My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

Oh its a jolly holiday with… Dick Van Dyke!   Appropriately titled, “My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business,” Van Dyke’s memoir was a refreshingly positive look back on his acting career.  I could not help but smile as he recounted how he continually fell into amazing opportunities.

Van Dyke’s path to Hollywood and fame began one day when his friend said he was heading to California, and asked Van Dyke to go along.  A former high school theatre buff, Van Dyke jumped into the car with his pal- destined to become one of the greatest comedians of our time.  Van Dyke and his pal had a comedy routine they did together and although Van Dyke was constantly offered a solo act, he remained with his partner for years.

You may not have known that first reality show was the televised wedding of Van Dyke! Too broke to be able to wed his love, he was offered the chance to have the wedding and following honeymoon paid for if he exchanged vows on tv!

Van Dyke’s real breakout role was as Albert Peterson in “Bye, Bye, Birdie” on Broadway.  Van Dyke would later go on to star in the movie version of the play alongside Ann Margaret and Janet Leigh.  In both the play and the movie, the choreographers were tuned in with the way Van Dyke moved, and were able to showcase his goofiness and flexibility in dances despite the fact that Van Dyke was not much of a dancer.

Of, course, anyone who was watching tv in 1961 (or in my case, watching nick at nite) associates Van Dyke with the funny Rob Petrie.  Particularly, as he enters his house and falls over the ottoman!  Created by Carl Reiner, the Dick Van Dyke Show starred some great comedic actors.  The show was written collaboratively with the actors each week, and many episodes reflect the personal lives of the actors!  Van Dyke describes that the episode where he thinks he hears a burglar and gets a gun, but the bullets are in a jewelry case that sings a goofy song every time he opens the lid to get the bullets actually happened to him.  Van Dyke mentions that he never felt that he “worked” on the show, because Rob Petrie’s character was so close to his own and because he got along so well with Mary Tyler Moore.  Perhaps that is why the show is so enjoyable to watch even fifty years later.

Van Dyke also describes the amazing time he had making “Mary Poppins.”  He recalls that Julie Andrews was professional and charming to work with, and that they knew the movie adaptation of P.L. Travers book would be very successful.  Interestingly, after the movie premiere, everyone thought it was a hit, except the author!, who demanded that Disney remove the animation.  Thankfully, Disney declined and the movie is still loved today.

I will admit I did not read the entire book.  I enjoyed the stories and life of Van Dyke so much that I really didn’t care to read about his days as an alcoholic.  Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Van Dyke, comedy or old Hollywood.

What is your favorite Dick Van Dyke movie?


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