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Youtube.com/KJ Ricardo
Youtube.com/KJ Ricardo

'The Dick Van Dyke Show's Richie Petrie Became Actor by Accident & Vanished After The Show Ended

Titi Dokubo
Nov 14, 2021
01:40 P.M.
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One of the few surviving actors from "The Dick Van Dyke Show," Larry Mathews, played the role of Ritchie Petrie in the sitcom. The show was one of the few classic programs on TV in the 1960s.

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Even though he was just five when he joined the show, Mathews became famous as the show succeeded. Shortly after the show, he moved away from Hollywood to live a normal life.

However, in 2004, Mathews came back to acting when he reprised his previous role of Ritchie Petrie in "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited."

Larry Mathews as Ritchie Petrie on the set of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" | Photo: Youtube.com/KJ Ricardo

Larry Mathews as Ritchie Petrie on the set of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" | Photo: Youtube.com/KJ Ricardo

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ABOUT LARRY MATHEWS

Larry Mathews was born Larry Mazzeo on August 15, 1955, in California. He grew up in a house with six other children, but he always stood out.

Mathews would mimic other entertainers and perform short skits, which caught the eyes of the neighborhood mailman. The mailman had found young Mathews amusing as he went along his route.

Having had an experience with child actors, the mailman saw that Mathews had talent. He knew this because his son had won a talent contest and was being instructed by the Acting Coach, Lois Auer.

Larry Mathews and Rose Marie at the signing of Dick Van Dyke's new book "My Lucky Life In And Out Of Show Business" on May 10, 2011, in Los Angeles | Photo: Getty Images

Larry Mathews and Rose Marie at the signing of Dick Van Dyke's new book "My Lucky Life In And Out Of Show Business" on May 10, 2011, in Los Angeles | Photo: Getty Images

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Auer was part of an agency that managed child actors, and the mailman knew Mathews would excel under her coaching. The mailman then met Mathews's parents and advised them to connect with Auer and get him an agent.

This advice was how Mathews was accidentally discovered. Two months after Mathews joined the agency, Director and Screenwriter Carl Reiner wanted boys to audition for the role of Richard "Ritchie" Rosebud Petrie.

From his agency, he happened to be the only one that they sent for the auditions. Even though he had no concrete experience, Auer had confidence in him.

Larry Mathews at the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences for "An Evening Honoring Carl Reiner" at Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on October 13, 2011, in California | Photo: Getty Images

Larry Mathews at the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences for "An Evening Honoring Carl Reiner" at Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on October 13, 2011, in California | Photo: Getty Images

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Mathews's inexperience became the distinctive edge he had over the other boys who came for the audition. Reiner wanted a boy who hadn't been in anything before, and Mathews stood out for this.

With only two months of acting training, Mathews was on his way to being a child star. He got the role for Ritchie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and his fame grew quickly.

His TV parents were Robert "Rob" Simpson Petrie and Laura Petrie, played by Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. Before Ritchie was born, Rob and Laura's relatives came together to decide the perfect name for the unborn baby.

Dick Van Dyke, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore, on the set of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," on July 10, 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

Dick Van Dyke, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore, on the set of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," on July 10, 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

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When they couldn't reach a decision, Rob decided to make everyone happy. He took the first letter of each person's suggestion to form Ritchie's middle name, "Rosebud."

Once Mathews joined the cast, his child-like humor endeared him to the rest of the actors as he made them laugh on set. He was said to have referred to actress Joan Shawlee, Buddy's wife Pickles, as "Aunt Wrinkles."

His TV mother, Moore, became Mathews's mentor and played a maternal role model in his life. She also played the role of Mathews's teacher and a big sister. After she died, he recalled that she was always gracious, helpful, and professional towards him.

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Portrait of Larry Mathews for "The Dick Van Dyke Show Remembered" on May 23, 1994 | Photo: Getty Images

Portrait of Larry Mathews for "The Dick Van Dyke Show Remembered" on May 23, 1994 | Photo: Getty Images

After the series ended in 1966, Mathews left Hollywood entirely and lived a regular life. Going back to school was difficult as he found it hard to relate with other kids after being around adults for so long.

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In 1976, he graduated from the University of California. Three years after he graduated, he went back to Hollywood, where he worked as a post-production coordinator for 32 episodes of "The Soap" between 1979 and 1981.

In 1987, he got married to Jennifer, and the couple has been together to date. He is also said to own a desk that Reiner used as a prop on the show. In addition to being a post-production coordinator, he has also worked as an account executive.

Larry Mathews and his wife, Jennifer, at the 2003 TV Land Awards in California | Photo: Getty Images

Larry Mathews and his wife, Jennifer, at the 2003 TV Land Awards in California | Photo: Getty Images

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He has appeared on many television programs to discuss his role on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." In 2004, he came back to acting when he reprised the role of Ritchie in "The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited."

For the first time in many years, he met his TV mother again. She praised him for his acting skills and character. She was so proud of Mathews that she met his mother and told her how amazing he was.

On January 25, 2017, Moore passed away at 80. She had suffered cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by pneumonia.

Larry Mathews at the preview of The Hollywood Museum's "Child Stars - Then And Now" exhibit on August 18, 2016, in California | Photo: Getty Images

Larry Mathews at the preview of The Hollywood Museum's "Child Stars - Then And Now" exhibit on August 18, 2016, in California | Photo: Getty Images

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"THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW"

On October 3, 1961, Americans were thrilled with a new show that took over their screens. The show was a smarter and more sophisticated version of "Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best."

Sixty years later, fans still appreciate the show, which depicted real people with real problems and how they interacted.

Even though fans loved the show when it first aired, CBS almost canceled it after the first season because of low ratings. The producer begged them to let it air, and it gathered a fan base in its summer reruns.

Dick Van Dyke and Larry Mathews at the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences' "Father's Day Salute To TV Dads" on June 18, 2009, in California | Photo: Getty Images

Dick Van Dyke and Larry Mathews at the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences' "Father's Day Salute To TV Dads" on June 18, 2009, in California | Photo: Getty Images

The show was usually filmed before a live audience, and many of the plots were inspired by Reiner's experiences as a writer on different shows.

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After five seasons with 158 episodes, the show won 15 Emmy Awards and helped define and create the careers of its cast.

Though Mathews went back to living normally, his TV parents and other cast members continued making their name in Hollywood.

Dick Van Dyke, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore, on the set of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," on June 19, 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

Dick Van Dyke, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore, on the set of "The Dick Van Dyke Show," on June 19, 1961 | Photo: Getty Images

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Soon after "The Dick Van Dyke Show" ended, Dyke starred in Disney's 1968 musical "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." In 1969, he starred in "The Comic," directed, co-written, and co-produced by Reiner.

Between 1971 and 1974, he starred in "The New Dick Van Dyke Show," created by Reiner and aired on CBS. Once Reiner left the show, Dyke didn't renew his contract, and the show was canceled.

In 2006, he starred in "Night at the Museum" and in 2018, in "Mary Poppins Returns." In 2021, he received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor.

Dick Van Dyke, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore, in a promotional portrait for "The Dick Van Dyke Show," circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images

Dick Van Dyke, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore, in a promotional portrait for "The Dick Van Dyke Show," circa 1965 | Photo: Getty Images

On the other hand, Moore focused on movies and starred as Miss Dorothy Brown in the 1967 musical "Thoroughly Modern Millie." In 1969, she starred in "Change of Habit."

Between 1979 to 1977, she hosted "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." In 1980, she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in "Ordinary People."

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