Dick Van Dyke talks ‘Mary Poppins’ accent, Mary Tyler Moore’s Capri pants and how being married keeps him young

Dick Van Dyke in 2015. (Photo: Rick Rowell/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Dick Van Dyke in 2015. (Photo: Rick Rowell/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Dick Van Dyke was an Emmy-Emmy-, Grammy and SAG Award-winning actor on screen and stage. appeared as the Gnome on The Masked Singer this week — setting a record for the oldest contestant in the series’ nine seasons, at age 97 — the judges were honored and exhilarated to be in what host Nick Cannon called “the presence of greatness.” Judge Nicole Scherzinger told the legend through tears, “You’re our childhood,” while Ken Jeong said, “You Are comedy,” and Jenny McCarthy-Walhberg exclaimed, “You’re the G.O.A.T.!”

“… But nobody guessed me! Which is funny,” Van Dyke chuckles over the phone, recalling that before he removed his pointy-hatted elf-head, the panel actually speculated that he was Dustin Hoffman, Mel Brooks, or even Robert DeNiro. “Wait just a minute. Those guys can’t sing!”

Van Dyke is a talented singer, as his wonderful performances attest to. “When You’re Smiling” performance on this week’s Masked Singer premiereHe can do almost everything. Yahoo Entertainment met with the iconic icon to discuss some highlights of his 75-year career. Mary Poppins Cockney brogue, to Mary Tyler Moore’s controversial too-tight slacks on The Dick Van Dyke ShowTo the 60th Anniversary of Bye Bye Birdie and how that role changed his “entire life.” And of course, we Had Ask him how he keeps so young. This conversation with G.O.A.T. We were able to smile from the beginning.

Yahoo Entertainment: I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me, Mr. Van Dyke. It’s an honor. You may make me cry. It is exactly what Nicole Scherzinger did after she realized who you really were. Everyone was so thrilled to meet you. Did you enjoy going on The Masked Singer?

Dick Van Dyke: It was hilarious. It was quite the bizarre experience. They have a great team there, and they took excellent care of me. But the moment I got out of my car, they covered up my head! I never had the chance to see or meet anyone. They will be coming back to me to see me in person. It was bizarre.

Maybe you would sing in your famous songs Mary Poppins Everyone would have recognized that accent. However, I can understand why some people don’t like that accent…

Yes, Americans were not too critical of it. But the British are. Never Let me not be too harsh about my horrible Cockney accent. You know what, [Disney Studios] I sent a man to coach me in that name [actor] J. Pat O’Malley. He was an Irishman. After dinner, he came to my home and taught me about the English accent. His Cockney was not very good. That was something I couldn’t comprehend. I was surrounded by actors from Britain, and no one had ever spoken about my accent. I did my best. But the British, they’re still kidding me — like, “Um, what part of England were you supposed to be from, again?”

You just made quite a splash on TV this week. I’d like to take you back to your beginnings in television. The Dick Van Dyke Show was so groundbreaking…

It was only a show back then, but it showed what the man did for a living. [Show creator] Carl [Reiner] had worked on Sid Caesar’s show and he did all of the writing, so it was his brilliant idea to show a writing team at work. That was what I thought it was. The Best idea. It was also a great idea.

Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie, MaryTyler Moore as Laura Petrie, in 1961. (Photo: CBS via Getty Images)

Dick Van Dyke plays Rob Petrie. MaryTyler Moore plays Laura Petrie. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images).

I feel that it was also the first sitcom where the couple actually appeared to be a good match. Rob and Laura Petrie had genuine chemistry.

That was easy because Mary [Tyler Moore, who played wife Laura Petrie] You know, we kind of liked each other in real-life. I thought she was great. That’s how I see it translated to film.

How is it possible that Rob and Laura needed separate beds? Did that TV rule still apply back then?

