Born on December 13th, 1925, in West Plains, Missouri, actor and comedian Richard Wayne Van Dyke —best known as Dick Van Dyke— has been in the entertainment business for more than six decades now. Growing up in Danville, Illinois, Dick became interested in acting after taking drama lessons in high school but started out his career as a DJ on Danville’s radio station WDAN. He left high school in 1944 to enlist in the Army during WWII but was rejected several times. Eventually, Dick joined the Army as a radio announcer. He was later transferred to the Special Services, where he provided entertainment for the troops in the continental United States.
In 1947, Van Dyke formed the comedy duo called “Eric and Van—the Merry Mutes” alongside mime artist Phil Erickson. The pair toured around the West Coast and even performed on television during the early 1950s. Dick’s television debut was actually in 1954’s talent show Chance of a Lifetime, followed by variety shows To Tell the Truth, The Phil Silvers Show, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom and The Polly Bergen Show. By 1959, Van Dyke had also made his Broadway debut in the plays The Girls Against the Boys and Bye Bye Birdie, which won him a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in 1961. Dick also made his film debut playing his Bye Bye Birdie character in the successful movie adaptation of 1963.
From 1961 to 1966, Van Dyke starred in his own sitcom, titled The Dick Van Dyke Show. The series was well received by the audience and press, and won four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. Van Dyke himself won three Emmy Awards for his work as lead actor in the series. Dick continued to appear in movies throughout the sixties and one of Dick’s most memorable performances of this decade is in the critically acclaimed Disney live-action musical Mary Poppins. This movie was followed by several comedic, less successful films, most notably What a Way to Go! (1964), The Art of Love (1965), Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. (1966), Some Kind of a Nut (1964), and Divorce American Style (1967). In 1968, he played the main character in the musical adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The film was a big hit and got nominations for Academy and Golden Globe Awards for Best Song.
Van Dyke returned to television with The New Dick Van Dyke Show (1971-1974), which was not related to its predecessor and wasn’t as successful either. He made guest appearances in other popular TV shows, such as The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1973), Columbo (1974) and The Carol Burnett Show (1977), and in 1976 hosted the Van Dyke and Company variety series. During the 1980s, Van Dyke mostly did television films and specials, as well as starred in a revival of his show, alongside his son Barry, in 1988’s The Van Dyke Show. The duo would later go on to play on screen father and son in the comedy-mystery-medical show Diagnosis: Murder, which ran from 1993 to 2001. Van Dyke only did one movie in the 1990s, action crime comedy Dick Tracy, and made a comeback with the animated Curious George in 2006. He was also seen in the Night at the Museum trilogy series (2006-2014) and had a cameo in the 2018 sequel to Mary Poppins. Since the beginning of the 2000s, Dick has had a steady career on television and films, appearing in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Scrubs, The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited, the Murder 101 film series, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and The Middle.