107 of 114 people found the following review helpful
The undeniable truth is that Dick Van Dyke may consider himself lucky or charmed by good fortune, but he was (and still is) a very talented and versatile man. This memoir glazes over his very successful career in show business, but primarily focuses on his personal life ------ his one marriage, his children, his 35 year relationship with Michelle Triola Marvin, his midwestern roots, the lean years as he tried to establish himself as a performer, and the gravy years after his career took off.
While this memoir wasn't particularly deep (he didn't dwell on the 'what ifs' or ruminate on the misfortunes that fame can present)or highly detailed, it was loaded with a lot of interesting anecdotes that fleshed out the story of his life. In passing, he recalls missing a job interview with a network in Chicago and a fleeting (and I mean fleeting) one- sided exchange with broadcaster Dave Garroway. He talks about the people he grew up with in Danville, Il which included Bobby Short, Gene Hackman (via his friendship with Hackman's cousin), and Donald O'Connor.
Told in a rambling, conversational tone, this book is very readable and easy to get into. I also think that it illustrates that Van Dyke is one of those guys that can be described as 'what you see is what you get'. He comes across as a very nice person who is very easy to relate to because he is not full of himself. In many ways Van Dyke's life hasn't been perfect, but he has the hindsight to realize it has been a good one.
49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Anyone who savors the timeless comedy of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW will enjoy this graceful memoir by its star. At the age of 85, Van Dyke says cheerfully that he's "circling the drain," so it seems as good a time as any to reminisce. Though his classic sitcom and his other career highlights (such as MARY POPPINS) are fully covered here, he also devotes space and thought to his personal life, including the ups and downs of his marriage to the mother of his children, his alcoholism, and his long-term relationship with Michelle Triola (well-remembered as the litigant against ex-lover Lee Marvin in the famous "palimony" case of the 1970s). For an actor so firmly associated with comedy, this isn't an especially funny book, but it is a sincere, straightforward one by a man who says, with pride, that he never played roles in movies or TV shows that he wouldn't want his children to see.
58 of 67 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2011
I was thrilled to see this new memoir. I have always liked his tv-shows The Dick van Dyke show, and movies like Bye bye Birdie, Mary Poppins, Fitzwilly, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. His television show Diagnosis Murder went years in television.
His new memoir discusses more of Dick van Dyke's personal problems than his professional success. Much of the book deals with Van Dyke's relationships like his marriage to Margie. They have four children. Then he also discusses of his 35-year relationship with Michelle Triola.
"I'm really in retirement. My career is over. I'm just playing now and having a great time. I like to keep busy, and I'm doing what's fun for me." Dick van Dyke
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I am a huge Dyke Van Dyke fan and after reading his bio I can see why.From a middle class family Mr Van Dyke grew up pretty much like kids do.From being on the track team in high school and being in service in the military to being a husband and father to his wife and kids.There was always something which made him shine above others though.That was his his passion for entertainment.In his own words you feel the sincerity which he tells us how alive he feels when he is doing that.What I was very impressed with was that Mr Van Dyke always had morals and values that he stuck with (example)he wanted to make movies that children can watch not children movies but movies that children can watch and he did -he turned down when things were rough for him easy money from the mob which would of been or could of been tragic in the end.In our lives we get to see these movie stars, professional athelets etc.live these wonderful lives with these wonderful jobs and I for one always wonder for being so blessed do they give back.Thank You Dick Van Dyke for your unselfishness for giving back Thank You for your comedy .If I had to some up in one sentence what I got from this book it is that IT Makes Me Want To Be A Better Man.Highly Recommended.
