Dick Van Dyke said that he had a crush on Mary Tyler Moore during ''The Dick Van Dyke Show''
Smart, successful, and hilarious, Rob and Laura Petrie made the perfect on-screen couple. But when The Dick Van Dyke Show began, Dick Van Dyke still had his doubts. In his book, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, Van Dyke described his first interactions with Mary Tyler Moore, who he immediately loved as a person, but perhaps not so much as his on-screen wife. He wrote, "What wasn't to love? I adored her from the moment we were introduced. I think both of us had each other at hello. But I still had a couple of problems."
Van Dyke's first issue was physical. He said, "For one, I thought she was too young to play my wife. She was twelve years younger than I was, though as time went by, no one ever noticed or mentioned that fact. Even I forgot about it." The other issue was a bit more important for a show like The Dick Van Dyke Show. He said, "During our initial read-throughs of the first episode, titled 'The Sick Boy and the Sitter,' I was concerned that Mary wasn't much of a comedienne."
Today, to worry that Mary Tyler Moore wasn't a comedienne is so funny, you could call yourself a comedienne. Even Van Dyke acknowledged it in his book as he wrote, "It is hard to imagine." Still, he was able to explain his reasoning: "She was stiff, proper, polite. She didn't seem to have much of a funny bone. I saw a little Catherine Hepburn in her, but not much Lucille Ball."
In retrospect, Van Dyke was able to acknowledge his mistake. He wrote, "Of course, I was wrong... Within a few days of reading and working together — really in no time at all — Mary got it. With Carl, Rosie, and Morey in the room, she had the best teachers. These people knew comedy like nobody else. They had a funny in their bones, down into the marrow." Van Dyke was also sure to dish some of the credit onto Moore herself and added, "Mary was an A-plus student. She absorbed everything — the chemistry, the rhythm — and emerged a comedienne herself." He continued, "The first time I stood across from her in rehearsal and heard her say 'Oh, Rob!' I thought, that's it, we're home. All of a sudden, she was perfect."
So perfect was Moore that by the time filming for the second season of The Dick Van Dyke Show rolled around, he found himself in a new situation. He wrote, "A funny thing happened that second season when Mary and I went back to work. We couldn't stop giggling when we were around each other. Part of it was the joy of being back together with everyone and getting to continue the series, but our giggles continued past the first episode or two." So hefty was the issue that Van Dyke decided to ask a friend of his that was a psychiatrist. The prognosis? Van Dyke wrote, "He stated what was patently obvious. 'Dick, you've got a crush on her.' I put my head in my hands and laughed. Of course, I did. Who didn't adore Mary?"
Van Dyke never pursued his crush, but he explained, "If we had been different people, maybe something would have happened. But neither of us was that type of person. Still, we were stuck on each other." Van Dyke and Moore remained close throughout the show's airing, and even after it had finished its run, and perhaps the show was better for Van Dyke's crush because it meant that the love between Rob and Laura that we saw on the show was, in some ways, real.
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