBS, 1984-87), and "The Golden Girls" (NBC, 1985-1992). However, Van Dyke was able to mount a comeback in 1990, when he earned critical acclaim for his villainous turn as D.A. Fletcher in Warren Beatty's adaptation of the pulp comic series "Dick Tracy" (1990). From there, Van Dyke also returned to TV, playing Dr. Mark Sloan on the hugely popular procedural "Diagnosis: Murder" (CBS, 1993-2001), with his real-life son Barry co-starring as Dr. Sloan's son, Lieutenant Detective Steve Sloan. After playing this character for eight seasons and multiple TV movies, Van Dyke returned to the movies, playing villainous types in the films "Curious George" (2006) and "Night at the Museum" (2006). The latter was a big hit, and Van Dyke would return for the sequel, "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (2009). Sadly, that same year, his longtime partner, Michelle Triola, passed away. In 2012, Van Dyke remarried, this time to makeup artist Arlene Silver, a longtime friend whom he first met at the SAG Awards in 2006. Most recently, Van Dyke delighted audiences by reprising the role of Mr. Dawes Sr. in the long-awaited sequel "Mary Poppins Returns" (2018), complete with a dance number with co-stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt.