Dick Van Dyke: My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business

First off I must admit that I am a huge Dick Van Dyke fan. So I went into this memoir with an open mind (albeit somewhat clouded by fandom) and a desire to get to know the man a bit better.

I got what I hoped for! I hope you enjoy my…

B O O K    R E V I E W

 

Publisher: Crown Archetype

Type: Autobiography

Date: 2011

Pages: 290

ISBN: 978-0-307-59223-1

The forward is written by Carl Reiner who helped to put Van Dyke on the map back in the early 60’s with a certain little sitcom we all remember and love, The Dick Van Dyke Show. After reading this memoir, it’s obvious these two men have a great deal of respect for one another!

With Mary Tyler Moore in 1963

That brings me to the first thing I liked about this book. Van Dyke is generous with his praise of, and the giving of credit to, the many talented people who worked with him over the years. No ego here!

The book gives a nice overview of his childhood and the challenges of his early life trying to break into show business. I didn’t realize how many challenges he faced! But after his signature show was a success, things began to roll along nicely.

With Julie Andrews in 1964

I was happy to hear that he enjoyed working with Andrews on Mary Poppins as I am also a huge Disney fan!

With Walt Disney

The book contains one of my favorite Van Dyke/Disney stories involving how Van Dyke got the role of the old banker in Mary Poppins. Look for other insider tidbits about that movie also.

One disappointment as a fan of Van Dyke’s work was learning how he felt about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

With Sally Ann Howes in 1968

I won’t get into too many details about his issues with the movie. Suffice to say he had some valid points… but I still love his work on the piece!

He touches on many of the projects he did between Chitty and his Diagnosis Murder television triumph as well as his battle with alcoholism. On this point, I’d like to quote directly from the book to show what Van Dyke’s goal was in writing this memoir:

A word of warning about this book: If you are looking for dirt, stop reading now. I have had some tough times and battled a few demons, but there is nothing salacious here…. I have tried to write an honest story, with lightness, insight, hope, and some laughs.”

In my opinion, he has succeeded on all counts!

In the end, he leaves you believing he is as happy as he looks in the picture above.

COOL FACTOR: 5/5

Anyone with as extensive a career as Van Dyke could easily pen a larger volume and cover much more ground, but Van Dyke only hits the key moments with insight and asides designed to give the reader a nice look into his life without wearing him out with needless details.

Even if you aren’t a big Van Dyke fan, there is enough Hollywood name-dropping to keep you interested, but the book is interesting enough without it.

And for the rabid Dick Van Dyke fan I say, “Buy it! Read it! Love it!” I did.

Top 5 Non-Disney Disney-style Movies

How many times have you been talking about Disney movies and someone says that their favorite is An American Tail? Or when talking live-action movies another friend raves about how well Disney did with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

You see the problem here, right? Neither of those movies were made by Disney. So why do people think they are? Possibly because they assume if an animated movie is successful, it must have been done by Disney. Or if a live-action classic is still around today and shown on television once a year, it must have been done by Disney.

This is a definite tip-of-the-hat to the reputation of Disney but not something the other competing studios likely appreciate! But it does bring up a good topic for discussion. Which non-Disney movies really should have been, or could have been, released by Disney?

I’m going to focus on live-action movies that have become children’s classics. None of the movies in my Top 5 List will be from Disney, so I will provide the name of the actual studio responsible. For the sake of this exercise, I will assume that Disney has acquired the rights to each movie listed, as that is how it seems to most people anyway:

Acquisition Number Five

Dr. Dolittle: 20th Century Fox (1967)

Containing no less than 14 songs and a host of real and puppetry animals this movie has become a children’s classic that most have forgotten. It did poorly in theaters when first released but has gained a cult following of sorts.

Synopsis: The movie follows the adventures of Dr. Dolittle (Rex Harrison) as he transitions from a regular physician to a veterinarian. He is helped in this by a talking parrot who teaches him animal languages, thus enabling him to actually talk with the animals, ‘grunt, squeak, squawk with the animals’! This gets him into trouble with a local magistrate and sentenced to an insane asylum which he quickly escapes from. Now free, he embarks on a quest to find the Great Pink Sea Snail, which he finds near a traveling island. Stuff happens and he finds true love and is able to return to his home.

The highlights of the special effects are the Push-me-Pull-me lama-like creature and the Great Pink Sea Snail, which is huge and actually sails on the ocean!

Think of a man doing for animals what Mary Poppins does for children. Now that’s Disney-like!

Acquisition Number Four

The Sound of Music: 20th Century Fox (1965)

This is a no-brainer as it stars Julie Andrews who also played the part of the very Disney-like Mary Poppins.

Synopsis: Maria is a free-spirited young Austrian woman studying to become a nun. Her love of music and the mountains, her youthful enthusiasm and imagination, and her lack of discipline cause some concern so she is sent off to the villa of retired naval officer Captain Georg von Trapp to be governess to his seven children. They sing many songs (My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, Climb Ev’ry Mountain) have fun adventures, endure heartache, and eventually fall in love, get married, and then escape from the Nazis by climbing over the mountains. Just your average story!

