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Happy Birthday to beloved entertainer Dick Van Dyke, who turns 92 years old today. Known for his beaming smile, physical dexterity, impeccable comic timing, and unforgettable screen roles, the actor, comedian, writer, singer, dancer, and producer starred in films such as Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and on television in The Dick Van Dyke Show. He has won Emmy, Grammy, and Tony awards, and in his 2012 memoir, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, he tells the extraordinary tale of how he got his break on Broadway… (1925)

In 1960 Van Dyke auditioned for a small part in Bye Bye Birdie. He had no dance experience, so after he sang his audition song he did an impromptu soft-shoe out of sheer nervousness. Gower Champion, the show’s director and choreographer, was watching, and promptly went up on stage to inform Van Dyke he just won the lead role of Albert Peterson. An astonished Van Dyke protested that he could not dance, to which Champion replied “We’ll teach you”. That musical won four Tony awards including Best Featured Actor for Van Dyke. (And, he still looks great! Take a look at the photo taken this week of him and Rose Marie, his former co-star.)

MORE Good News on This Date:

  • Sir Francis Drake of England set out with five ships on a nearly 3-year journey around the world (1577)
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katharine Hepburn, was released in U.S. theaters depicting interracial marriage in a positive light, something that was still was illegal in 17 states (1967)
  • Malta became a republic (1974)
  • South African President Willem de Klerk met for the first time with imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela, at his office in Cape Town (1989)
  • The European Union said it would add new members: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia (2002)