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Dick Van Patten is an actor who most TV viewers will remember as Tom Bradford, the father of the brood on Eight Is Enough.
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Actor. Dick Van Patten was born Richard Vincent Van Patten on December 9, 1928 in Queens, New York. His mother, Josephine, was a high school gym teacher, and his father, Richard, was a furniture salesman. His parents were both avid lovers of the theater, and every Friday night the Van Patten family trekked into Manhattan to see a different play. When Dick Van Patten was 7 years old, his mother began taking him to audition for shows. "My mother was a real stage mother," Van Patten recalls. "She used to take me up and down Broadway to all the casting directors, producers and agents."
In 1935, at the age of 7, Van Patten made his acting debut as Melvyn Douglas's son in the Broadway production of Tapestry in Gray. The role launched his prolific career as a child stage actor. He appeared in the Broadway productions of The Eternal Road (1937) and The American Way (1939). In 1946, Van Patten beat out 80 young actors, including Marlon Brando and Roddy McDowall, for the part of Michael Brown in O Mistress Mine, one of the biggest Broadway roles available to a young actor. While rehearsing for the show, Van Patten lived briefly in Ten Chimneys, Alfred Hunt and Lynne Fontanne's famous actor's retreat in Wisconsin.
After establishing himself on the Broadway stage, Van Patten forayed into a relatively new entertainment medium—television—on the 1949 CBS show Mama. The show, which followed a large Norwegian family living in San Francisco, was one of the top-rated programs of the 1950s. While filming Mama, Van Patten reconnected with his childhood sweetheart Patricia Poole, who was then dancing on CBS's The Jackie Gleason Show. They married in 1954.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Dick Van Patten appeared continuously in films and television shows. His most notable performances from this period include the Academy Award-winning film Charly (1968); the NBC cop comedy, The Partners (1971-1972); and guest appearances on such classic shows as I Dream of Jeannie (1970) and Sanford and Son (1972). Van Patten landed his most beloved and enduring role in 1977 on the ABC family drama Eight is Enough. His depiction of family patriarch Tom Bradford helped establish what became a stock character of American television—the good-natured TV dad. The show was an international hit, earning high ratings not only in the United States but also in Italy, France and the Philippines during its four-year run.
In addition to Eight is Enough, Van Patten is also well remembered for his many collaborations with longtime friend Mel Brooks.
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