Things You Never Knew About Dick Van Dyke

Dick Van Dyke
Paul Morigi/Getty Images and Everett Collection

Dick Van Dyke is truly a pop culture treasure. The actor is known for starring in films such as Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Night at the Museum, Bye Bye Birdie, Dick Tracy, and many, many more. In recent years, despite being well into his 90s, he has been seen enjoying Disneyland and giving money to those less fortunate.

To celebrate his 98th (!!!) birthday today, let’s learn some fun, interesting, and even heartbreaking facts about Van Dyke.

His parents lied to him about his age

American actor Dick Van Dyke, 30th May 1967

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In his memoir, Van Dyke revealed that his parents lied about his age for 18 years! They wanted to hide the fact that he was born out of wedlock but eventually told him his real age. He only found out when he wanted to quit high school to join the military but was only 17. His mother admitted that he was already 18 and lied to say that he was premature and they changed his birth date. Since this doesn’t really make sense, he asked his grandma and she told him the truth, that his parents wanted to hide that he was born before they got hitched.

Not only was that rough on a young man, but he was over 6 feet tall by the age of 11, which made him stick out like a sore thumb, and even had trouble joining the military when he wanted to because he was so tall and skinny.

He didn’t get his high school diploma until he was about 80 years old

Actor Dick Van Dyke arrives at Disney's "Mary Poppins" 40th Anniversary Edition DVD release party at El Capitan Theater on Novenber 30, 2004 in Los Angeles, California

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Since Van Dyke left school early to join the military and then went into show business, he never got his high school diploma. He received one in 2004 when he returned to Danville High School in Illinois for the school’s performance of Bye Bye Birdie as a sweet gesture.

When he dropped out of school, they actually predicted his success by writing in the newspaper in 1944: “Danville High School wishes you the best of luck, Dick Van Dyke, and hopes your post-war career will see you right at the top of the entertainment world.”

His first wedding was broadcast on the radio in 1948

American actor Dick Van Dyke laughs with his wife Margie Willett (1915 - 2008) upon their arrival in Southampton, UK, 15th April 1964

Woods/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When he married his first wife, Margie Willett, their wedding was broadcast on a radio show called Bride and Groom. The show paid for their rings, honeymoon, and household appliances, which helped out because they were very poor at the time.

He was 36 when he starred in his first movie

Bye Bye Birdie Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, 1963

Everett Collection

This proves that it is never too late to go for your dreams. Van Dyke had already wowed audiences in the Broadway version of Bye Bye Birdie and was later cast in the 1963 film when he was in his mid-30s. Of course, he had been on TV before this but it was his first big movie role.

His current wife is half his age

Arlene Silver and actor Dick Van Dyke arrive to the Geffen Playhouse's Annual "Backstage at the Geffen" Gala at Geffen Playhouse on June 4, 2012 in Los Angeles, California

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Van Dyke has been married to his second wife, Arlene Silver since 2012. She is a makeup artist and the two first met back in 2006 at a Screen Actor Guild Awards dinner. Silver is 52 years old and says that they have a lot of fun together. Van Dyke once said, “We don’t feel the age gap. I’m emotionally immature and Arlene is very wise for her age, so we meet in the middle.”

He has a self-help book on aging

Mary Poppins Returns Dick Van Dyke 2018

Jay Maidment/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Everett Collection

After releasing his memoir, Van Dyke decided to write another book called “Keep Moving and Other Tips and Truths About Aging,” which shares his secrets about how he lives such a great life in his 90s. He wrote in the book, “If I am out shopping and hear music playing in a store, I start to dance. If I want to sing, I sing. I read books and get excited about new ideas. I enjoy myself. I don’t think about the way I am supposed to act at my age—or at any age.”

To celebrate Van Dyke’s birthday, watch the special called Dick Van Dyke: 98 Years of Magic about his life and career on December 21, 2023, on CBS at 9 p.m. ET. Sending the biggest birthday wishes to Dick Van Dyke!

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