Dick Van Dyke Opens Up About Alcoholism In Vulnerable Past Interview

The Dick Cavett Show / YouTube

Dick Van Dyke’s Extensive Filmography Stretches Back Decades

Dick Van Dyke has one of the most extensive filmographies of any actor alive. He’s starred in timeless films such as Disney’s Mary Poppins, Bye Bye Birdie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and many more.

Additionally, Van Dyke has starred on stage in multiple productions. In fact, he originally played the character Albert Peterson in the stage musical Bye Bye Birdie before reprising the role in the 1963 film adaptation (which was his first movie).

As if that wasn’t enough, Van Dyke has also enjoyed a successful TV career. He had a namesake sitcom that ran from 1961-1966 (The Dick Van Dyke Show) and another sitcom that ran from 1971–1974 (The New Dick Van Dyke Show).

On top of that, Van Dyke played the lead role in Diagnosis: Murder from 1993–2001. He also served as the show’s executive producer on 137 of its 178 episodes.

And that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to Van Dyke’s work history!

In The Midst Of Career Success, His Personal Life Was More Grim

But in the midst of all of his success, Van Dyke faced a lot of personal battles. As he shared in his 2016 memoir, Keep Moving, he spent three weeks receiving treatment for alcoholism in 1972.

Shortly after, his then-wife, Margie Willet, entered the same hospital to receive treatment for addiction to prescription drugs. Van Dyke and Willet separated for some time before they eventually divorced in 1984 after 36 years of marriage.

The actor lived with Michelle Triola for 30 years before her death in 2009. He then remarried in 2012, to makeup artist Arlene Silver.

Dick Van Dyke dressed for Halloween with his wife Arlene Silver
Dick Van Dyke / Facebook

Dick Van Dyke Speaks Frankly About Alcoholism In 1974 Interview On The Dick Cavett Show

Van Dyke has always been open about his alcoholism, and has never shied away from discussing it. He spoke frankly about his addiction in a 1974 interview on The Dick Cavett Show:

…by the time I realized I was in trouble I was too deluded. Like most alcoholics are, to be able to understand what was wrong with me.”

Van Dyke said he couldn’t pinpoint the exact time when his drinking went from just being “social” to being more frequent.

He told Cavett he tricked himself into thinking he “didn’t have a drinking problem” because he wouldn’t drink during the day, or while he was at work. 

When he started his conversation with Cavett, Van Dyke had a few words he wanted to share before anything else. He felt it was important for him to say:

“…there are a lot of people dying from alcoholism, because the rest of us are enabling them to because there’s a stigma about that disease. As you probably know.” He continued, “And for centuries they’ve been putting the blame on the character of the addict, and it’s not so. There’s no degeneration, or loose morals, or character defects in an alcoholic. It’s a physical disease.”

You can watch Van Dyke’s full conversation with Cavett below.

Van Dyke is 98 years old today, and still active as an actor.