Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961)

Today The Dick Van Dyke Show is considered one of the best situation comedies in television history, but it had a shaky beginning, required many risks in getting off the ground, and ultimately had a premise that undermined the whole idea of television entertainment--that everyday situations are more interesting than what you see on TV. Carl Reiner, the show's creator, producer, and, in its early days chief writer, originally conceived the show as a slightly fictionalized version of his own experience in the television industry and at home. And as the show evolved he encouraged the actors and writers to bring situations in their personal lives into writing sessions as possible material for scripts. But despite the fact that the main characters on The Dick Van Dyke Show are television writers, the focus is not on the fruit of their labors; it's on their personal lives. In fact, during the show's first 14 episodes that aired in the year 1961, we never see a glimpse of the show they write for, nor do we ever see the show's star, Alan Brady. The closest we get is in the episode "Jealousy!" (November 7, 1961) when Rob Petrie has to help that week's guest, movie star Valerie Blake, rehearse a scene she will be doing with Brady, and even that scene is shown in the broadest, vaguest way before Rob's wife Laura interrupts the proceedings by bursting into Blake's hotel room expecting to find her husband and the movie star having an affair. The scenes we see of Rob and fellow writers Sally Rogers and Buddy Sorrell at work in their studio office most often show them sitting around talking about other things or rejecting ideas that never make it into their show. In other words, the last thing Reiner wanted his viewers to see was what made it onto television. This concept took TV's critique of itself to a level beyond The Jack Benny Program, which depicted its star as a self-absorbed cheapskate but allowed us to see him bumble through his own program. 

But The Dick Van Dyke Show, despite its later success, would never have happened had not Reiner's agent and wife prodded him. As reported by Vince Waldron in The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, Reiner began his career as an actor, first on the stage and then as a supporting actor on Your Show of Shows and subsequent Sid Caesar programs. Not completely satisfied with his role as a second-tier star, Reiner began hanging out with the show's writers, which included such legends as Mel Brooks and Neil Simon, contributing his own ideas to each week's script, though he never received credit because of the writers' protectiveness of their own turf and the fact that he was already being credited for his acting contributions. Finding that he wanted a larger voice, he went off on his own to write story ideas, character vignettes, and eventually a semi-autobiographical novel Enter Laughing in 1957, which depicted his early beginnings in show business. In 1958 Reiner intended to write another novel covering his more recent experiences, but his agent Harry Kalcheim suggested that there was more opportunity starring in a TV situation comedy than in writing novels. So Kalcheim began sending him show treatments for his consideration, but Reiner found them awful. When he showed them to his wife she concurred and told him he could write a better series himself. And so at the family's summer home on Fire Island in the summer of 1958 he pounded out 13 scripts for a series titled Head of the Family. Kalcheim then connected him with actor Peter Lawford, who had access to the Kennedy family fortune since he was then married to Patricia Kennedy, to finance the filming of a pilot with Reiner in the lead role of Rob Petrie. But the pilot failed to find a network willing to make it into a series, and Reiner figured his chance at his own sit-com was gone, so he returned to acting as a supporting player on The Dinah Shore Show and in feature films, as well as writing the script for the feature film The Thrill of It All.

However, Kalcheim was not ready to throw in the towel. He kept urging Reiner to retool the series but to no avail. So he set up a meeting between Reiner and producer Sheldon E. Leonard, then producing The Danny Thomas Show and in the process of launching The Andy Griffith Show, to give him advice. Only after Leonard viewed the pilot for Head of the Family and looked through Reiner's 13 scripts, he said he would be interested in developing the series himself, provided that Reiner agreed to recast the show without him in the lead. He was able to persuade Reiner that he was a better producer, even though he had never produced a television show, than he was an actor by pointing to his detailed instructions in his scripts about how each scene was to be arranged, filmed, and acted. And he sealed the deal by showing Reiner how he, a one-time actor who most notably played the bartender Nick in It's a Wonderful Life, had became a very rich man as a producer.