The facts that it is based on a true story, and is played on television every year, makes this an enduring classic worthy of being considered a Disney movie!

Acquisition Number Three

The Wizard of Oz: MGM (1939)

The oldest movie on this list but perhaps one of the most well-known. There is a whole section devoted to this classic in The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios but I don’t think anyone believes Disney did this one. But he should have! In fact, the Disney Studios did obtain the rights and released Return to Oz in 1985, but Walt was interested in this property much earlier and even planned a live-action movie starring the Mouseketeers.

Synopsis: Dorothy (Judy Garland) lives in Kansas with her family and her dog Toto. A tornado sweeps her off to Oz where she accidentally kills a wicked witch which understandably angers the witch’s sister! The movie plays out as Dorothy meets the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow, and together they save Oz. Short version.

Wicked Witches. Funny side kicks. Flying Monkeys. And the Wizard of Oz. No wonder Walt wanted in on this classic!

Acquisition Number Two

Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory: Paramount (1971)

This is one of the best children’s musicals of all time! Forget the Johnny Depp remake and go back to the 1971 Paramount version for a stunning adaption of this wonderful series of books by Roald Dahl. Starring Gene Wilder as Wonka, there is just so much to love about this movie!

Synopsis: Willie Wonka realizes that he can’t care for the chocolate factory by himself forever and so goes about finding a replacement among the children of the world. He issues golden tickets and Charlie gets one. Of all the children tested for the job only Charlie shows the right stuff and wins the day!

A magical factory. Oompa Loompas. And chocolate and candies galore. Add a dash of songs like ‘The Candy Man Can’ and ‘Pure Imagination’ and you have a very Disney-like non-Disney movie! Oh, and Disney did do another Dahl adaption with James and the Giant Peach in 1996.

Extra: Read my review of the Commemorative Edition LIFE magazine about the life and career of Gene Wilder.

Acquisition Number One

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: United Artists (1968)

Dick Van Dyke without the cockney accent. Music by the Sherman Brothers. A flying car. Wacky characters and villains. This was the follow-up to Mary Poppins that Disney hoped for when the studio did Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Synopsis: The children of Caractacus Potts (Van Dyke) talk him into buying an old race car which he restores to better than new. And to even better than he thought as it turns out it can float on water and fly in the air! Along with love interest Truly Scrumptious and the children, Potts ends up in the far-off kingdom of Vulgaria where they have many adventures. In the end, they return home, and it was all just a story-like dream. Or… was it?

The real standouts in this movie are the music and dance numbers! From the title song to classics like Me Ol’ Bamboo, Toot Sweets, and Hushabye Mountain, Walt’s boys were in fine form!

Conclusion: A good Disney movie has a fantastic storyline, engaging characters, uplifting music, and great special effects. The five movies on this list have all of these things in spades! No wonder many people think they actually are Disney movies.

So why not put aside your Disney Movie Night and have a Non-Disney Disney Movie Night instead?

#FlashbackFriday: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Hello everyone, and welcome to a new post series I’m calling #FlashbackFriday!  Obviously, though, #FlashbackFriday is only new to me, as thousands of people join the ranks each Friday and share something on Friday from the past.  Well, today being Friday, I’m writing about a movie we watched last night that I had never seen before…Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Of course, I’ve known a lot of the music for this movie for years.  The music was written and performed by the legendary Sherman Brothers, so any Disney fan knows the music.  However, I had never seen the movie, although I certainly knew about it.  For whatever reason I just never got around to seeing it until last night.  I’ve got to tell you, though, I absolutely loved it!  It was so incredibly cool, sappy, funny, musical, and even sad at times.  In watching it, I caught a lot of similarities between this movie and one of my all time favorites — Mary Poppins.

When we were watching Dick Van Dyke’s character, Caractacus, dancing at the carnival with the other men, Sophie remarked to me how it reminded her of the part of Mary Poppins where the chimney sweeps were dancing to Step in Time.  I also saw distinct reminders between Truly’s character and Mary Poppins, not from a standpoint of what they did, but in the role that they both played with the children.

I’m glad that I watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and can check off one more non-Disney Disney movie off my list.  This one is a special movie, and if you haven’t seen it, I urge you to look it up.  In closing, I’m going to share with you one of my favorite songs from the movie — Hushabye Mountain:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as I said, has it all, and it wraps it all up in a really creative way.  This is one movie that should be on every Disney fan’s list, if it isn’t already.

Movie Review: The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story

the-boys-sherman-brothers-dvd-cover

This past May, I finally took the plunge and made the decision to purchase “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story” on DVD.  For much of my adult life, the music of Robert and Richard Sherman has been a source of great enjoyment for me — my all time favorite song of theirs is, bar none, Feed the Birds, from that incredible movie, Mary Poppins.