Yes! I was mad that Bob Newhart, Suzanne Pleshette and I got to share a bed [on The Bob Newhart Show, which aired on the same network, CBS, a few years after The Dick Van Dyke Show ended]We wouldn’t be allowed to. I’m still mad about that!

MaryTyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' in the early '60s.. (Photos: CBS via Getty Images)

MaryTyler Moore with Dick Van Dyke during “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the early 1960s. (Photos by CBS via Getty Images).

Oh, really? Did you really argue for that? You might have had conversations with the network about the Petries wanting to share a bed. But they said no.

Yes. They just wouldn’t let them at the time. And the other thing was they thought Mary’s Capri pants were a little too tight in the rear end — and they actually made us let it out! It showed a little too much of her stomach!

What? They were so iconic! Another emblematic part of The Dick Van Dyke Show This was the opening sequence. Do you remember tripping on that ottoman?

No, I never did. It happened a few times, but they just reused it. I have never hurt myself. [while performing]. Carl knew that I loved doing physical comedy falls, and he would always give me a chance when he could. He allowed me to have so much fun.

Did you manage to put your physical comedy talents to good use? The Masked Singer Not at all?

No, not really. I almost fell from the confusion of not knowing where I was. It was dark inside. [the Gnome costume].

Yes, you are certainly at home on stage performing in costumes. Let me ask you a question. Bye Bye Birdie You were awarded a Tony Award for your Broadway role as Albert Peterson. It is also the 60th anniversary year of the movie adaptation. You do an amazing dance sequence in that to “Everything Is Rosie.”

Well, of course I was a Fred Astaire fan, and many, many years ago I was driving to work listening to a disc jockey interview Fred Astaire, and he asked Fred, “Who do you like today?” And Fred said, “I like the way Dick Van Dyke moves.” I almost drove off the freeway! I don’t know any dance instruction, so I just did what other people did. It was so much fun for me. I’d never danced before Bye Bye Birdie. I told Gower Champ, the director. [of the original stage musical], when he hired me, “You know, I don’t dance.” And he said, “We’ll teach you.” And sure enough, they did.

Wow. Other? Bye Bye Birdie memories?

Ann-Margret made the movie a sort of vehicle, and she modified it quite a bit. The stage production is much more entertaining. … Real show business is on a stage. You can’t do it anywhere else. … [The stage musical] It was so much fun. Of course, working [on Broadway] Chita Rivera was the greatest of all time. She was a great teacher. Chita Rivera being the woman she is, was in Philadelphia when they were still working on new songs. They came down with “Put on a Happy Face” — and they wrote it for Chita, Not For me! But Chita said, “Oh, Dick’s got nothing to do in the first act. Why don’t you let him do it?” And that changed my entire life. Because of that song, I was awarded a Tony. That earned me the television series.

Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera attend the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center on May 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Caballeo-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera attend the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors at the Kennedy Center on May 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Andrew Caballeo-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

And you’re still doing television! You’re now the oldest contestant ever to compete on television. The Masked SingerThe record beat William Shatner’s from last year by 91 years. Nicole called you “gorgeous”, “handsome”, and you exuded joy and energy on stage. Now, I have one last question: It is What is your secret to staying young? I want to know the secret!

Genes are one thing, I suppose. A beautiful, young woman to care for me [Arlene Silver, age 51, who Van Dyke married in 2012] — that works! My positive attitude is something I get from my wife. One more thing: I wrote a book called Keep Moving: I go to the gym three times a week and still exercise. And I advise everybody to do that, because that’s what ages people — it’s just a stiffening up and not exercising their muscles and their lungs. Exercise is your answer.

OK, then! OK, then!

Dick Van Dyke kisses his wife Arlene Silver  at the AMD British Academy Britannia Awards in 2017. (photo: Reuters/Danny Moloshok)

At the 2017 AMD British Academy Britannia Awards, Dick Van Dyke kisses Arlene Silver. (photo: Reuters/Danny Moloshok)

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This interview has been edited to keep it short and simple.

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