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Jerry Van Dyke

Jerry Van Dyke

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: July 27, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Danville, Illinois, USA Profession: comedian, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

For decades, actor and comedian Jerry Van Dyke was largely relegated to footnote status in the annals of entertainment history. He was the younger brother of Dick Van Dyke, and for most of his early career, endured a string of failed television jobs, including the notorious "My Mother the Car" (NBC, 1965-66), which many went on to credit as the worst series ever made. However, his fortunes rebounded in the late 1980s when he was cast as the befuddled Luther Van Dam on "Coach" (ABC, 1989-1997), which earned him four Emmy nominations, as well as long-overdue respect from the industry. While his five-decade career may have had its share of ups and downs, Van Dyke weathered it with good humor, which, in the end, proved to be his lasting legacy.Born July 27, 1931 in Danville, IL, Jerry Van Dyke was the second son of Loren and Hazel Van Dyke, born six years after his older brother, Richard. Like many comedians, he scored his first laughs while clowning in classrooms, and decided to make it his profession while still in high school. Van Dyke earned his comic chops at various clubs and burlesque joints throughout the Deep South, performing a popular act that combined stand-up comedy with impressive...

For decades, actor and comedian Jerry Van Dyke was largely relegated to footnote status in the annals of entertainment history. He was the younger brother of Dick Van Dyke, and for most of his early career, endured a string of failed television jobs, including the notorious "My Mother the Car" (NBC, 1965-66), which many went on to credit as the worst series ever made. However, his fortunes rebounded in the late 1980s when he was cast as the befuddled Luther Van Dam on "Coach" (ABC, 1989-1997), which earned him four Emmy nominations, as well as long-overdue respect from the industry. While his five-decade career may have had its share of ups and downs, Van Dyke weathered it with good humor, which, in the end, proved to be his lasting legacy.

Born July 27, 1931 in Danville, IL, Jerry Van Dyke was the second son of Loren and Hazel Van Dyke, born six years after his older brother, Richard. Like many comedians, he scored his first laughs while clowning in classrooms, and decided to make it his profession while still in high school. Van Dyke earned his comic chops at various clubs and burlesque joints throughout the Deep South, performing a popular act that combined stand-up comedy with impressive banjo-playing skills. In 1952, he joined the Air Force, where he continued to entertain as part of Tops in Blue, an entertainment unit that performed for military personnel around the world. As part of the unit, he received some of his greatest exposure, including a 1954 appearance on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" (CBS, 1948-1971) that saw Airman Second Class Van Dyke performing as MC before an estimated television audience of 15 million viewers.

The heightened exposure gave his career a boost, and when he returned to civilian life after his discharge, Van Dyke began to make regular appearances on television, including a recurring role as Stacey Petrie, the banjo-playing, sleep-walking brother to his big brother's Rob Petrie on the classic series, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (CBS, 1961-66). This led to a short-lived and much-criticized stint as comic relief on "The Judy Garland Show" (CBS, 1963-64), in which critics and network executives tried to pin the troubled variety program's problems on Van Dyke. He exited the series after 10 episodes, moving on to host the game show "Picture This" (CBS, 1963) and land comic supporting roles in films like "Palm Springs Weekend" (1963) and the John Wayne Western "McLintock!" (1963).

Van Dyke rebounded from the failure of the Garland show through tireless club performances and talk show appearances, which eventually restored him to most-wanted status in the eyes of television executives. However, he found it difficult to find a worthwhile project to suit his talents. Van Dyke famously turned down the role of Gilligan on "Gilligan's Island" (CBS, 1964-67), as well as the opportunity to replace Don Knotts in the sixth season of "The Andy Griffith Show" (CBS, 1960-68), before settling on the improbable "My Mother the Car," a surreal sitcom about a lawyer (Van Dyke) who purchased a 1920s touring car that was actually a reincarnation of his mother. The show was slaughtered by critics, who for decades labeled it as the worst show in the history of television; reviews of these kind hung yet an albatross around Van Dyke's neck for years to come.

Future attempts at sitcom stardom met similar fates. "Accidental Family" (NBC, 1967-68), with Van Dyke as a widowed comedian who bought a farm on which to raise his son, was created by Oscar-nominated writer Melville Shavelson and produced by Sheldon Leonard, who handled similar duties on both the "Dick Van Dyke" and "Andy Griffith" shows, but it fell victim to low ratings after a single season. "Headmaster" (CBS, 1970-71) also seemed like a hit, as it featured Griffith in his first new show after the end of his iconic series, but the show, which featured Van Dyke as best friend to Griffith's high school principal, failed to attract viewers. For much of the 1970s and early 1980s, Van Dyke bounced between stand-up work, primarily for the Playboy Club circuit, and guest appearances on television shows, most notably in a pair of appearances on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77) as Wes Callison, Mary's hapless former beau.

