Now over 90 years old, Dick Van Dyke has been a cultural icon for decades. He still hasn’t retired but the longtime Hollywood standout has definitely slowed down in recent years. Long gone are the days of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Mary Poppins, so let’s take a look back at some things you would have never known about this legend.
1. He was a ridiculously tall child.
He was already over six feet tall before he turned 12. He wrote about being 6’1″ by the time he was 11 in his book, Those Funny Kids: A Treasury of Classroom Laughter.
2. He didn’t know how old he was until he was an adult.
Another revelation from his second book, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, was that his parents lied to him about his age until he was 18. They did this to hide the fact that he was born outside of wedlock.
3. He didn’t get his high school diploma until the early 2000s.
Van Dyke didn’t receive his high school diploma with the rest of his classmates because he left school early in order to join the army. He did get his diploma in 2004 when he returned to his old high school to see their production of Bye Bye Birdie.
4. His first wedding was broadcast on public radio.
When Van Dyke married his first wife, Margie Willett, they allowed their wedding to be broadcast as part of the Bride and Groom show. The show paid for the couple’s rings, honeymoon and household appliances. Van Dyke said that they were so poor at some points that they had to live in their car for a while.
5. He was virtually unknown before The Dick Van Dyke Show.
When the producers of the show were putting it together, they wanted to have an “All-American” guy as the lead cast member. Van Dyke was working on Broadway in a production of Bye Bye Birdie when he finally got the spot. He took a week off to shoot the premiere.
6. The show almost went to someone else.
Van Dyke’s breakout role on The Dick Van Dyke Show almost went to Johnny Carson. The producers had narrowed the list down to two mid-western boys. Van Dyke won, and the rest as they say, is history.
7. He was a regular on The Carol Burnett Show, for half a season.
Though he signed onto the show in order to replace Harvey Korman during the 10th season, he left halfway through. The audience felt that he lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. He has remained friends with Burnett ever since.
8. He was in his first movie when he was 36.
He was a mainstay on Broadway before becoming an on-screen legend. When Bye Bye Birdie was turned into a movie in 1963, Van Dyke was the obvious choice.
9. His high school newspaper seems to have been clairvoyant.
It seems that they predicted his entertainment success when he was still just a kid in high school.
10. He still isn’t retired.
“I’m having the best so-called retirement of anyone I know, doing what I love doing,” – Van Dyke.
Though he has been semi-retired since the 70s, he still continues to take the odd project here and there.
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