Once Leonard got Reiner's agreement on how the series would be developed, he set out to find a cast that would make The Dick Van Dyke Show a hit. Leonard started by securing Dick Van Dyke, who was then starring in the Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie, even though Van Dyke was little known outside theater circles. He had notched a few TV appearances at that point but was more noted for having been a part of two failed TV pilots. Mary Tyler Moore was recommended by Leonard client Danny Thomas, for whom Moore had auditioned and been turned down for a regular role on his show. Leonard selected Rose Marie, with whom he had co-starred on radio, to play man-chasing writer Sally Rogers, and she in turn recommended her long-time friend Morey Amsterdam to play Buddy Sorrell, even though the part was initially meant for a young writer just starting out in the business as it was cast in the Head of the Family pilot. Jerry Paris, who would be cast as Petrie neighbor Jerry Helper, was another old friend of Leonard, and Paris' on-screen wife Ann Morgan Guilbert was recommended to him by an old friend who happened to be her husband, George Eckstein. Even with a talented cast assembled, the show was not a guaranteed success and struggled early on in the ratings. As the show was being launched, one headline in the press asked the question, "What's a Dick Van Dyke?"

Knowing that he was at a huge disadvantage with such an unknown star, Reiner, as Waldron again discusses in his book, selected the episode "The Sick Boy and the Sitter" (October 3, 1961) as the pilot because it was the script that best introduced the characters. It also provided a great introduction to the talents of its actors in the party scene at Alan Brady's house where Rob, Sally, and Buddy are asked to entertain the guests while the host is busy with a telephone call in another room. Van Dyke reprises a sketch he used to do in his stand-up act depicting a drunk man returning home late one night trying not to let his wife know he has been drinking. Rose Marie gets to perform a song in her old vaudeville style, and Morey Amsterdam displays his talents as The Human Joke Machine by inventing jokes on the spot based on suggested topics from the guests. This scheme is used again in the episode "To Tell or Not to Tell" (November 14, 1961) when Rob and Laura are hosting a party and Rob performs a few more of his impressions and Mary Tyler Moore is given the chance to show off her background in dance, which leads to Laura being offered a regular spot as a dancer on The Alan Brady Show. "Oh How We Met the Night We Danced" (October 31, 1961) is yet another episode that uses this device, this time in a flashback sequence from when Rob and Laura met during World War II and ended up dancing a routine together in a show for the troops at Rob's army base. Besides showing off the talents of the cast, these episodes are also a chance for Reiner to revisit his variety show days by interjecting comedy and song and dance routines that often are only tangentially related to story development.

As for the show's actual story line, they typically involve the usual subjects for comic payoff--miscommunication and its off-shoots jealousy and forgetfulness. In "Empress Carlotta's Necklace" (December 12, 1961) Rob fails to see that Laura does not like a gaudy knockoff necklace he bought for her and she doesn't have the heart to tell him the truth.  In "My Blonde-Haired Brunette" (October 10, 1961) Laura misinterprets Rob's slovenly dress and ho-hum response to their settled household routine to mean that he has lost interest in her, prompting her, at neighbor Millie's suggestion, to dye her hair. And in "Sally Is a Girl" (December 19, 1961) Laura's request for Rob to treat Sally like a lady rather than one of the guys causes Buddy and producer Mel Cooley to think that Rob and Sally are having an affair. Jealousy rears its ugly and comic head both in both the aforementioned episode "Jealousy!" and in "The Meerschatz Pipe" (November 28, 1961) in which Buddy goads Rob into thinking that he is Alan Brady's favorite writer because of a pipe he claims Brady gave him when in fact it is a cheap replica that can be found anywhere. Rob's faulty memory is the source of hilarity in both "Harrison B. Harding of Camp Crowder, Mo." (November 6, 1961) when Rob doesn't remember an old army buddy who comes to visit and in "Forty-Four Tickets" (December 5, 1961) when he forgets to request enough tickets to the Brady show for the members of Ritchie's school PTA. But while these storylines may sound similar to scores of other less successful situation comedies, when executed by the talented cast assembled by Sheldon Leonard and with Carl Reiner's keen eye for comic detail, they are pure TV magic that even real life can't measure up to.

