Dick Van Dyke to get SAG Life Achievement Award

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Dick Van Dyke

Dick Van Dyke

Dick Van Dyke, who took on the dual role of Bert and Mr. Dawes Senior in the partly ani­mated 1964 Dis­ney musi­cal Mary Pop­pins, will receive SAG-AFTRA’s high­est honor — the SAG Life Achieve­ment Award for career achieve­ment and human­i­tar­ian accomplishment.

The beloved actor, singer, dancer, writer and come­dian will be pre­sented the per­form­ers union’s most pres­ti­gious acco­lade, given annu­ally to an actor who fos­ters the “finest ideals of the act­ing pro­fes­sion,” at the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, which pre­mieres live on TNT and TBS next Jan­u­ary 27.

Van Dyke voiced the title role in the 1975 car­toon movie Tubby the Tuba, and was Mr. Blooms­berry in the 2006 ani­mated film Curi­ous George. He was Com­mis­sioner Gor­don in the 2005 direct-to-video short Bat­man: New Times.

In TV-movies, he voiced nar­ra­tor Old Jeremy Creek in The Town Santa For­got (1993) and Webb in The Alan Brady Show (2003). He guested on “Scooby-Doo Meets Dick Van Dyke,” a 1973 episode of The New Scooby-Doo Movies.

His voiceover tal­ents were also employed the 2010 short The Care­taker 3D, a trib­ute to the Hol­ly­wood Sign.

Van Dyke appeared in live action on the TV spe­cials Don­ald Duck’s 50th Birth­day (1984) and The Best of Dis­ney: 50 Years of Magic (1991).

In mak­ing Tuesday’s announce­ment, SAG-AFTRA co-president Ken Howard said, “Dick is the con­sum­mate enter­tainer — an enor­mously tal­ented per­former whose work has crossed nearly every major cat­e­gory of enter­tain­ment. From his career-changing Broad­way turn in Bye Bye Birdie and his dead­pan humor in the Emmy-winning Dick Van Dyke Show, to his unfor­get­table per­for­mance as Bert in Mary Pop­pins, he sets a high bar for actors. Stage, big screen, small screen, lit­er­ally every­where he has worked, he has inspired mil­lions of fans and has had a tremen­dously pos­i­tive impact on the indus­try and the world. He is so deserv­ing of this honor and I con­grat­u­late him.”

SAG-AFTRA co-president Roberta Rear­don said: “With Dick, it’s so much more than the prover­bial ‘triple threat.’ He started his career as a radio announcer, game show host and come­dian, and was a spokesman for Kodak, among numer­ous other roles over his nearly 60-year career. His con­tri­bu­tions to the suc­cess of the busi­ness and to his fel­low per­form­ers is leg­endary, as is his work with a num­ber of the lead­ing ladies of our times, includ­ing Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore — both pre­vi­ous Life Achieve­ment Award recip­i­ents. His infec­tious laugh has warmed audi­ences for decades and is an unfor­get­table facet of his fab­u­lous personality.”

Holder of five Emmys, a Tony Award and a Grammy, Van Dyke at 86 still pos­sesses the zest for life that first pro­pelled him into the lime­light more than a half-century ago with the film clas­sic Mary Pop­pins, the Broad­way and film ver­sions of Bye Bye Birdie, and the sem­i­nal 1960s sit­u­a­tion com­edy The Dick Van Dyke Show.

He was born Richard Wayne Van Dyke in West Plains, Mis­souri on Decem­ber 13, 1925, and raised in Danville, Illi­nois, home­town as well to Don­ald O’Connor, Gene Hack­man and Bobby Short. As a young­ster, he taught him­self music, magic and pan­tomime. By 16, he was appear­ing in school plays, run­ning track, serv­ing as junior class pres­i­dent and work­ing part-time as an announcer on a local radio station.

Enlist­ing in the Air Force at 18, he soon was per­form­ing for the troops and host­ing a radio show called Flight Time. After one year of duty, he was back in Danville, giv­ing adver­tis­ing a try, but it was not a fit. With another Danville local, Phil Erick­son, he hit the road in a record-pantomime act called “The Merry Mutes,” a per­fect show­case for his phys­i­cal com­edy gifts.

