Best Known For
Dick Van Dyke is an American actor and comedian best known for hosting The Dick Van Dyke Show. He's also known for starring on Diagnosis Murder and for roles in films like Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Night at the Museum.
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Born in Missouri in 1925, Dick Van Dyke is known for his starring role in the musical Bye Bye Birdie (1963), and for hosting the successful television comedy series The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–66). Additionally, he starred in the drama series Diagnosis Murder (1993–2001), has won several Emmy Awards and has performed in a number of films, including Mary Poppins; Dick Tracy; Night at the Museum; and Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.
"I was always in show business, but, in many ways, was not really of show business. I didn't move in show business circles, particularly, still don't do it."
"I've retired so many times now it's getting to be a habit."
Dick Van Dyke was born on December 13, 1925, in West Plains, Missouri. During his more than 60 years in show business, Van Dyke has enjoyed great success on the stage, in films and on television. The tall, lanky actor is best known for his comedic antics. One of his early influences was Stan Laurel, of the famous comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
Van Dyke grew up in Danville, Illinois, with his parents Loren and Hazel and younger brother, Jerry, who also became an actor. "Danville was a town of 30,000 people, and it felt as if most of them were relatives," Van Dyke later wrote in his autobiography, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business. His father, Loren, was often away from the family, working as a traveling salesman for the Sunshine Cookie Company.
In his younger years, Van Dyke considered becoming a minister. He abandoned this ambition, however, after joining high high school's drama club, and developing his singing and dancing skills in school musicals. His classmates included actor Donald O'Connor and entertainer Bobby Short. Around this time, Van Dyke landed his first professional job, working part-time at a local radio station.
In 1942, Van Dyke enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, and ended up in the special services unit. There, he performed in shows and hosted a radio show. After being discharged from the service in 1945, Van Dyke tried his hand at advertising, but after realizing that the business wasn't a good match for him, he joined novelty lip-synching act the "Merry Mutes" and moved to California.
For years, Van Dyke struggled financially and professionally. He and his first wife, Margie, married on a radio show called Bride and Groom in 1948, in part because the program paid for the ceremony and gave them a free honeymoon. In late 1940s and early '50s, Van Dyke worked in radio and television in Atlanta and New Orleans. He landed a seven-year contract with CBS television in the early 1950s, but was let go after three years.
In 1959, Van Dyke landed a small part in the Broadway comedy review Girls Against the Boys. The show only lasted two weeks, and he soon moved on to another production. Along with Chita Rivera, Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly, Van Dyke was cast in the musical Bye Bye Birdie, which made its Broadway debut in 1960. The musical proved to a big hit, and it brought Van Dyke his one and only Tony Award win in 1961, for his supporting role. Not long after, his career took off.
Despite being a relatively unknown actor, Van Dyke got starring billing in his breakthrough television series, The Dick Van Dyke Show.
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