The theme music and individual scores for The Dick Van Dyke Show were composed by longtime Sheldon Leonard house composer Earle Hagen, who was profiled in the 1960 post for The Barbara Stanwyck Show. Oddly, the theme for the show remembered by everyone was not the one used in the series' first 14 episodes. The original theme used the same melodic sequence but with numerous time-signature breaks with bongos that many years later Hagen says he hated and couldn't even remember composing.

The complete series has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Image Entertainment.

The Actors

Dick Van Dyke

Richard Wayne Van Dyke was born in West Plains, Missouri and grew up in Danville, Illinois, the son of a salesman who also played minor league baseball and a stenographer with his family roots going back to an original passenger who came to America on the Mayflower. In Danville Van Dyke was classmates with Donald O'Connor and Bobby Short and was good friends with a cousin of Gene Hackman. He originally planned to be a Presbyterian minister but a high school drama class convinced him of his true calling, though he eventually became a church elder and taught Sunday school after launching his entertainment career. His younger brother Jerry also became a successful actor on TV series such as My Mother the Car and Coach. He became a radio announcer in Danville at age 16 and after joining the Air Force during World War II served as a radio announcer and then as an entertainer for the troops stateside. After the war he formed a mime duo called the Merry Mutes with Danville friend Phil Erickson, which West Coast nightclubs before relocating to Atlanta, where they appeared on local TV. He married first wife Marjory Willett in Los Angeles in 1948 on a radio show called Bride and Groom because it paid for their wedding and honeymoon. After 7 years Van Dyke broke up the group and moved to New Orleans where he was a TV weatherman, performed his own comedy, and hosted a comedy show. He made his first network TV appearance in 1954 on the Dennis James program Chance of a Lifetime. The next year a friend from the military, Byron Paul, offered him a 7-year contract with CBS. He made a couple of appearances on The Phil Silvers Show in the late 1950's as well as The United States Steel Hour and a couple of pilots that were not picked up--a variety show called The Dick Van Dyke Show and a situation comedy titled Poor Richard, which eventually aired on the anthology series of failed pilots New Comedy Showcase under the title The Trouble With Richard. But he found more success on the stage, starring in 1959's The Girls Against the Boys and then being selected to play the lead of Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie by famed choreographer Gower Champion even though he had no dance training. It was while performing Bye Bye Birdie, for which he won a Tony in 1961, that he was spotted by Sheldon Leonard, who convinced Carl Reiner that he would be perfect for the lead in their new situation comedy, eventually named The Dick Van Dyke Show.

While still working on The Dick Van Dyke Show Van Dyke was cast in the Disney musical Mary Poppins because Walt Disney approved of comments he made in the press about the need for wholesome entertainment. He has been lambasted for years about his fake Cockney accent in the film, though he explains that his dialect coach was Irish and therefore no better at the accent than he was. But besides the film's immense popularity, he and co-star Julie Andrews won Grammy Awards for the soundtrack album. Other films he starred in after The Dick Van Dyke Show ended its run proved less successful with the exception of another Disney musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In 1971 he and Reiner teamed up again to create The New Dick Van Dyke Show in which he played a TV talk show host, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe, but he canceled the show after 3 seasons when it moved to Hollywood from Phoenix, where he then lived. In 1974 he was nominated for an Emmy for the TV movie The Morning After in which he played an alcoholic, which Van Dyke later admitted that he had was, too, though he overcame the addiction in the 1980s. In 1976 he hosted a comedy variety show called Van Dyke and Company, which also included Andy Kaufman and Super Dave Osborne, but it was canceled after 3 months and later won an Emmy. In 1977 he became a regular cast member on The Carol Burnett Show's final season. Van Dyke spent the rest of the 1970s and most of the 1980s appearing in TV movies with an occasional TV series guest spot or feature film. In 1988 he starred in The Van Dyke Show playing a retired Broadway performer living with his son, who was played by Van Dyke's real-life son Barry. The show lasted only 10 episodes before being canceled. But an appearance as the character Dr. Mark Sloan on a 1991 episode of Jake and the Fatman eventually led to his next successful series, Diagnosis Murder, which began as a series of TV movies before being made into a regular series that aired from 1993-2002.An attempt at a Dick Van Dyke Show  reunion called The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited in 2004 was not well-received. But Van Dyke has continued to remain active up to the present, first in a series of Murder 101 TV movies and more recently in the Ben Stiller feature films Night at the Museum. He divorced his wife of over 30 years in 1984, then lived with an unmarried partner Michelle Triola for another 30 years until her death in 2009. In 2012 he married again to 40-year-old Arlene Silver, whom he met while attending the SAG awards.

