For years, Van Dyke struggled financially and professionally. He and his first wife, Margie, married on a radio show called Bride and Groom in 1948, in part because the program paid for the ceremony and gave them a free honeymoon. In the late 1940s and early '50s, Van Dyke worked in radio and television in Atlanta and New Orleans. He landed a seven-year contract with CBS in the early 1950s, but was let go after three years.
Van Dyke was born on December 13, 1925, in West Plains, Missouri, to Hazel Victoria (née McCord; 1896 – 1992), a stenographer, and Loren Wayne "Cookie" Van Dyke (1898–1976), a salesman. He grew up in Danville, Illinois. He is the older brother of actor Jerry Van Dyke (1931–2018), who is best known for a role on the TV series Coach. Van Dyke has Dutch, English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry, with a family line that traces back to Mayflower passenger John Alden.
The portrayals of the Arles landscape are informed by Van Gogh's Dutch upbringing; the patchworks of fields and avenues appear flat and lacking perspective, but excel in their use of colour. His new-found appreciation is seen in the range and scope of his work. In March 1888 he painted landscapes using a gridded "perspective frame"; three of the works were shown at the annual exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. In April, he was visited by the American artist Dodge MacKnight, who was living nearby at Fontvieille. On 1 May 1888, for 15 francs per month, he signed a lease for the eastern wing of the Yellow House at 2 place Lamartine. The rooms were unfurnished and had been uninhabited for months.
Van Gogh, the eldest of six children of a Protestant pastor, was born and reared in a small village in the Brabant region of the southern Netherlands. He was a quiet, self-contained youth, spending his free time wandering the countryside to observe nature. At 16 he was apprenticed to The Hague branch of the art dealers Goupil and Co., of which his uncle was a partner.
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Van Dyke grew up in Danville, Illinois, with his parents Loren and Hazel and younger brother, Jerry, who also became an actor. "Danville was a town of 30,000 people, and it felt as if most of them were relatives," Van Dyke later wrote in his autobiography, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business. His father, Loren, was often away from the family, working as a traveling salesman for the Sunshine Cookie Company.
In November 1959, Van Dyke made his Broadway debut in The Girls Against the Boys. He then played the lead role of Albert Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie, which ran from April 14, 1960, to October 7, 1961. In a May 2011 interview with Rachael Ray, Van Dyke said that when he auditioned for a smaller part in the show he had no experience as a dancer, and that 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 had the lead. 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 Van Dyke's Best Featured Actor Tony, in 1961. In 1980, Van Dyke appeared as the title role in the first Broadway revival of The Music Man.