Born in 1926, Dick Van Dyke grew up in tiny Danville, Ill., which also produced stars Donald O'Connor and Gene Hackman. When Van Dyke left Danville High to join the Air Force, the school paper predicted that his postwar career would see him "right at the top of the entertainment world."
ca. 1941: Courtesy of Danville Public Schools
'The Morning Show'
After World War II, Van Dyke joined a pantomime group called the Merry Mutes, attracting talent scouts at CBS, who put him under contract. In the mid-1950s, he hosted CBS News' The Morning Show, which also featured Walter Cronkite.
1955: CBS/Getty Images
'Bride and Groom'
Van Dyke married his hometown sweetheart Marjorie Willett in L.A. in 1948 — talking his way onto the radio show Bride and Groom and tying the knot on the air. The show paid for the rings and honeymoon he later joked he couldn't afford. They divorced in 1984.
ca. 1960s: Photofest
'Trap for a Stranger'
Van Dyke's CBS deal gave him his first real shot at acting. He appeared on various network shows, including an episode of the United States Steel Hour titled "Trap for a Stranger" alongside George C. Scott and Teresa Wright.
1959: CBS/Getty Images
'Bye Bye Birdie'
Van Dyke's huge showbiz break came in 1960, when he landed a starring role in the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie. A novice dancer when he auditioned, Van Dyke proved a natural, winning a Tony Award and later starring in the 1963 hit film.
ca. 1960: Photofest
'The Dick Van Dyke Show'
In 1962, on the heels of Bye Bye Birdie, Carl Reiner tapped Van Dyke to play the lead in a sitcom based on Reiner's life as a comedy writer. The show was a huge hit, and viewers fell for the iconic pairing of Van Dyke and then-unknown Mary Tyler Moore as Rob and Laura Petrie.
1963: CBS/Getty Images
In 1964, Van Dyke was in the hit musical, playing two roles opposite Julie Andrews' magical nanny: chimney sweep Bert and chairman of the bank Mr. Dawes. His awful Cockney accent is the stuff of movie legend, but his big song ("Chim Chim Cheree") took home the Oscar for best tune.
1964: Everett Collection
Success Runs in the Family
Dick's younger brother Jerry has enjoyed a long Hollywood career as well. Jerry played Rob Petrie's brother Sandy on The Dick Van Dyke Show and is probably best known to contemporary audiences for his role as Luther Van Dam on the long-running '90s sitcom Coach.
ca. 1960s: Photofest
'The Morning After'
Van Dyke took on a rare dramatic role for this 1974 TV movie, in which he played an alcoholic whose addiction threatens his marriage and career. The movie made news when Van Dyke admitted that he had battled alcoholism as well. The role earned him an Emmy nomination for Best Actor in a Drama.
1974: Everett Collection
'The Carol Burnett Show'
After a string of starring roles on sitcoms failed to replicate the success of his original show, Van Dyke joined the cast of The Carol Burnett Show in 1977. (Ben Vereen showed up that year, too.) Van Dyke left after just a few months. The show ended in 1978.
1977: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Van Dyke turned down lead roles in TV dramas for years but finally said yes to this one in 1992. Good thing. His run as crime-solving medic Dr. Mark Sloan lasted eight seasons. Van Dyke's son Barry played Sloan's detective son, and the duo formed a hugely popular father-son crime-solving partnership.
ca 1990s: Cat's Collection/Corbis
'The Gin Game'
This 2004 PBS presentation of D.L. Coburn's stage play about a friendship between a man and a woman that blossoms over card games at a retirement home reunited Van Dyke with Mary Tyler Moore. "Dick enabled me to take it on," Moore said. "I knew I would feel supported."
2003: Everett Collection
'Night at the Museum'
In the 2006 hit kids' movie starring Ben Stiller, Van Dyke played an older security guard in cahoots with fellow film vets Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs. "It's a classic family movie," he said. "I get to play a bad guy, which I love."
2006: 20thCentFox/Everett Collection
Since 2000, Van Dyke has sung with this quartet, performing at charity benefits and events. They recorded an album in 2008 and sang for President and Mrs. Obama last year. His fellow members are all in their 40s. "There's nothing better than having young friends to be around," he says.
2009: Courtesy Larissa Underwood/The Vantastix
Bride and Groom, Again
In early 2012, Van Dyke married 40-year-old makeup artist Arlene Silver, whom he met at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in the late 2000s. Van Dyke was 86 when they wed. "It's enough to make Hugh Hefner blush," he joked.
2012: WWD/Conde Nast/Corbis
Screen Actors Guild Awards
Last year, Van Dyke presented Mary Tyler Moore with SAG's Life Achievement Award. She planned to return the favor on Jan. 27 but canceled due to illness. (Alec Baldwin stepped in.) In announcing the honor, SAG-AFTRA Copresident Ken Howard called Van Dyke "the consummate entertainer."
2012: John Shearer/WireImage/Getty Images
galleries and quizzes
From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.
Member save 10% every day at Anna's Linens and AnnasLinens.com.
Members save up to $525 on vacations at AARP® Travel Center powered by Expedia®.
Members save 25% off regular price menu items at Papa John's.
Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.