Dick Van Dyke had no ambitions of becoming a performer as a young child. The song-and-dance man didn’t even know he had a talent for it. As he tells Harry Connick Jr., Van Dyke started out as a radio announcer during World War II when everyone was being drafted. “I became a disc jockey at 17,” he says in the video above. “[Then] my buddy and I came out here in ’47 with a comedy act, and one thing led to another—I never got out of the business.”
In fact, Van Dyke learned to dance after he had already gotten the job for Bye Bye Birdie (for which he won a Tony Award).
“I said, ‘Well, Mr. Champion I don’t dance. And that’s where I learned to dance.” Van Dyke reprised his role of Albert Peterson in the 1963 film version of the musical as well. Van Dyke made his Broadway debut in the musical revue The Girls Against the Boys, prior to Birdie, and played Harold Hill in the 1980 revival of The Music Man. He also guest starred in Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.
Van Dyke won over families as Bert in the landmark Disney film Mary Poppins. “[Walt] had heard me say in an interview that there wasn't enough family entertainment around, and on that basis he hired me,” Van Dyke says in the video below.
Van Dyke won a Grammy as part of the cast of Mary Poppins and went on to create and star in The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966. He brought Caractacus Potts to life in the movie musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and kept audiences laughing with The New Dick Van Dyke Show and guest appearances on The Carol Burnett Show. Of course, he also led the cast of Diagnosis Murder for nearly a decade.