Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

Legend. Icon. Hero. Dick Van Dyke is unsure how to feel about these terms. It’s a little hard for me to get my brain around that, he says, speaking over Zoom from his home in Malibu. I don’t see myself that way and I can’t comprehend myself as that.

Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

The 98-year-old has had some time to grapple with the idea. From The Dick Van Dyke Show to Mary Poppins to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Diagnosis Murder, Van Dyke has been on screen for as long as almost everybody can remember.

The biggest moments of his career were recently celebrated in the CBS special Dick Van Dyke 98 Years of Magic, a sweet variety show involving heartfelt tributes and performers giving their takes on Van Dyke’s most famous musical numbers. The eclectic line-up included Jason Alexander marching through Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Rita Ora performing a spirited “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Throughout, Van Dyke, perched in a replica of the iconic car alongside his wife Arlene Silver, looked on, grinning from ear to ear.

Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

A Journey Through Time

Dick Van Dyke never really planned for any of this to happen. He couldn’t have plotted a television career because television barely existed when he started out in the early 1940s.

I began at 17 as a radio announcer, he says. I got that job because the war was on and everybody was drafted. I was running a radio station every night by myself at that age. When television grew in popularity after the war, he thought, Well, I’ll be a television announcer.

Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

I started with CBS under contract in 1955 with the CBS morning show, then The Dick Van Dyke Show and Diagnosis Murder, said Van Dyke. After several unsuccessful roles, he ultimately found great success with his own hit sitcom and notable film roles.

Unwavering Passion for Entertainment

Van Dyke won a Tony for his role in Bye Bye Birdie, which led to immense career opportunities. By the end of 1961, he had his own sitcom which ran for five years and earned him three Emmys. In 1965 came Mary Poppins, followed by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, cementing his place in entertainment history.

I love the fact that here in America, we get to work until we drop over, he reflects. Despite the impressive span of his work, Van Dyke insists it doesn’t feel like work. If it had felt like work, I probably would have stopped it a long time ago, he laughs, but I just loved it.

Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

Memories He Cherishes

Dick fondly recalls filming experiences such as shooting ‘English countryside’ scenes in France for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang due to the wet English summer and visiting Speakers’ Corner while filming Mary Poppins. However, recollections from more recent projects elude him sometimes. Even so, sharing stories never gets old for him: simply another reflection of his passion for entertaining generations.

Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

An Enduring Legacy

This enduring excitement about what’s yet to come is key to Van Dyke’s charm. Recently appearing on Days of Our Lives, he’s enthusiastic about new opportunities. He still dreams about taking a one-man show on the road.

Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

You know, yesterday I was looking at Facebook, he says, and there was a video of a toddler in diapers trying to imitate me doing my dancing in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And he had the moves! I just almost cried…

You can guarantee this won’t be the last generation delighting in his work—even when Van Dyke is no longer around to receive letters.Dick Van Dyke Reflects on His Legendary Career at 98

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