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Essay
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Carl Reiner
Garry Marshall
Dick Van Dyke

Dick Becomes Rob

In the Beginning 


I had been in Bye Bye Birdie for a year, which was a big break for me because it was a wonderful Broadway hit. They tried to get me to sign up for another year, but I had four kids and I was thinking about something a little more substantial than bouncing from show to show. Carl Reiner sent me about eight scripts he had written about Rob... PEE-tree, it was supposed to be. And the minute I saw the writing I forgot about everything else, and I called him up and said just tell me when to be there. Just brilliant writing! They had seen me in the show and offered me the part, and I grabbed it right away.
 

Interview with Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, Part 1
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Interview with Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, Part 1
 
View Part 2 of the interview in the Mary Tyler Moore section.
 


Getting Physical 


I was a big fan of Buster Keaton and Laurel & Hardy when I was a little boy - both of whom I finally got to meet. I was the best one at doing Stan Laurel. That physicality always struck me as funny, and it began to fade away by the 60s, and has yet today, except maybe Jim Carrey. Carl had never written this style of being clumsy or awkward in any way, but he knew that I loved to do it and had a knack for it. So he let me write in these scenes. Whenever we could write in a scene, whenever it suggested a trip or a fall or something, he always let me put it in.
 

Video clip from The Dick Van Dyke Show
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Dick Van Dyke shows his prowess as a physical comedian. From the episode "It May Look Like a Walnut!"*
 


Key Players

Reiner's Brainchild 


Carl's influence was profound. He wrote it, produced it, and in many ways, he directed most of them, because his office was right there. He was constantly on the set, working with us. We had such fun -- he let us improvise in the rehearsals. We were allowed to rewrite, with his approval. So everybody got to contribute, everybody felt very much a part of it. But his control over the writing and everything else was complete. It was his baby, and that's why it was a success.
 


 


Something About Mary 


Mary and I just loved each other from the beginning. We became like brother and sister, we became very close. And we became masters at improv. Carl could give us a premise in a scene and we'd get up there and do it. We got to the place where we nearly read each other's minds. And I think that kind of feeling always translates onto the film.

She did a lot of "Yes dear"ing and "Bring in the coffee" in the first season, until Carl began to see what a great knack she had, and what wonderful timing. So he began to write some scripts built around Mary and what happened at the home. And that's where she began to get the confidence she needed that she could get there all by herself, and she did some of the best episodes we ever did.
 


 

Support Group 


As far as I know, Rose Marie had the best comedy timing of anybody I have ever met or worked with. Flawless. It was just razor-sharp. And she'd sometimes stop in the middle of rehearsal and say, Wait a little longer, you jumped in too quickly, and she was inevitably right. And of course Morey had the same thing. Fabulous timing. You either have it or you don't. I think it's something you're born with.
 

The cast acting silly

Dick, Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie, Mary
 
Photo courtesy of Calvada Productions and Clear Productions, Inc.


A Hit Becomes a Classic

Capturing the Era 


We dealt with some social issues, which sitcoms had never done before at that time. This was before Norman Lear and All in the Family. And we dealt with racial issues and things of that kind, that the network was a little chary of. But we talked them into letting us do it. I really enjoyed those, where we did have a statement to make, along with primarily being entertaining. In our subtle way we did say some things that weren't usually said in the early '60s.

As contemporary as we were, we weren't really representative of the time, except for the fact that we dealt with race problems in a couple of shows. My favorite show of all time, and a lot of people's, is where we think the baby's mixed up at the hospital and I'm convinced we have someone else's baby, and the other couple shows up and they're black. It was the longest laugh that we ever had. This was pretty daring stuff in 1962, and the network was very leery of it. But that laugh went on for so long we had to cut the camera and just wait, because people fell out of the stands. But it made a great statement.
 


 


The Show's Legacy 


I'm thinking of a show that I admire like Seinfeld. There's a certain atmosphere or feeling that I get that reminds me of our show. The relationships were very much the same, I thought. One thing of which I'm sure: Carl Reiner back in the '60s said, I don't want anybody ever to use any slang of the day, to ever mention anything in the news. I don't want any fads, anything of the time in this show. He was looking to reruns. And as a result, it's timeless. I think half the clothes are in style again.
 


 

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*Video clip courtesy of The Dick Van Dyke Show DVD (www.dickvandyke.com), © Calvada Productions
 

 

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