70 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2011
The Dick Van Dyke show may be my all time favorite series, and I will still watch the re-runs although I know each show by heart. I grew up in Reno and was thrilled when my parents took me to see Mr. Van Dyke in The Music Man, one of my favorite plays. I was too young to enjoy Diagnosis Murder but I know many older people loved it so I'm sure it was great. Needless to say, I'm a big fan. However, I found this book rather disappointing. The writing was flat, simple, and repeated some of itself throughout. I enjoyed the early chapters which recalled Mr. Van Dyke's childhood with his friends and family. More so, I really liked reading about his beginnings as a performer. I'm always amazed at what so many of these people went through before becoming stars. I couldn't have been less interested in his relationship with Michelle Marvin, who I always regarded as a spoiled, bitchy woman. Mr. Van Dyke's writing of her wasn't thoughtful enough for me to change my mind. I admired that he discussed his battles with nicotine and alcohol. I saw Cold Turkey, and The Morning After as a young teen and remembered them both as being well done films. However, Mr. Van Dyke never goes into depth with any of his subject matter. Everything is glossed over pretty rapidly and I never felt as if I was learning anything new. Okay, he's a funny, talented, nice guy who worked with some amazing people. He opposes war, doesn't think God is an all powerful being, loves Bill Clinton and Obama. Geez, isn't that pretty much everyone in Hollywood? I mean, I would have just loved to hear more about his relationships with the people he worked with. I don't know, maybe I expected too much. Maybe, after all, it's like the book kept saying, Dick Van Dyke is a hard guy to get to know. I won't read it again.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2011
The dust jacket of this genial memoir depicts a high-stepping Dick Van Dyke in his heyday. But the funny thing about this funny man is that he wasn't a high-stepper at all. He was a family man, a loyal friend, and a hard worker dedicated to his craft, all of which come across in MY LUCKY LIFE IN AND OUT OF SHOW BUSINESS.
"The book's title refers to Van Dyke's self-professed situations: good things seemed to just come his way, with no real planning involved."
One of America's best-loved performers, Van Dyke had a lot of false starts and hard times when he was starting out, working as a radio announcer as he developed his fledgling comedy chops with a little song and dance along the way.
He got his big break with one of television's most iconic roles, comedy writer Rob Petrie, on the eponymous show. Along with Mary Tyler Moore and the rest of the cast, the program became an institution and still is wherever classic television shows are rerun. (He notes that one reason for the longevity of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is that the scripts were written without contemporary early-1960s references that would have dated them.)
Van Dyke has nothing but praise for his fellow performers, which may disappoint some readers looking for dirt. He does share a few improbably off-colored situations --- not of his own doing --- with some actors of note, but for the most part he presents his story with the same philosophy in which he chose his movie roles: he wouldn't want to be associated with anything his kids (and now grandkids) couldn't read.
The book's title refers to Van Dyke's self-professed situations: good things seemed to just come his way, with no real planning involved. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" was followed by a few other key roles, including television ("The New Dick Van Dyke Show" and the popular "Diagnosis: Murder") and movies (most notably Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and A Night at the Museum).
But fame didn't come without a price, and books like this wouldn't sell if there wasn't something under the surface. In Van Dyke's case it was alcoholism, which he eventually overcame. It may come as a shock to some of his fans because there were no outward signs: no DUIs, no drunken brawls, or peccadilloes with starlets (although his long-time marriage to his high school sweetheart would crumble later in life).
One shortcoming is the lack of information about his own family. There's little mention of his childhood, his parents, or his brother, Jerry. He evens skips over a couple of his children; while he sadly reports an early miscarriage and notes his first- and last-born kids, he neglects to mention the two middle children.
Now well into his 80s, Van Dyke is still in the public eye, finding the occasional role, working as a volunteer in the community, and singing with his buddies in an acapella group.
--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2014
What I hoped, as an admirer of Van Dyke's work, was a thoughtful analysis of his life and career, with insights about his family and failures. It's my impression that his is the book he thinks he wrote.
It came across to me as the ramblings of an appallingly self-centered person, who doesn't want to be disliked and can rationalize just about anything as long as he keeps the impression of likability. Affable and attractive, he could get away with so much more than someone less so.
The man is in his 80s and the book is not even three hundred pages--I guess I shouldn't have expected him to plumb into his psychological depths. And it is interesting that, as a writer, his experience in skits shows. He has lots of little, unexamined, really disturbing stories he waves away while leaping to the next cute anecdote. His parents left him unattended to watch his little brother so he sat in a chair with an ax for hours, on alert. He got beaten up at school for wearing the "wrong" clothes. His son was a "handful" -- but then no more details about the son until he became a successful attorney. His doctor diagnosed his arthritis would cripple him--but then it, uhm, just, well, it didn't cripple him.
