Van Dyke's entertainment career began during World War II when he
participated in variety shows and worked as an announcer while serving
in the military. That career has continued with five decades of
work as an actor on network and local television, the stage and
in motion pictures. The television work started with his role as
host of variety programs in Atlanta, Georgia, and his first foray
into network television came in 1956 as the emcee of CBS Television's
it was his role as Rob Petrie on the classic CBS situation comedy
The Dick Van Dyke Show that insured his place in television
history. He was cast by series creator Carl Reiner and series producer
Sheldon Leonard in the role of a television comedy writer (Reiner
himself played in the series pilot Head of the Family). He
was selected over another television pioneer, Johnny Carson. Plucked
from a starring role on the Broadway stage in Bye Bye Birdie, Van
Dyke used his unique talent for physical comedy, coupled with his
ability to sing and dance, to play Robert Simpson Petrie, the head
writer of the Alan Brady Show. Complementing Van Dyke was
a veteran cast of talented comedic actors including Rose Marie,
Morey Amsterdam, Jerry Paris, Carl Reiner (as Alan Brady), as well
as a newcomer to television Mary Tyler Moore, who played Rob's wife
In many ways The Dick Van Dyke Show broke new ground in network
television. The series created quite a stir when, in the early 1960s,
husband and wife, though still sleeping in separate beds, were shown
to actually have a physical relationship, and Mary Tyler Moore was
even shown wearing Capri pants, unheard of at the time. But the
quintessential example of the innovations offered by The Dick
Van Dyke Show occurred when, after the network rejected the
script, only an appeal from Sheldon Leonard himself secured permission
to film the episode "That's My Boy??" In this episode, Rob (Van
Dyke) is convinced that the baby he and Laura brought home from
the hospital was not theirs, but a baby belonging to another couple,
the Peters. Constant mix-ups with flowers and candy at the hospital,
caused by the similarity in names (Petrie and Peters), convinced
Rob that the babies were somehow switched, and he decided to confront
the Peters family. Only when the Peters show up at Rob and Laura's
house does Rob learns that the Peters are African American. Some
have speculated that the overwhelming positive reaction by audiences
to this episode led Sheldon Leonard to eventually cast another future
television megastar, Bill Cosby, in I Spy.
Dick Van Dyke won three Emmy Awards for his role in TDVDS, and the
series received four Emmy Awards as outstanding comedy series. The
series, which began in 1961, ended its network television run in
1966, although audiences have enjoyed the program through its extended
life in syndication.
Although Dick Van Dyke went on to star in such feature films as
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins and The Comic,
he has continued to be a staple on network television with The
New Dick Van Dyke Show, Van Dyke and Company (for which he received
his fourth Emmy) and a critically-acclaimed and Emmy-nominated dramatic
performance in the made-for-television movie The Morning After.
In his fifth decade in television, Van Dyke has been seen in
the 1990s prime time series Diagnosis Murder for CBS, in
which he co-starred with his son Barry Van Dyke.
Dick Van Dyke
Photo courtesy of Dick Van Dyke
VAN DYKE. Born in West Plains, Missouri, U.S.A., 13 December
1925. Married: Marjorie Willett, 1948; three daughters and two sons.
Served in U.S. Army Air Corps, during World War II. Founded advertising
agency with Wayne Williams, Danville, Illinois, 1946; appeared with
Phillip Erickson in pantomime act The Merry Mutes, Eric and Van,
1947-53; television master of ceremonies, The Music Shop,
Atlanta; hosted television variety show The Dick Van Dyke Show,
New Orleans; master of ceremonies, The Morning Show, CBS, 1955,
and The Cartoon Show, 1956; hosted weekly television show
Flair, ABC, 1960; performed on Broadway in Bye Bye Birdie,
1960-61; starred in weekly television sitcom The Dick Van Dyke
Show, CBS, 1961-66; performed in such films as Mary Poppins,
1965, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 1968; returned to television
series format with Diagnosis: Murder, 1994; chair, Nick
at Nite, since 1992. Recipient: Theater World Award, 1960; Antoinette
Perry Award, 1961; four Emmy Awards.
The Morning Show
1956 Cartoon Show
1958-59 Mother's Day
1959 Laugh Lines
The Dick Van Dyke Show
1971-74 The New Dick Van Dyke Show
1976 Van Dyke and Company
1988 The Van Dyke Show
1994- Diagnosis: Murder
1974 The Morning After
1977 Tubby the Tuba (voice only)
1982 Drop-Out Father
1983 Found Money
1987 Ghost of a Chance
Bye Bye Birdie, 1963; What a Way To Go, 1964; Lt.
Robin Crusoe, USN, 1965; Mary Poppins, 1965; Divorce
American Style, 1967; Never a Dull Moment, 1967; Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang, 1968; The Comic, 1969; Some Kind
of Nut, 1969; Cold Turkey, 1971; The Runner Stumbles,
1979; Drop-Out Father, 1982; Dick Tracy, 1990; Freddie
Goes to Washington (voice only), 1992.
The Girls Against the Boys, 1959; Bye Bye Birdie,
Faith, Hope, and Hilarity. Garden City, New York: Doubleday,
Neal. "A Familiar Face Introduces himself to a New Generation" (interview).
The New York Times, 21 October 1992.
Grote, David. The End of Comedy: The Sit-com and the Comedic
Tradition. Hamden, Connecticut: Archon Books, 1983.
Darrell Y. Nervous Laughter: Television Situation Comedy and
Liberal Democratic Ideology. New York: Praeger, 1989.
John. The Best of TV Sitcoms: Burns and Allen to the Cosby Show,
The Munsters to Mary Tyler Moore. New York: Harmony Books, 1988.
Gerard. Honey, I'm Home!: Sitcoms, Selling the American Dream.
New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1992,
Nina. Living Room Lectures: The Fifties Family in Film and Television.
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.
Marc, David. Comic Visions: Television Comedy and American Culture.
Boston, Massachusetts: Unwin Hyman, 1989.
Rick. The Great TV Sitcom Book. New York: R. Marek, 1980.
Waldron, Vince. Classic Sitcoms: A Celebration of the Best of
Prime-time Comedy. New York: Macmillan, 1987.
_______________. The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book: The Definitive
History and Ultimate Viewer's Guide to Television's Most Enduring
Comedy. New York: Hyperion, 1994.
G., & Sanders, C. S. The Dick Van Dyke Show: Anatomy of a Classic.
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983.
Domestic Settings; Comedy,
Workplace Settings; Dick
Van Dyke Show; Moore,
Mary Tyler; Reiner,