Margie Willett was an American woman, who attracted public interest for being the first wife of legendary award-winning Hollywood actor, singer, comedian, and writer Dick Van Dyke, who is best known for his work in “Mary Poppins” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Early life and family
Little is known about Margerie “Margie” Willett’s early life except for the fact that she was born in 1927 in Danville, Illinois, USA. She was quite a private person, and her family refuses to share information about her with the public, to maintain her wishes of living a low-key life when she was still alive.
There is no information about her educational attainment.
She had no record of being employed, or establishing any business.
From living a life of anonymity, Margie was exposed to public scrutiny when she married one of Hollywood’s most iconic celebrities, Dick Van Dyke, on 12 February 1948 at Chapman Park Hotel located on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Dick was just a budding entertainer back then, and due to lack of funds, he and Margie’s wedding was sponsored by a popular radio show – it wasn’t planned that way, but it was an opportunity Dick couldn’t pass up. He was performing in the hotel when the radio host of the show “Bride and Groom,” learned of his plans to marry his girlfriend, and immediately offered to sponsor not only the wedding but the honeymoon as well, with home appliances and furniture to take home.
Dick sent for Margie, married ion the radio show, and then honeymooned at Mt. Hood Oregon Resort in Welches, Oregon.
The couple struggled for a bit, and was even living in their car as Dick couldn’t afford to buy her a house. Eventually Dick became quite successful not only on radio and the stage, but also on TV and in movies. The couple was able to build a home, and were blessed with four children, namely Carrie Beth, Stacy, Barry and Chris. While there were happy years in their marriage; unfortunately, they were beset with problems both as individuals and as a couple.
Margie lost twins due to a miscarriage, but it was in the early part of the marriage so they were able to bounce back after that misfortune, but later they both needed rehabilitation due to addictions.
Margie was heavily dependent on prescription drugs, while Dick became an alcoholic. They both decided to enter the same rehabilitation center, and were able to reform themselves. However, while Margie was quite proud of her husband’s achievements, she for some reason didn’t like the limelight, and always preferred to be out of it. Margie decided to stay more on the family’s ranch in the desert to avoid public attention. Dick understood it, but at the same time took solace in another woman’s arms.
He had an extra-marital affair for eight years with his agent’s secretary and part-time actress Michelle Triola, who rose to prominence due to her controversial past involvement with another actor, Lee Marvin.
As with most mistresses, Michelle was quite supportive of Dick’s need to entertain, but it put a strain on his marriage. He said in an interview with Country Living, ‘I was involved with a woman other than my wife. It was unbelievable. I was writhing in guilt. By 1976 I had to do something.’ He confessed to his wife and they both agreed to live separate lives. They eventually filed for a divorce in 1984, ending their 36 years of being married.
After the divorce, Margie was rarely seen in public, and would only be mentioned when one of her children opted to follow their father’s footsteps. Barry entered the entertainment business, and became an actor as well. Margie never married again, and led a life away from the public eye.
In 2007, Margie was diagnosed with a pancreatic cancer, an illness that led to her death just a year later.
She was survived by four children, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Who is Dick Van Dyke?
Richard Wayne Van Dyke was born in West Plains, Missouri, on 13 December 1925, to parents Loren Wayne Van Dyke, a salesman, and Hazel Victoria McCord, a stenographer. The family moved to Danville, Illinois, and he was raised there along with younger brother Jerry Van Dyke in a very religious household, so he even thought of pursuing a career in their ministry when he was younger. However, Dick was destined to become an entertainer, as he found his calling after performing in a high school drama.
Dick left high school for the military in the last few months of his senior year, and was only granted a diploma along with a distinguished alumnus award when he visited Danville High in 2004, so finally matriculating.
When World War II came, he enlisted in the US Army Air Force to become a pilot, but was denied because he was underweight. He then went on to become a radio announcer in the military, and was eventually part of the Special Services that provided entertainment to the troops around the world.
After the war, he became a radio DJ in his hometown, but in 1947 he started performing, and was part of the pantomime comedy duo, “The Merry Mutes.” They toured cities until they were able to get a spot on national television, and get more exposure. The duo stopped performing when they couldn’t drag their families anymore from one gig to another.
In 1959, Dick debuted on Broadway in the show, “The Girls against the Boys,” and then a year after that, he had a lead role in “Bye Bye Birdie” which ran for over a year.
He had an inborn talent, and was never professionally taught as a singer, actor or dancer, but he was able to do all of them superbly. During a TV interview, Dick said that when he auditioned for a minor role in the musical, he had no experience at all with dancing, but when he sang, the director immediately decided to give him the lead role of the show. His performance earned him a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical in 1961.
While he was conquering the stage, he was also on the right path in winning over television viewers. An old army friend became a TV director at CBS, and had him over in New York for an audition which led to a seven-year contract. Dick went on appearing as a guest and semi-regular in several popular series, including “The Pat Boone Show,” “The Phil Silvers Show,” and “The Andy Williams Show.”
The success of his Broadway career led to his own comedy TV series in 1961 called “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” with Mary Tyler Moore, whom he had a crush on. The show ran for five successful years until its creator-producer Carl Renier cancelled it; it earned him three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. In 1971, Carl Reiner produced and created “The New Dick Van Dyke Show,” with Hope Lange, and it ran for three years with Dick receiving a nomination for a Golden Globe. It wasn’t as successful as his first series, so Dick himself decided to end it. Later on, he became a regular in “The Carol Burnett Show”, but appeared in only a few episodes of its final season, as he was bu
sy with his movie career.
In 1963, he reprised his Broadway role in the movie adaptation of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”, and while he was not happy with this version, it was commercially successful.
In the same year, he was part of the iconic movie “Mary Poppins”, and played dual roles with Julie Andrews. It was also a commercial and critical success, becoming regarded as one of the most popular movies in the 20th century. He and Julie won a Grammy for singing the original soundtrack of the movie, “Chim Chim Cher-ee,” and the movie won an Oscar for Best Original Song.
He continued to accept movie roles even as he was aging – the last few notable ones were in the Ben Stiller-starring franchise movie series, “Night at the Museum,” (2006-2014), in which he played the villain, and in 2018 with “Mary Poppins Returns,” in which he reprised his role of Mr. Dawes Jr. in the original version.
Mrs. @speakyteeth a @HowardStern @sternshow fan since the 90’s. Her only request since we met has been for me to be on the show. It’s never happened because of opposite coasts. Last week, my agent called & was turned down. Did Howard ever get the request or is he afraid of me? pic.twitter.com/Xs1kwi3vXn
— Dick Van Dyke (@iammrvandy) October 9, 2019
Dick and Margie’s son Barry, acted with his father in the long running medical crime TV series, “Diagnosis Murder,” which ran from 1993 to 2001 and had 178 episodes over eight seasons. In 2008, the father and son made four movies for television, crime thrillers under the same title, “Murder 101” which aired on the Hallmark Channel.
After his marriage with Margie ended, his relationship with his mistress continued until she died from a terminal illness 2009. He remarried again in 2012, to Arlene Silver, a make-up artist half his age.
Margie Willet was 5ft 5ins (1.67m) tall and weighed around 120lbs (55kg). She was Caucasian with dark brown hair and brown eyes.
Sources estimated her net worth at $15 million prior to her death. which came largely from her divorce settlement. Her former husband’s net worth is estimated at over $50 million, as of mid-2020.