December 13, 1925 – Actor and Disney Legend Dick Van Dyke is Born
“Well, I thought [Walt Disney] hired me because I was such a great singer and dancer. As it turns out, he had heard me in an interview talking about what was happening to family entertainment. I was decrying the fact that it seemed like no holds were barred anymore in entertainment. … He knew about the “Van Dyke Show,” about our little sitcom, but that’s why he called me in, because I said something he agreed with. And I got the part.”
On December 13, 1925, Richard Wayne Van Dyke was born in West Plans, Missouri, but grew up in Danville, Illinois. At an early age, Van Dyke was inspired to become a comedian after watching the Laurel and Hardy comedies. During World War II, he served in the Army Air Corps as a radio announcer; he used those skills as a radio DJ in Danville, Illinois. He and his friend Phil Erickson created a pantomime act known as “The Merry Mutes,” that performed in nightclubs across the country. While appearing in Atlanta, Georgia, in the early ’50s, the two did their act on television. In 1959, Van Dyke won his first Broadway role in The Boys Get The Girls. The following year, he landed the lead role in Bye Bye Birdie as Albert Peterson. He not only won a Tony Award for his performance, but he also went on to perform the role in the film version of the musical.
In the 1960s, Van Dyke became well known for his comedic performances in the popular Dick Van Dyke Show. The show brought him to the attention of Walt Disney, who asked Van Dyke to play the role of Bert in the live-action film Mary Poppins. Van Dyke also asked for the role of the chairman of the bank; he played the roles to acclaim, although his British accent has been criticized as one of the worst accents in film history. Nevertheless, the film was a smash hit, making Van Dyke even more of a household name. Also for Disney, Van Dyke starred in Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N and Never A Dull Moment, and guest starred in ABC’s The Golden Girls. He was honored as a Disney Legend in 1998.