While appear­ing in Los Ange­les, he sent for his high school sweet­heart, Mar­jorie Wil­let. The two were mar­ried on Bride and Groom, a net­work radio pro­gram offer­ing gifts and a hon­ey­moon to newlyweds.

After a run host­ing a day­time talk show in Atlanta and a morn­ing show in New Orleans, CBS put him under con­tract. Van Dyke moved to New York where, in 1954, he began host­ing The Morn­ing Show (which fea­tured up-and-coming news­caster Wal­ter Cronkite). Other host­ing jobs pre­ceded his 1957 television-acting debut on an episode of The Phil Sil­vers Show and his Broad­way debut in 1959 with Bert Lahr in the com­edy revue The Boys Against the Girls.

The fol­low­ing year, his career soared when he was cast by director/choreographer Gower Cham­pion oppo­site Chita Rivera in Bye Bye Birdie. His per­for­mance as rock star Con­rad Birdie’s songwriter/manager Albert Peter­son earned Van Dyke a Tony Award and brought him to the atten­tion of Shel­don Leonard and Carl Reiner, who signed him for a pilot oppo­site new­comer Mary Tyler Moore.

The now epony­mous The Dick Van Dyke Show, star­ring Van Dyke and Moore as Rob and Laura Petrie, pre­miered in 1961 and ran for five sea­sons. With a per­fect ensem­ble cast includ­ing Rose Marie and Morey Ams­ter­dam, the wit­tily writ­ten series was a show­case for Van Dyke’s genius for phys­i­cal com­edy, earn­ing him three lead actor Emmy Awards.

The tire­less Van Dyke spent his series’ hia­tus shoot­ing the film ver­sion of Bye Bye Birdie in 1963, fol­lowed by What a Way to Go and Disney’s musi­cal clas­sic Mary Pop­pins. It won five Acad­emy Awards, includ­ing one for star Julie Andrews (SAG’s 2006 Life Achieve­ment Award recip­i­ent), and earned Van Dyke a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion and, with Andrews, a Grammy.

A run of films fol­lowed, includ­ing Lt. Robin Cru­soe, USN (1966), Divorce Amer­i­can Style and Fitzwilly (both 1967), the musi­cal Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang (1968), Gar­son Kanin’s satire on con­for­mity Some Kind of a Nut (1969) and Nor­man Lear’s anti-smoking Cold Turkey (1970). Van Dyke, who had deliv­ered the eulo­gies for his com­edy idols Stan Lau­rel and Buster Keaton, explored the role of a fic­tional silent movie star in 1969’s The Comic.

He would return to the big screen again in Stan­ley Kramer’s The Run­ner Stum­bles (1978), War­ren Beatty’s Dick Tracy (1990) and, more recently, the Ben Stiller com­edy Night at the Museum (2006).

After a year of film­ing Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang in Eng­land, Van Dyke moved with his fam­ily to their ranch in Care­free, Ari­zona, where The New Dick Van Dyke Show was pro­duced for CBS for three sea­sons. In 1974, his stun­ning por­trayal of an alco­holic fam­ily man in David Wolper’s ground-breaking ABC Tele­vi­sion movie The Morn­ing After earned Van Dyke an Emmy nom­i­na­tion. A guest-star turn as a homi­ci­dal pho­tog­ra­pher oppo­site Peter Falk’s Columbo followed.

It was back to song, dance and com­edy in NBC’s vari­ety series Van Dyke and Com­pany, earn­ing him a fourth Emmy (this time shared with his fel­low pro­duc­ers), fol­lowed by a national tour in The Music Man, which brought Van Dyke back to Broad­way, and a national tour in Damn Yan­kees. The 1980s brought a run of tele­vi­sion movies, includ­ing the Show­time pro­duc­tion of The Coun­try Girl oppo­site Faye Dun­away, Drop-Out Father oppo­site Mari­ette Hart­ley, Found Money oppo­site Sid Cae­sar, Break­fast with Les and Bess oppo­site Cloris Leach­man for PBS’s Amer­i­can Play­house, and the minis­eries Strong Med­i­cine.