The man's treatment of his wife is a brilliant exercise in revisionism. He just can't stand for us to think he did anything wrong in leaving his wife, after 30 odd years, for a younger woman. Therefore, there is no cute story of his courtship of Margie. The several photos with Margie in them do not identify her. This is a significant omission because Van Dyke makes a point of identifying Julie Andrews in every photo with her--and of course we all know what Julie looks like. The most telling photo shows Van Dyke meeting the Queen of England. In this photo he identifies the Queen, the dark haired man 2 people away (Sean Connery) but not the lovely blonde at his side. It's as if she didn't exist.
This is not to say that Dick Van Dyke and Margie were a perfect couple--how would I know? Just that he went to extremes to expunge her, and to make sure we knew what a perfect match he and Michelle were, later. But he can't say anything BAD about Margie, because then he would be a bad person, right? And besides, their children might read the book, and we can't have him saying bad things about their mother.
He takes a similar, superficial approach to alcoholism, identifying himself as an alcoholic without really taking responsibility for what his alcoholism might have done to his family. When he finally gives it up for good (he says) it is because he just "lost his taste" for it. And that's it! Well, that's all better, then, no need to apologize to those you wronged while polluted!
Some of his luck--and there was a lot of it--didn't look like luck at the time. For example, his heart murmur kept him off the track team. He clearly was a talented athlete but the rigors of being a track star would have taken a toll on his body that might have prevented his brilliant dancing. And some of his success wasn't luck. He'd go in on weekends to write and re-write when he was still in TV, and clearly loved the dancing and strenuous rehearsing necessary for making a scene perfect when other people were in charge of the material.
I'll probably reread this some time, because the anecdotes of life in TV and movies were pretty interesting, if undertold. And he kindly includes a pretty good index, so if you are interested in stories about particular people, you can get right to them. But as the story of a person's life it's not enough. Van Dyke's memoirs will be useful in twenty years or so when an impartial person decides to write a real biography.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2011
In the late 1980s and early 1990s I experienced a time warp of sorts. In the evenings, after finishing my homework and chores, I would watch Nick at Nite. One show in particular made me laugh and me want more: "The Dick Van Dyke Show." I adored Rob and Laura Petrie, thought Richie was sweet and funny, held my breath with everyone else whenever Alan Brady made an appearance, and waited with a grin for the zingers Buddy would direct at Mel Cooley. Sally Rogers always made me smile, and I knew when Laura's best friend, Millie, showed up something crazy would probably end up happening.
Although as a child I never took the time to think through the process of making a television program, I always felt the entire cast looked like it had a blast. Thanks to Dick Van Dyke's new memoir, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, I know everyone actually did. Van Dyke discusses in his book how the five years of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-1966) were some of the best years of his career. He says creativity and fun filled every single day on set with his co-stars, and that enjoyment and appreciation for the job at hand shows.
In a recent appearance on "The Rachael Ray Show" Van Dyke said he actually wrote the memoir himself, contrary to hiring a ghostwriter as most celebrities do. The lack of polish provided by a professional writer is apparent from the get-go, but it also lends to the authenticity of Van Dyke's experiences. Throughout the entire memoir Van Dyke makes clear that his namesake show and his film appearance in Mary Poppins (1964) with Julie Andrews remain two of his favorite career choices, as they are with fans across the world.
His road to success and worldwide fame didn't come with a snap of the fingers, however. Van Dyke relates how he worked hard to be the best entertainer possible, whether it was launching a lip synching act with a good friend or being a radio announcer to pay the bills. When Carl Reiner recruited Van Dyke to star in "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and the decision was made to name the show for him, the cast and crew looked puzzled because no one knew at that time who he was.
The book reads much like the man is himself: fun, easy-going, and like a laid-back regaling of the old days. Van Dyke is fully aware of the special quality of his hit TV program and movies (along with "Mary Poppins," he's well-known for his 1960 Broadway performance in "Bye Bye Birdie" as well as its film adaptation in 1963.) He doesn't take any of it for granted but also wonders towards the end of the memoir where all the good writing and good television programs have gone.
