Were Mary Tyler Moore And Dick Van Dyke Friends In Real Life?

"The Dick Van Dyke Show" was one of the most popular TV shows of the 1960s, a proto-meta-comedy that revolves around the interactions of a group of comedy writers coming up with jokes in a writing room. Creator Carl Reiner based the show on his real-life experiences as a comedy writer for Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows" and was keen to give American TV audiences insight into the processes behind how shows are made. Leading man Dick Van Dyke plays Rob Petrie, a character based on Reiner who is balancing his job in a TV writing room and domestic life with his young wife, Laura — played by Mary Tyler Moore — and their son Richie.

Van Dyke was already a star in his mid-30s by the time the sitcom launched in 1961, having established himself as an Emmy Award-winning stage actor in the Broadway musical "Bye Bye Birdie." Meanwhile, Tyler Moore, who was in her mid-20s, was almost unknown, with only a few bit parts to her name. However, Laura soon became America's sweetheart, with Tyler Moore's comedic prowess soon compelling the writers of the show to focus more on her character than those who worked with Rob in the writing room. Viewers were also won over by the on-screen couple's incredible natural chemistry, which seems to have been a reflection of their mutual admiration and friendship throughout their lives.

A sweet working relationship

It's no secret that Dick Van Dyke appreciates Mary Tyler Moore's talent. As he recalled in his biography "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business," when Tyler Moore joined the show, he was far from confident that Carl Reiner had made the right choice and was concerned that the as-yet-unproven actress couldn't do comedy. However, Tyler Moore soon made her imprint on the show, evolving beyond the role of "straight man" to Van Dyke's clowning to become one of the show's biggest sources of laughs. As well as her delivery and screen presence, Van Dyke highlighted Tyler Moore's improvisational skills.

But Van Dyke's admiration seemingly went further than Tyler Moore's acting talents. As he recalls, when the pair were reunited to film the second season of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" after several months apart, he found it hard to control himself and kept descending into fits of giggles whenever his on-screen wife was around. As their corpsing threatened to slow the production down, Van Dyke sought out an explanation from a psychiatrist friend, who simply pointed out that Van Dyke probably had a crush on his glamorous and charming co-star. Tyler Moore also admitted to Larry King in 2003 that the two connected on a personal level, which set the tone for their working relationship and chemistry on camera (per Bustle).

Later years

Understandably, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore drifted apart when "The Dick Van Dyke Show" came to an end in 1966 and they separately pursued other projects. The show was Tyler Moore's breakthrough, and it established her as one of the major comedic acting talents of her generation. But she was yet to reach the height of her popularity. That came the following decade with her own "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," a groundbreaking sitcom that for the first time focused on the life of a strong, independent American woman.

The two reunited in 1999 for an interview with Larry King, in which they revisited their work together in the 1960s. Touching her co-star on the arm, Tyler Moore tells King (via YouTube): "Dick Van Dyke was the most generous person to work with. He delighted in my success." Almost as if to prove the point, Van Dyke then goes on to compare Tyler Moore to the great comediennes of the 1940s, to which she replies: "See? This is why I love him." The pair got together again in 2012 when Van Dyke was on hand to give Tyler Moore her SAG Life Achievement Award.

When Tyler Moore died in 2017, Van Dyke was among those to pay tribute to her and her unique talent, writing in The Hollywood Reporter: "I got to be on hand and watch her grow into the talent she became. She was just the best." He described the five years they spent together on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" as being the highlight of his life.