In 1982, Van Dyke earned his fifth Emmy for his vocal per­for­mance as the Father in the CBS Library spe­cial Wrong Way Kid.

Van Dyke’s crime-solving physi­cian, Dr. Mark Sloan, was intro­duced in a 1991 episode of Jake and the Fat Man and became the cen­tral char­ac­ter in three TV-movies before evolv­ing into the CBS series Diag­no­sis: Mur­der. It ran from 1993 to 2001, fol­lowed by two Dr. Sloan tele­vi­sion movies in 2002. Diag­no­sis: Mur­der co-starred Van Dyke’s son Barry as a police detec­tive and, dur­ing its run, pro­vided guest-star oppor­tu­ni­ties for Van Dyke’s daugh­ter Stacy, grand­chil­dren Carey, Shane, Wes and Taryn, and brother Jerry Van Dyke. From 2006 to 2008, the father-son team reunited for a series of four Hall­mark Chan­nel Mur­der 101 movies, cast­ing Barry as a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor oppo­site Dick’s absent-minded but bril­liant crim­i­nol­ogy pro­fes­sor, Dr. Jonathan Maxwell.

In 2003, Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore re-teamed to por­tray lonely seniors in D.L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Gin Game on PBS Hol­ly­wood Presents and, the fol­low­ing year, recre­ated hus­band and wife Rob and Laura Petrie for Carl Reiner’s CBS tele­film The Dick Van Dyke Show Revis­ited. They were notably reunited this past Jan­u­ary, when Van Dyke pre­sented Moore with SAG’s 48th Life Achieve­ment Award on the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Van Dyke, whose 2011 mem­oir My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Busi­ness made the New York Times Best Sell­ers list, admits that his retire­ment plans have yet to work out. In 2006, he returned to Broad­way, receiv­ing stand­ing ova­tions in his Bye Bye Birdie lead­ing lady’s Chita Rivera: The Dancers Life. In addi­tion to his mem­oir, Van Dyke is the author of Faith, Hope and Hilar­ity: The Child’s Eye View of Reli­gion (1970) and Those Funny Kids (1975), a col­lec­tion of class­room humor.

Music, Van Dyke’s spir­i­tual nour­ish­ment, became richer when he teamed 12 years ago with Eric Bradley, Bryan Chadima and Mike Mendyke to form The Van­tastix. Their first major pub­lic appear­ance was at the Soci­ety of Singers Ella Awards hon­or­ing his Mary Pop­pins lead­ing lady, Julie Andrews. They’ve since per­formed the National Anthem at L.A. Lak­ers play­offs, mounted a musi­cal mem­oir at L.A.‘s Gef­fen The­atre, and appeared at the Hol­ly­wood Bowl, Dis­ney Hall and at Ford’s The­atre in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., with the Pres­i­dent and First Lady in the front row, and released an album of children’s songs: Put on A Happy Face.

For nearly 20 years Van Dyke has been tire­lessly com­mit­ted to his vol­un­teer work at The Mid­night Mis­sion, Los Ange­les’ century-old down­town shel­ter for the trou­bled and home­less. He helped raise mil­lions for their new build­ing pro­gram and is there with­out fail every Thanks­giv­ing, Christ­mas, Easter and times in between, offer­ing com­fort and cheer, often with the Van­tastix and mem­bers of his own fam­ily. He is pas­sion­ate about rais­ing funds for music and art pro­grams for pub­lic schools, and has per­formed at count­less fundrais­ers. He became a spokesper­son for the National Reye’s Syn­drome Foun­da­tion in 1967 after los­ing a grand­daugh­ter to that dis­ease and, in 2010, was named the first spokesper­son for the Cell Ther­apy Foundation.

Van Dyke has four chil­dren from his mar­riage to the late Mar­jorie Wil­let Van Dyke — sons Chris­t­ian and Barry, and daugh­ters Stacey and Car­rie Beth — and seven grandchildren.

On Feb­ru­ary 29 this year, he mar­ried makeup artist Arlene Sil­ver (whom he met at the 2006 SAG Awards), whose vocal tal­ents now occa­sion­ally blend with those of Dick and The Van­tastix. They live in Mal­ibu, California.

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