Mary Tyler Moore

Born in Brooklyn, the daughter of a clerk and an alcoholic mother, Moore's family moved to California when she was 8 years old. Her great-grandfather had been a lieutenant for the North in the Civil War who had loaned his house to Gen. Stonewall Jackson to use as his headquarters, and Moore had the house restored in honor of her father, a Civil War enthusiast. She started out as a dancer and her first prominent job was playing Happy Hotpoint, the Hotpoint Appliance elf in danced on commercials that ran during The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, but when she married Richard Carleton Meeker at age 18 and became pregnant with her only child, Richie, born the following year, she lost the job when her pregnancy became noticeable. She next became an album cover model before turning to acting and began getting a few minor roles in the late 1950s. She auditioned for but was turned down to play Danny Thomas' daughter because he felt no one would believe she was related to him given the difference in their nose sizes. Her first regular role was as Richard Diamond's secretary Sam on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, though only her legs ever appeared on camera. Besides 7 appearances on this show, she appeared on other programs 8 times in 1959 and 10 times in 1960 on shows such as 77 Sunset Strip, Riverboat, Bachelor Father, and Hawaiian Eye. She had a few more such appearances in 1961 and 1962 before landing the role of Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, thanks to a recommendation from one executive producer, Danny Thomas (who remembered her from her audition for his show), to the other, Sheldon Leonard.

After the show's 5-year run, she turned her attention to feature films, having appeared only in 1961's X-15 at that point. She starred alongside Julie Andrews in Thoroughly Modern Millie, opposite George Peppard in What's So Bad About Feeling Good? and as a nun/Elvis Presley love interest in the widely panned Change of Habit. The reaction to this last picture was so negative that she didn't appear in another feature film (other than TV movies) for another 11 years. In the meantime, she divorced her first husband and married TV executive Grant Tinker in 1961. In 1970 the couple formed MTM Enterprises and launched The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the first program centered around a successful single woman with her own career. She won four Emmys and a Golden Globe for her work on the show, and the show produced three spinoffs--Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant. But when ratings started to slip in its seventh season, it was canceled. Though MTM Enterprises continued to produce successful programs, such as The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, St. Elsewhere, and Hill Street Blues, Moore never found the same success in her future projects. Her next two efforts were musical/variety programs--Mary in 1978, which included cast members Michael Keaton and David Letterman amongst others, and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour in 1979, which also included Keaton. In 1980 she returned to feature films and received an Oscar nomination for playing Beth in Ordinary People. That same year she received a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway production of Whose Life Is It Anyway? But she only appeared in two more feature films and two TV movies before returning to her own TV series, this time as Mary Brenner in Mary, which ran for only 13 episodes in 1985-86 after Moore asked that it be canceled when she didn't like the direction it was heading. Two years later she was back as the title character in Annie McGuire, but this show lasted only 10 episodes. After a few more TV movies, including 1993's Stolen Babies for which she won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or Special, she headlines New York News as newspaper editor Louise Felcott, but again only 13 episodes were produced before cancellation. Since then, she has remained active doing more TV movies, such as The Gin Game with Dick Van Dyke in 2003, feature films, such as Flirting With Disaster (1996), Keys to Tulsa (1997), and Cheats (2002), and a few limited recurring TV parts on The Naked Truth (1997), That 70's Show (206), and Hot in Cleveland (2011 & 2013). She reportedly will appear in the feature Big Finish along with elder celebrities Bob Newhart, Debbie Reynolds, and Jerry Lewis, though there have been recent reports of her failing eyesight as a result of her Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed in 1970 when she was 33 years old and about which she has written extensively in her second autobiography Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes. She is the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and has done work for Farm Sanctuary and with Bernadette Peters has helped make New York a no-kill city. In 1980 her son Richie was killed when he shot himself with his own sawed-off shotgun, a gun that was later taken off the market for having a hair-trigger. She divorced Grant Tinker in 1981 and since 1983 has been married to Dr. Richard Levine. The couple currently have residences in upstate New York and Manhattan.