I often wonder the same thing myself. Reading Van Dyke's memoir brought back many fond memories for me of watching those old programs and despite what the ratings today may say about one show or another, the fact remains that we have a dearth of quality, family-friendly small-screen entertainment. That's one reason why I know I would still enjoy "The Dick Van Dyke Show" today and am so glad we are fortunate enough to be able to share in the memories of the star behind it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Many celebrities approach writing their memoirs with utmost care and after finishing Dick Van Dyke's new book, "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business", one gets the feeling that Mr. Van Dyke was thoughtful in his prose. Yet, the actor/comedian/singer/dancer (and one of America's all-time favorite personalities) is straightforward with the ups and downs of his life and career and his book is more revealing than many memoirs penned by other famous people.
To have remembered Dick Van Dyke, especially from his show in the early 1960s, is to re-visit a time when comedy was candid but not overdone. As Van Dyke indicates, his show is still funny in syndication because, well, it was and still is funny! I must admit that I didn't know the downside of the author's life....his alcoholism, marriage problems, and yes, even smoking. He handles them in a manner that I would have come to expect of him...up front and non-dramatic. Had he approached these subjects in a harsher fashion it would not have been characteristic. Van Dyke explains these issues and moves on.
The book is a fun read and filled with anecdotes from his long career. With that career he also presents many "flops" in which he took part. It's important to remember that stars as big as Dick Van Dyke often have had more failures than successes, but his positive outlook, family support and stamina really helped him throughout. "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business" is a warm and honest appraisal of a performer we, ourselves, have been lucky to know for over fifty years.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Dick Van Dyke's memoir, written now that he's "circling the drain," as he puts it, but still in possession of all his faculties, is a smoothly-written account of his life and sixty-plus-year career in show business: a happy childhood in Danville, Illinois, with his younger brother Jerry, his stint in Special Services during World War II, his marriage and family life, and the innumerable show business jobs he had across the country before finally hitting it big with the musical Bye Bye Birdie and The Dick Van Dyke Show. Other shows and movies followed: Mary Poppins, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Van Dyke and Company, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and of course Diagnosis Murder (which my husband and I have always called Diagnosis Van Dyke). At 85 Van Dyke is still busy--with volunteer work, his singing group, a nascent one-man play, and with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Early in his career, Van Dyke decided he wanted to specialize in family entertainment. Defining himself clearly would help his career in the long run, he thought, and he wanted to make movies that he could comfortably take his children to see. The book is comparable in tone to the on-screen entertainment that Van Dyke built his career on. He touches on the dark episodes of his life--alcoholism and his addiction to smoking, a mid-life crisis, the end of his marriage, deaths of friends and family--but it is by no means a negative read. Nor is it at all salacious or mean.
Scattered throughout the book are interesting bits of behind-the-scenes information: that Carl Reiner, the genius behind The Dick Van Dyke Show, kept political references and slang out of his scripts with a view to making the show timeless; that Van Dyke had to donate $4000 to an art school Walt Disney had founded before he was allowed to play the ancient banker in Mary Poppins (a role for which he wasn't compensated!); that P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, wanted Disney to remove all the animation from the movie. (Happily, Walt Disney overruled her, and created a masterpiece from what I think was a mediocre book.) Van Dyke also mentions his dissatisfaction with some aspects of the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in particular the movie's director:
"Soon after I heard him swear in front of the children one too many times, and I finally had words with him. Above all else, it showed that he had no feel for the family-oriented material. As for the material in general, let's just say that enough scenes were done on the fly or redone at the last minute that I lost faith that the version that finally showed up in theaters would match anyone's expectations, and I think I was right."
Van Dyke writes that he and Rob Petrie (his character on The Dick Van Dyke Show) are basically the same person: they're both affable, slightly clumsy family guys. He certainly comes off as a nice guy in the book, someone who has lived a joy-filled life for the most part, and who is happiest when he's making people laugh.
-- Debra Hamel