The young couple on Dick Van Dyke’s eponymous ‘60s CBS sitcom won the hearts of America with their witty banter and on-screen antics, launching the career of the actress who played his TV wife, a then-unknown named Mary Tyler Moore.
“The first time I met Mary Tyler Moore, I thought she was just beautiful, but I thought she was a little young,” Van Dyke says of his co-star, who was just 24 when the show started, and 11 years his junior.
The 90-year-old entertainment legend opens up about Moore in an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, admitting that his initial reservations about his on-screen wife extended to more than just her youth. “She had this strange, Mid-Atlantic accent, kind of like Katharine Hepburn, and I said, ‘Well, she’s cute as she can be, but can she do comedy?’”
It didn’t take long for Van Dyke to see that Moore, who went on to star in her own sitcom from 1970-77, had what it takes to be a comedy star.
“It wasn’t two episodes before her timing came, and her sense of humor,” he remembers. “She got it like that, what a pleasure.”
Moore not only held her own alongside Van Dyke in the show’s song-and-dance numbers, she squared up with the actor in their domestic scenes, delivering witty banter that made the couple one of TV’s best on-screen pairs.
“We had this, like a teenage crush on each other,” the actor admits. “It was fun.”
Van Dyke also gets candid about the darker side of fame in the Oprah special, opening up about how drinking to overcome his shyness eventually led to a battle with alcoholism.
"I was very shy -- with strangers -- I couldn't talk to people," he explains. "And I found if I had a drink, it would loosen me up. The barriers went down and I became very social. That’s what got me started."
See more from the interview in the video below.
Oprah: Where Are They Now? airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on OWN.