Rose Marie

Rose Marie Mazetta was born in New York City, the daughter of Broadway and vaudeville performer Frank Mazetta, who performed under the name Frank Curley. Blessed with a remarkably adult-sounding singing voice, her entertainment career started at age 3 when she was discovered by a talent scout singing on the beach in Atlantic City. In 1927 she appeared in a Vitaphone musical short that was run before the feature film The Jazz Singer. When she approached Al Jolson at the premiere and complimented his performance, he reportedly replied, "Get away, you little brat!" At age 5 she was given her own radio show on NBC radio and had her first credited film appearance in the short Baby Rose Marie, the Child Wonder. She continued making musical shorts into the 1930s and appeared in the feature film International House with W.C Fields in 1933. She appeared in vaudeville alongside stars such as Dick Powell, Rudy Vallee, and Jimmy Durante and met her future Dick Van Dyke Show co-star Morey Amsterdam when she was 9 years old. She was invited to appear at the White House by request of Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt. She also appeared on at least 17 records between 1930 and 1938. As a teenager, she dropped the "Baby" from her stage name and began performing at top night clubs along the east coast as well as being one of the performers on the bill the night that mobster Bugsy Siegel opened the first luxury hotel/casino in Las Vegas, the Flamingo. In her autobiography Hold the Roses, she admitted that during her career she had been helped by mobsters such as Siegel and Al Capone, who called her "The Kid" and protected her. She retired from show business for a time during her teens but then staged a comeback in the 1940s adding Broadway to her repertoire in shows such as Spring in Brazil with Milton Berle, Lunatics and Lovers with Zero Mostel, and Top Banana with Phil Silvers, with whom she also appeared in the film adaptation in 1954. Around this time she also had a supporting role on the radio program The Phil Harris - Alice Faye Show, playing the sister of Sheldon E. Leonard, who would later hire her to play Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the mid-1950s she began also appearing in television guest spots on shows such as The Red Skelton Hour, Gunsmoke, and M Squad. In 1959 she had her first recurring role as Martha Randolph on The Bob Cummings Show and the following year was cast as Bertha on My Sister Eileen, which ran during the 1960-61 season.

Being cast as the aging man-hunter Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show was a bit ironic for Marie because she had married trumpeter Bobby Guy, then with Kay Kyser's orchestra, in 1946. When Guy, who had become the lead trumpeter in The Tonight Show orchestra, died from a blood infection in 1964, Marie planned to leave The Dick Van Dyke Show, believing that she had lost half her life, but was talked out of it by director John Rich and stayed with the program till it ended in 1966. In 1965 she became a regular on the popular game show Hollywood Squares, sitting in a square next to Morey Amsterdam, and stayed with the program during its many incarnations. She also appeared on other celebrity-themed game shows such as Password and I've Got a Secret. Besides her game show appearances, she had occasional guest spots in the late 1960s on shows such as The Monkees, The Virginian, and My Three Sons before landing her next regular role plays Doris Day's friend and work colleague Myrna Gibbons on The Doris Day Show from 1969-71. In 1972 she headlined her own short-lived TV series Honeymoon Suite, which also included Richard Deacon as a hotel manager and Morey Amsterdam. In 1975 she had a recurring role as Hilda on S.W.A.T. She continued to make occasional TV guest appearances and get feature film roles through the 1970s and 1980s, including 4 appearances on The Love Boat, and toured the country as part of the revue 4 Girls 4 with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O'Connell, and Margaret Whiting from 1977-81. Her next recurring role was playing Frank Fontana's mother Rose on Murphy Brown in 1990-91. In 1994 she had her last regular TV role playing Mitzi Balzer on Hardball but has continued making appearances up to the present, including the 2004 Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited reunion. She remains active on Facebook and still  lives in the same house she shared with her late husband in San Fernando Valley, California.

