This versatile actor was born on December 13, 1925, in West Plains, Missouri. Van Dyke got his start in show business as the announcer of the radio program Flight Time while serving in the Air Force during World War II. His first use of pantomime, a theatrical technique he would utilize throughout his career, occurred in a nightclub act called The Merry Mutes, where he teamed with his boyhood friend Philip Ericksen.
In the 1950s, Van Dyke relocated to Atlanta, where he was the host of two variety shows for local television. Two years later he would be in New Orleans, starring in another local variety program, The Dick Van Dyke Show. He broke into network TV in 1956 -- first hosting Cartoon Theatre for CBS, then replacing Jack Paar on his morning show, hosting a couple of quiz shows and making guest spots on the Ed Sullivan, Perry Como, and Dinah Shore shows.
But it was Broadway's hit musical Bye Bye Birdie that made Van Dyke a star. His likeability on stage led Carl Reiner to cast him in the role of Rob Petrie for his new TV series, a role Reiner originally envisioned for himself. Reiner changed the name of his show from Head of the Family to The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Van Dyke ended up winning three consecutive Emmy Awards.
During the course of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran from 1961-66, its eponymous star appeared in several major motion pictures. He first recreated his Broadway role in the film version of Bye Bye Birdie, and then followed it with What A Way To Go! Mary Poppins and The Art of Love. After the TV series wrapped up, he starred in such hits as Divorce, American Style and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In 1969, he reteamed with Carl Reiner, who directed him in The Comic, a semi-comic picture about the rise and fall of a silent film comedian.
In the early 1970s, Van Dyke returned to series television, playing an Arizona talk show host in The New Dick Van Dyke Show. Towards the end of this series, which ran for three seasons, the actor made headlines when he entered an alcoholic-recovery clinic. Afterwards, he actively worked to help other alcoholics battle this disease. He also portrayed an alcoholic in the critically acclaimed TV movie The Morning After, which won him an Emmy nomination in 1974.
In 1976, Dick hosted a short-lived variety series, Van Dyke and Company, which allowed him to utilize his pantomime expertise. He then became a one-season regular on The Carol Burnett Show.
Throughout most of the 1980s, Van Dyke concentrated primarily on TV specials and made-for-TV movies, including HBO's The Country Girl opposite Faye Dunaway, and Drop Out Father opposite Mariette Hartley. During this time, he also starred in a touring company revival of The Music Man. In 1988, he appeared in 10 episodes of the sitcom, Van Dyke, opposite his son.
In 1992, Dick Van Dyke became Nick at Nite's honorary Chairman of the Board, dedicated to preserving our television heritage. During the same time, he came out of retirement to star in a series of comedy-mystery telefilms as Dr. Sloan, a surgeon/detective. This ongoing project subsequently became a regular series on CBS called Diagnosis Murder.
Van Dyke continues working in TV and film, appearing in Night at the Museum (2006), and in 2011 he published his memoir, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business.
A former sergeant in the United States Army, where he was stationed at Camp Crowder, Missouri, Rob Petrie forged a career as a television writer in the 1950s. After settling in New York, Rob developed an expertise in sketch comedy. He got his biggest break when he was appointed head writer for The Alan Brady Show, a weekly variety series.
Although he oversees a pair of writers who are far more seasoned than he, Rob's ability to be both wildly spontaneous and professionally disciplined make him perfect for his prestigious position. He commutes to Manhattan from the suburb of New Rochelle, where he lives with his attractive wife Laura and their son Richie. Rob is a very loving husband and father; he shows affection quite openly, although in his high-profile job, many women become attracted to him over the years. This presents a continuing dilemma for Laura, who is prone to jealousy despite Rob's strongly constant fidelity.
In addition to his flair for the written word, Rob is a gifted song-and-dance man as well as a mime. He also does a keen impersonation of Stan Laurel. Tall and lanky, Rob is not always at ease in the physical world. He tends to trip, stumble, fall, and sometimes hurt himself, resulting in a comic display of intense pain.