Van Dyke was originally considered to play Tom Poston's role on "Newhart" (CBS, 1982-1990), but eventually settled for a guest appearance as a travel agent on the celebrated sitcom. The character, dimwitted but genial handyman George Utley, could be seen as a forerunner for Van Dyke's most celebrated character, the easily confused but likable assistant coach to series star Craig T. Nelson. The interplay between Nelson's Hayden Fox, Van Dyke's Luther, and Bill Fagerbakke's supernaturally dense Michael "Dauber" Dybinski was, for many viewers, like watching supremely well-played tennis, with each performer working their respective strengths while offering up perfect serves to their teammates. For his efforts, Van Dyke received four consecutive Emmy nominations between 1990 and 1994. More importantly, the show's success finally dispelled the lingering notion of Van Dyke as an also-ran to his brother.

The success of "Coach" was tragically dampened in 1991 when Van Dyke's daughter, Kelly Jean, committed suicide. Her life had been a troubled one, and included a stint in the adult film industry under the name of Nancee Kelly. She ended her life after an emotional phone call to her husband, cult actor Jack Nance of "Eraserhead" (1977) fame. After "Coach" ended its series run in 1997, Van Dyke settled into a comfortable run of guest appearances and promotional engagements. He was brought onto the struggling sitcom "You Wish" (ABC, 1997-98) as the Luther-esque grandfather to John Ales' aspiring genie, then enjoyed a recurring role as Mike O'Malley's father, "Big Jimmy" Hughes, on the sitcom "Yes, Dear" (CBS, 2000-06). Van Dyke was also the spokesman for the Big Lots department store chain, but as he eased into his eighth decade, he preferred to spend most of his time at his 800-acre ranch in Arkansas. An avid poker player, he also participated in numerous televised competitions.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Annabelle's Wish (1997) Voice Of Grandpa
2.
4.
 Angel in My Pocket (1969) Bubba
5.
 Love and Kisses (1965) Freddy
6.
 Palm Springs Weekend (1963) Biff Roberts
7.
 McLintock! (1963) Matt Douglas, Jr.
8.
 The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963) Norman Jones
9.
 Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited, The (2004) Stacey Petrie
10.
 Dick Van Dyke: Put on a Happy Face (2000) Interviewee
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Began on the club circuit, often using a banjo as a comic prop
1963:
Served as emcee for the quiz show, "Picture This"
1963:
Appeared as a regular on "The Judy Garland Show"
1963:
Acted in the films "McLintock!", "Palm Springs Weekend"
1965:
Played the role of Dave Crabtree on TV sitcom, "My Mother the Car"
:
Played the role Jerry Webster in TV comedy, "Accidental Family"
1968:
Largest film role, supporting Andy Griffith in "Angel in My Pocket"
:
Acted the role of Coach Jerry Brownell in the TV drama series, "The Headmaster"
1979:
Appeared on short-lived TV sitcom "13 Queens Boulevard" as Steven Winters
:
Played role of Assistant Coach Luther Van Dam on the popular ABC sitcom, "Coach"
1997:
Had featured role as a genie on the short-lived ABC comedy "You Wish"
1997:
Opened Jerry Van Dyke's Soda Shoppe and Guesthouse in Fort Worth, Texas
1998:
Joined cast of the ABC sitcom "Teen Angel"
2004:
Revised role of Stacy Petrie, Rob's brother in "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited", a television special which brought together the old cast of the 1960's hit show
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

Nominated several times for an Emmy as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for "Coach".

"Jerry just blunders through. He blurts and he blunders and somehow comes out on top." --Hazel Van Dyke on her son's success (from PEOPLE, November 12, 1993)

Van Dyke revitalized the downtown area of Benton, AR by rerfurbishing a movie theater, restaurant, candy store, antique shop and hotel.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Carol Van Dyke. Divorced in 1974; mother of three children with Van Dyke.
wife:
Shirley Jones. Singer. Met in 1970 when Van Dyke was working at a supper-club; married in 1977; not to be confused with the Oscar-winning singer-actor.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Loren Van Dyke. Deceased.
mother:
Hazel Van Dyke. Died September 27, 1992; age 95.
brother:
Dick Van Dyke. Actor, comedian. Born December 13, 1925; star of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" on which Jerry had a recurring role--playing the brother (Stacy Petrie) to Dick's character (Rob Petrie).
daughter:
Kelly Jean Van Dyke-Nance. Secretary. Born June 5, 1958 in Illinois; committed suicide by hanging herself November 17, 1991; married actor Jack Nance six months prior to suicide.
daughter:
Jerri Lynn Van Dyke. Loan processor. Born c. 1963.
son:
Ronald A Van Dyke. House painter. Born in March 1967.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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