Morey Amsterdam

Moritz Amsterdam was born in Chicago and by age 14 was performing in vaudeville as the straight man for his older brother's jokes and playing the cello. Two years later he was working in a speakeasy run by Al  Capone when he got caught in the middle of a shoot-out, which convinced him to get out and move to California. There he became a joke writer for performers such as Fanny Brice, Jimmy Durante, and Will Rogers, earning the nickname "The Human Joke Machine," which he incorporated into his own act by offering to tell jokes by request on any subject. This ability was worked into the debut episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show years later. He then began performing on radio in the 1930s, becoming a regular on The Al Pearce Show in 1937, and wrote songs such as "Why, Oh Why Did I Ever Leave Wyoming?" and screenplay dialogue for the East Side Kids. By the late 1940s he was all over radio on programs such as Stop Me If You've Heard This One and his own The Morey Amsterdam Show, which made the transition to TV in 1949. In 1950 he was one of two hosts when NBC launched Broadway Open House, a forerunner to The Tonight Show, but he left the show not long after its debut. His first TV acting role was in 1952 on Not for Publication, but steady work did not materialize until 5 years later when he logged appearances on How to Marry a Millionaire, December Bride, and The Gale Storm Show. In 1958 he appeared in the feature film Machine-Gun Kelly and two years later in Murder, Inc., in between he found a few more TV appearances until Rose Marie recommended him for the part of Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show, a part originally intended for a much younger actor, as on the precursor pilot Head of the Family.

Like Rose Marie, he became a regular on Hollywood Squares beginning in 1965 and continued to get occasional parts in feature films and TV series for the rest of his career, perhaps most notably as the character Cappy in two mid-1960s beach-themed films Beach Party and Muscle Beach Party. In 1966 he co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in the feature Don't Worry, We'll Think of a Title, which also included Rose Marie and Richard Deacon in the cast. In the 1990s he had a regular role on the soap opera The Young and the Restless, and his last TV appearance came in 1996 with Rose Marie on an episode of Caroline in the City. He died of a heart attack at the age of 87 on October 28, 1996.

Richard Deacon

Born in Philadelphia, Deacon was stricken with polio at age 11 and took dancing lessons to strengthen his legs. He studied drama at Ithaca College for two years before becoming the actor in residence at Bennington College for a semester. He began his acting career on the stage, where he was reportedly advised by Helen Hayes to give up the idea of being a leading man, given his looks and personality, and strive for a career as a character actor, which served him well for over 3 decades. His first appearance on film was an uncredited part in the features Invaders From Mars in 1953. He also had uncredited appearances in Them!, The Blackboard Jungle, This Island Earth, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Carousel.  In 1954 he also started getting bit parts on TV shows such as Public Defender, The Man Behind the Badge, and The Life of Riley. His first shot at a recurring role was playing Sherman Hall on The Charles Farrell Show in 1956, leading to a steady stream such roles for the next 15 years. In 1957 he began playing Roger Finley on Date With the Angels, and the next year saw him playing Uncle Archie on Walt Disney Presents: Annette.  In 1957 he began appearing on Leave It to Beaver as Fred Rutherford, father to Lumpy and business colleague of Ward Cleaver, a role he continued to play throughout the series' duration even after he was cast as Mel Cooley on The Dick Van Dyke Show. He also continued to make numerous appearances on other shows during this time including The Danny Thomas Show, The Jack Benny Program, The Donna Reed Show, The Red Skelton Hour, and Mister Ed. He also over this period appeared in feature films running the gamut from Hitchcock's The Birds to Jerry Lewis' The Patsy

After The Dick Van Dyke Show terminated, he spent a season playing the character Baldwin on The Phyllis Diller Show, then replaced Roger C. Carmel as Kaye Ballard's husband in the second season of The Mothers-in-Law. He would star opposite Diller again on Broadway during the 1969-70 season production of Hello, Dolly! In 1970 he appeared as Dr. Klingner in 4 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies and nearly a decade later played Sheriff Masters in 4 episodes of B.J. and the Bear and 1 episode of The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. He had plenty of other one-off guest TV guest spots in between these and more work in feature films up until his death from heart failure at the age of 63 on August 8, 1984. Besides being a prolific actor, Deacon was an accomplished cook who published several cookbooks. The most successful of them, selling over 1.7 million copies, was connected to a Canadian TV program he hosted in the 1970s and '80s on cooking with a microwave.

