Dick Van Dyke turns 98 on December 13, 2023, and it seems he’ll need no help blowing out those birthday candles. To celebrate the actor and his decades-spanning career, CBS has announced a two-hour television birthday special, aptly titled Dick Van Dyke 98 Years of Magic, and to say we’re excited would be a gross understatement.
Dick Van Dyke’s career has spanned the better part of a century
Dick Van Dyke’s career has spanned the best part of a century. He was born in West Plains, Missouri in 1925. His mother, Hazel Victoria, was a stenographer and his father, Loren Wayne, worked as a salesman.
The young Van Dyke almost became a man of the cloth, but drama class steered him onto the chosen path of entertainment. As mentioned in his autobiography, My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business, “I suppose that I never completely gave up my childhood idea of being a minister. Only the medium and the message changed. I have still endeavored to touch people’s souls, to raise their spirits and put smiles on their faces.”
He was already pretty experienced by the time fame found him. Having set his sights on those bright lights, Van Dyke “went on to do it all,” The New York Times writes. “He was one-half of a touring mime team, a television announcer, a radio disc jockey.”
A natural talent for dancing
Gower Champion, a director and choreographer, noticed Dick Van Dyke’s “rubbery-legged agility” and put him on Broadway in a production of Bye Bye Birdie. The actor didn’t think he could dance, but soon learned that he could.
Van Dyke made his TV debut on the smash hit, The Phil Silvers Show (1955-59), and starred in his own self-titled program that ran between 1961-66. A revival, titled The New Dick Van Dyke Show, was filmed between 1971-74.
As his career continued to grow, Van Dyke divided his time between the big and small screens. His most notable film roles include Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) and William Simon in 1969’s The Comic. He also wasn’t afraid to show his dark side, portraying a murderous photographer in the Columbo (1968-78) episode, “Negative Reaction.”
Becoming known to newer audiences
Dick Van Dyke never lost the showbiz buzz, singing and dancing, alongside acting. Mark Sloan is arguably how most modern audiences know him best. The rollerskating doctor-turned-sleuth was the central character of Diagnosis Murder (1993-2001), and saw him co-star alongside his son, Barry Van Dyke.
As for his dazzling talent, Van Dyke credits a somewhat less-than-methodical approach. “I don’t do any background study or preparation,” he once told the media. “I once went to a dramatic coach years and years ago. I was playing a rather heavy part about an alcoholic. And he said, ‘Let’s look at the subtext,’ and I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’ [Laughs.] I’m strictly a superficial actor.”
Dick Van Dyke still has a zest for life
Despite being well into his 90s, Dick Van Dyke has been regularly spotted out and about, and he looks to be as active as ever. The Daily Mail tracked him down in December 2022 and asked about his secret to a long and healthy life. He laughed and answered, “Well, I don’t know, all my friends are dead, so I’m not going to complain!”
Van Dyke’s zest for life and eternal youthfulness is apparent in his 2012 marriage to Arlene Silver, who is 40 years his junior. According to Parade, the actor called the nuptials “one of the smartest moves I ever made,” adding that Silver is much more mature than he is, meaning they’re the perfect fit.
Preparing to celebrate his 98th birthday
As aforementioned, CBS will be airing a two-hour special to celebrate Dick Van Dyke’s upcoming 98th birthday. Slated to air on both TV and the streaming service Paramount+ on the evening of December 21, 2023, it’ll feature an appearance from the storied actor, ensuring the event will be one heck of a bash.
According to CBS, the special “will travel back in time to the iconic set of The Dick Van Dyke Show and feature dazzling music and dance spectacles, heartfelt performances, special guests and a magical holiday number.” It’ll also include archival footage from Van Dyke’s career.
In a statement, Van Dyke said, “I started with CBS under contract in 1955 with the CBS morning show, then The Dick Van Dyke Show and Diagnosis Murder. I’ve been with the CBS family for almost 70 years, and I couldn’t be prouder. I’m incredibly honored that CBS will be throwing a 98th birthday special for me. Can’t wait to be part of the show!”
Dick Van Dyke 98 Years of Magic will see Van Dyke and his wife serve as producers, along with White Label Productions. Ashley Edens will serve as showrunner, while Craig and Clara Plestis of Smart Dog Media and Deena Katz will be executively producing.