So, after much consideration, after much wondering would I like to see a documentary about the men behind the music, after all of that, I decided that it was time to make the investment and learn more about the men behind the music, as seen from the very unique perspective of their sons, Jeff and Gregg Sherman.

As I watched, I learned so much about them that I didn’t know, as sad as it is for me, a Disney fan and blogger, to say.  I didn’t know that their Dad was a musician and singer.  I didn’t know that the Sherman Brothers did so much work that went beyond the Disney scope — although I should have, because I have The Sherman Brothers Songbook album in my iTunes.  Most importantly of all, I didn’t know that Dick and Bob Sherman became distant in later years, and stopped seeing one another for many years.

It was this last point that caused Jeff and Gregg to collaborate and come up with this film — as they said, it was their hope that in doing their story that the differences that the brothers had in the past could be overcome, and that they would see one another once again.

However, as was so eloquently put, unfortunately, “In life, not everything turns out like a Sherman Brothers musical.”

The story of the Sherman Brothers isn’t really all that different from the story of many people from that generation.  My father is one of 14 children, and as kids, they naturally gravitated towards those that they were closest too, and there were some of their siblings that didn’t hang out as much, especially as they got older.  I know that, for my sister and I, we only saw some of our family at weddings and funerals, if then.  It is, in my opinion, only natural sometimes for their to be a separation as people get older, and I think I see that more often in generations the generations that came before me.

What saddens me, though, is that Bob Sherman has now passed on — and I don’t know if Dick and his brother ever had that reuniting that I feel was so desperately needed.

One thing that I do feel is true, though, is that Dick and Bob Sherman, if you could ask them today, would say that they are very proud of their sons for the work that they did in putting this piece together.  In doing so, Jeff and Gregg Sherman have shown us a side of the Sherman Brothers that I think makes us appreciate the music they created all the more.  Also, by sharing this story with us, I think that the world also sees that Jeff and Gregg Sherman, cousins, truly did acquire quite a bit of the talent that their fathers had.

To Jeff and Gregg, I close by saying thank you, both to you, your team working with you on this project, and to your fathers — for sharing them with the world, and for showing us the human side of them that transcends way beyond the incredible music that they conceived.

If there is anyone out there that has not seen “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story”, I urge you to do so as soon as you can.  You are doing yourself a disservice by not watching this great movie about one of the greatest teams every created.

2014

2014 In Pictures!

2014

Happy New Year, everyone!  On this, the last day of 2014, I am taking a moment to share with you some of my favorite memories from the year — in picture format!  If you like looking at Disney photos like I do, this post is absolutely for you!  Have a peek, and thanks!  As always, a big thank you goes out to all of you for stopping by, for reading, for sharing, for commenting, and for choosing My Dreams of Disney as one of your places to go for your Disney fix.  Now, here is our Year In Review.  I hope you enjoy!  All of the images you see below are configured so that if you click on the picture, it will open the post that the picture is from.

Anna

January saw us looking fondly at loved ones that we had recently lost — in our case, Cindy’s Uncle Bob. Suddenly, the question “Do you want to build a snowman?” took on more meaning…


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In February, we had a post about our favorite Disney memories. In this case, we were looking at our favorite Disney memories from 2011!


In March, we started our 100 Days til Disney countdown – our look at 100 things we wanted to explore on our upcoming trip.


In April, I wrote one of my favorite Magical Blogorail posts — a comparison between New Orleans Square and Liberty Square, and which one I like best.


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In May, one of the things we counted down on was ways that we can celebrate Disney Magic.


Festival of the Lion King

In June, Sophie wrote a post about a special Circle of Life video that her band class did near the end of school. Have a look, and enjoy!


Disney Music Monday

In July, we started a short lived series called #DisneyMusicMonday, with a look at the incredible Julie Andrews and the music of Mary Poppins.


Robin Williams

In August, we, along with the rest of the world, mourned the loss of Robin Williams, who was the Genie in Aladdin.


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In September, we wrote about the ways that Disney can help us deal with grief for the Magical Blogorail.


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In October, we hit a bit of a blogging rut — the words just wouldn’t come out of the keyboard! Despite that, we wrote about education at Liberty Square for the Magical Blogorail.


Happy Birthday Mickey

In November, we celebrated the birthday of our favorite Mouse couple — Mickey & Minnie!


Walt-Disney

We started off December by remembering Walt Disney, who was born on December 5th, 1901.

Pirates

We continued the month by writing about 5 facts about the Pirates of the Caribbean that will impress your friends!

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Lastly, we wrote about how Pixar short films (and Disney ones, too) are the best thing since sliced bread!


I hope that our year in Pictures has brought enjoyment to you, and a good reflection on some of the things that we have done this year.  It has been a full year, full of joy, fun, laughter, exciting Disney memories, and wonder, but there has also been sadness.  My prayer for each and every one of you is that this year is better now than it was when the year started, and that your 2015 is full of happiness, joy, Peace, wonder, prosperity, and love.  Please be safe if you are traveling, and remember, if you enjoy some adult beverages, please do not drink and drive.