Larry Mathews

Larry Mazzeo was born in Burbank, California to a large Italian-American family. When he auditioned for the role of Richie Petrie, he had never done any professional acting and had only been enrolled in a children's drama workshop a few months earlier where he was noticed by a talent agent who recommended him to Carl Reiner. Reiner wanted the actor playing Ritchie to appear natural, so he explicitly stated that he wanted someone who hadn't done anything. The audition required Mathews to act sick, as he would have to in the pilot episode, and based on that audition, Reiner knew he would be perfect for the part. Unlike many other child actors of the time, Mathews said his experience on The Dick Van Dyke Show was a positive one. He grew to be great friends with Morey Amsterdam and also showed an interest in the production side of the business, watching editor Bud Molin at work and asking him questions and getting director John Rich to let him see how things look from behind the camera. During the show's 5-year run, he appeared on only one other program, a 1962 episode of Dick Powell Theater.

When The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966, Mathews wanted just to go to school like a regular kid, though he later said that at first the transition was a bit difficult because he was not used to being around other children. He then attended UCLA as a theater major and was involved in school theater productions, but on the few occasions where he went to auditions for professional acting parts, he did not find the going easy, so he gradually moved into the productions side of the business. He began at the bottom with Danny Thomas Productions, working as an errand boy and gofer and worked his way up to production and post-production sales, which he has done since 1983. He participated in the 2004 reunion show The Dick Van Dyke Show revisited and surprised Reiner with the fact that he really hadn't done any acting since 1966 except for a 1993 TV movie titled Chairman's Choice. In 2011 he appeared in a 25-minute short titled A Day in the Life of Plain Jen but otherwise continues to work in sales for CCI Digital in Burbank. He has been married to his wife Jennifer since 1987.

Ann Morgan Guilbert

Guilbert was born in Minneapolis, but her family moved frequently because her father was a physician working for the VA who specialized in tuberculosis patients and was shipped around the country wherever he was needed. She attended Stanford University, originally intending to study nursing, but after flunking chemistry, she turned her attention to the theater. At Stanford she also met and married her first husband George Eckstein, and the couple moved to Los Angeles while Eckstein attended law school. Eckstein was friends from his high school days with Jerry Paris, and when Paris was cast to play Jerry Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Eckstein nudged Paris to get Guilbert an audition. Carl Reiner was already aware of Guilbert's comic abilities, having seen her performing in the Billy Barnes Revue, so after a short audition with Paris, she was given the part, even though at the time Guilbert had only a single television credit on an April 1961 episode of My Three Sons

Guilbert continued playing Minnie Helper through the series' five-year run, but the same year the show ended she also divorced Eckstein. Though she found occasional TV appearances and a rare feature film role through the latter 1960s, she concentrated more on theatre roles, first around the Los Angeles area and later in Denver. She remarried to actor Guy Raymond, who joined her on stage in some of the Denver productions. In 1971 she landed her second recurring TV role as Nora on The New Andy Griffith Show, but the series lasted only 10 episodes. TV and film work took a back seat through most of the 1970s and '80s, though she did appear on 5 episodes of Emergency!, but in the 1990s she began to get more frequent TV roles, first as Theresa Fanelli on The Fanelli Boys, then as Myriam Wambaugh on Picket Fences, and most notably as Fran Drescher's grandmother Yetta Rosenberg in 56 episodes of The Nanny. More recently she has appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and Modern Family. She had a scene-stealing role as Andra in the 2010 independent feature Please Give, and in 2013-14 she appeared as Birdy Lamb in 11 episodes of Getting On. Guilbert still lives in Los Angeles to be near her two daughters, actress Hallie Todd (who played Hillary Duff's mother on Lizzie McGuire) and acting teacher Nora Eckstein, as well as her two grand-daughters.

Jerry Paris

See the biography section for the 1960 post on The Untouchables.







Notable Guest Stars

Season 1, Episode 1, "The Sick Boy and the Baby Sitter": Stacy Keach, Sr.  (Carlson on Get Smart) plays the Petrie's physician Dr. Miller. Eleanor Audley (Mother Eunice Douglas on Green Acres and Mrs. Vincent on My Three Sons) plays a guest at Alan Brady's party.

Season 1, Episode 2, "My Blonde-Haired Brunette": Benny Rubin (appeared in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Citizen Kane, and The Errand Boy, provided the voices for Pruneface, Joe Jitsu, and Sketch Paree on The Dick Tracy Show, and appeared in various roles in 53 episodes of The Jack Benny Program) plays a druggist.

Season 1, Episode 3, "Sally and the Lab Technician": Jamie Farr (shown on the left, played Maxwell Klinger on M*A*S*H and After MASH) plays the Snappy Service delivery boy.

Season 1, Episode 4, "Washington Versus the Bunny": Jesse White (appeared in Harvey, Bedtime for Bonzo, Million Dollar Mermaid, The Bad Seed, and The Reluctant Astronaut and played Mickey "Cagey" Calhoun on Private Secretary, Jesse Leeds on Make Room for Daddy, and Oscar Pudney on The Ann Sothern Show) plays an airline passenger named Bill. Jamie Farr (see "Sally and the Lab Technician" above) returns as the Speedy Service delivery boy.

Season 1, Episode 5, "Oh How We Met the Night We Danced": Marty Ingels (shown on the right, played Arch Fenster on I'm Dickens, He's Fenster and Norman Krump on The Phyllis Diller Show) plays Rob's army stage manager Sol Pomeroy. Nancy Ames (folk singer who was the That Was the Week That Was girl and co-wrote the theme song for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour) plays Laura's dancer colleague Marcia Rochelle.

Season 1, Episode 6, "Harrison B. Harding of Camp Crowder, Mo.": Allan Melvin (shown on the left, played Cpl. Steve Henshaw on The Phil Silvers Show, Sgt. Snorkle on Beetle Bailey, Sgt. Charley Hacker on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Sam Franklin on The Brady Bunch, and Barney Hefner on All in the Family and Archie Bunker's Place and was the voice of Magilla Gorilla on Magilla Gorilla, Drooper on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, and Thun and King Vultan on Flash Gordon) plays Rob's old army buddy Harrison B. Harding. Peter Leeds (Tenner Smith on Trackdown) plays a policeman.

Season 1, Episode 7, "Jealousy!": Joan Staley (shown on the right, Playboy Playmate who appeared in Cape Fear, Roustabout, Valley of the Dragons, Johnny Cool, and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and played Hannah on 77 Sunset Strip and Roberta Love on Broadside) plays movie star Valerie Blake.

Season 1, Episode 8, "To Tell or Not to Tell": Jamie Farr (see "Sally and the Lab Technician" above) returns as the Speedy Service delivery boy.

Season 1, Episode 11, "Forty-Four Tickets": Eleanor Audley (see "The Sick Boy and the Baby Sitter" above) plays PTA chairwoman Mrs. Billings. Joe Devlin (Sam Catchem on Dick Tracy) plays a ticket scalper. Paul Bryar (Sheriff Harve Anders on The Long, Hot Summer) plays a policeman.

Season 1, Episode 12, "Empress Carlotta's Necklace": Gavin MacLeod (shown on the left, starred in Operation Petticoat, The Sand Pebbles, and Kelly's Heroes and played Joseph Haines on McHale's Navy, Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, and Capt. Merrill Stubing on The Love Boat) plays Mel's cousing Maxwell Cooley. Carol Veazie (starred in The Catered Affair, Designing Woman, and Baby the Rain Must Fall and played Mrs. Maude Endles on Norby) plays Rob's mother Clara. Will Wright (Ben Weaver on The Andy Griffith Show and Mr. Merrivale on Dennis the Menace) plays Rob's father Sam.

Season 1, Episode 14, "Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?": Lennie Weinrib (the voice of H.R. Pufinstuf, Seymour Spider, and Ludicrous Lion on H.R. Pufinstuf, voice of Sam Curvy on Doctor Doolittle, and voice of Moonrock on The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show) plays nightclub comic Jackie Brewster.

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