Dick Van Patten

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Dick Van Patten
Van Patten in May 2008
Richard Vincent Van Patten

(1928-12-09)December 9, 1928
DiedJune 23, 2015(2015-06-23) (aged 86)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills
OccupationActor, businessman, animal welfare advocate
Years active1935–2012
Patricia Poole (m. 1954)
Children3, including James, Nels, and Vincent
RelativesTim Van Patten (half brother)

Richard Vincent Van Patten (December 9, 1928 – June 23, 2015) was an American actor, businessman, and animal welfare advocate, whose career spans seven decades of television. He was best known for his role as patriarch Tom Bradford on the ABC television comedy-drama Eight Is Enough.

Van Patten began work as a child actor and was successful on the New York stage, appearing in more than a dozen plays as a teenager. He worked in radio, on Duffy's Tavern.[1] He later starred in numerous television roles including the long-running CBS television series, "Mama" and Young Doctor Malone. Later, he would star or co-star in many feature films, including Charly, Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Spaceballs, and Charlton Heston's Soylent Green. Van Patten was the founder of Natural Balance Pet Foods and National Guide Dog Month.

Early life[edit]

Richard Vincent Van Patten was born on December 9, 1928, in the Kew Gardens section of the New York City borough of Queens, the son of Richard Byron Van Patten, an interior decorator, and Josephine Rose (née Acerno), who worked in advertising.[2] His mother was of Italian descent, while his father had Dutch and English ancestry.[citation needed] He began work as a model and actor as a child making his Broadway debut at the age of seven. He was successful on the New York City stage, appearing in a dozen theatrical plays before reaching his teen years. He later moved to Hollywood and began a lengthy career in film and television.



Van Patten's career in show business began as a child actor on Broadway in 1935 in Tapestry In Gray starring Melvyn Douglas. He was billed as "Dickie Van Patten" and went on to appear in twelve other Broadway plays as a teenager. He moved on to television with the role of Nels Hansen in the CBS series, Mama, about a Norwegian-American family living in San Francisco, in the early 20th century. It ran from 1949 to 1957.[3] In 1975, he played the role of Friar Tuck on When Things Were Rotten, a comic take on Robin Hood, created by Mel Brooks which also starred Dick Gautier, Bernie Kopell and Misty Rowe. The series ran for 13 episodes before being canceled. He was cast as the family patriarch Tom Bradford on Eight Is Enough, which aired from 1977 to 1981, and which was loosely based on a book of the same name by the American journalist Thomas Braden.

Van Patten also appeared in episodes of Sanford and Son, Banacek, Arrested Development, The Brian Keith Show, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Adam-12, Emergency!, Growing Pains and Happy Days.

Van Patten had numerous leading roles in motion pictures including Joe Kidd, The Snowball Express and The Santa Trap. He played the supporting role of Usher #1 alongside Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson in the film Soylent Green (1973).

He appeared in several films directed by Mel Brooks, including High Anxiety, Spaceballs, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, as well as cameos in the music videos for "Smells Like Nirvana" and "Bedrock Anthem" by "Weird Al" Yankovic, and on The Weird Al Show.[4] Van Patten played the role of Jack Benson in Opposite Day (2009), his last film.

He also was a commentator for the World Series of Poker from 1993 to 1995.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame honored Van Patten on November 20, 1985, with a Star of Television marker at 1541 North Vine Street.[5] On January 12, 2008, Van Patten received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.[6]

On November 1, 2009, Phoenix Books published Eighty Is Not Enough!, a book co-authored by Van Patten and Robert Baer in which Van Patten shares an 80-year journey of insights and anecdotes through the entertainment industry. He discusses his journey from his humble beginning in Queens, New York; his rise as a childhood star on Broadway during the Great Depression; working as an actor on the radio; the advent of television and his role in the second-ever live situation comedy Mama; a rough period between acting gigs; a rise back to the top that led the TV icon to the lead role on the popular hit show Eight Is Enough and subsequent roles in television and movies.[7]

Other work[edit]

An animal enthusiast, Van Patten co-founded Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989. Van Patten's creation of his own brand of dog food was satirized in comedian John Hodgman's 2008 book More Information Than You Require, and was re-branded as Dick Van Patten's Hobo Chili for Dogs.[8] He founded National Guide Dog Month which began in 2008 to raise awareness and money for non-profit guide dog schools in the United States, accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation.

Personal life[edit]


Peggy Wood, who played Van Patten's mother in the television program Mama, congratulates Pat and Dick on their wedding, 1954.

Patriarch of a famous Hollywood family, Van Patten was the older brother of actress Joyce Van Patten, and the older half-brother of film director and Emmy award-winning television director/producer Tim Van Patten. He was married to Patricia Poole (also known as Pat Van Patten) from 1954 until he died. She was a professional dancer on Broadway and a June Taylor Dancer on The Jackie Gleason Show, where the couple met. They lived in Sherman Oaks, California. They had three sons, all actors: Vincent,[9] Nels, and Jimmy. Nels, who is married to actress Nancy Valen, is named for the character Van Patten played on the CBS's Mama.

Van Patten was related to several other actors through marriages. His sister Joyce married actor Martin Balsam; their daughter is actress Talia Balsam. Talia's first husband was actor George Clooney, and she is now married to actor John Slattery. Van Patten's son Vince is married to actress Eileen Davidson.

Illness and death[edit]

Grave of Dick Van Patten at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills.

In January 2006, Van Patten was taken to Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering a diabetic stroke. Van Patten, who suffered from Type 2 diabetes, made a full recovery.

Van Patten died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, on June 23, 2015, at age 86. Complications from diabetes were the listed cause.[10]

Willie Aames, who played son Tommy Bradford on Eight Is Enough, called his television father "truly a gem [who] will be missed. ... As Dick always said, 'Remember our times together, gang ... Cause these ARE the good ole' days". Betty Buckley, Van Patten's co-star on the series, recalled, "Every day on the set he was a happy, jovial person, always generous and ready to play, tease, and always keep us all laughing. He was the consummate professional, a wonderful actor, master of comedy, and a kind and generous human being."[10]

He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.


On November 20, 1985, Dick Van Patten was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[5] In 2008, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.[11]



Year Title Role Notes
1963 Violent Midnight Police Lt. Palmer
1967 The Secret Dream Models of Oliver Nibble Oliver Nibble Short film; as John Acerno
1968 Charly Bert as Richard Van Patten
1971 Zachariah The Dude
1971 Making It Warren
1972 Beware! The Blob Scoutmaster Adleman
1972 Joe Kidd Hotel Manager
1972 Dirty Little Billy Berle's customer
1972 Snowball Express Mr. Carruthers
1973 Soylent Green Usher #1
1973 Westworld Banker
1973 Superdad Ira Kushaw
1974 Heidi in the Mountains English version, Voice
1975 The Strongest Man in the World V.P. Harry Crumply
1976 Treasure of Matecumbe The Gambler
1976 Gus Cal Wilson
1976 The Shaggy D.A. Raymond
1976 Freaky Friday Harold Jennings
1977 High Anxiety Dr. Wentworth
1979 Nutcracker Fantasy King Goodwin Voice
1981 Lunch Wagon Bernie Simmons Uncredited
1987 Spaceballs King Roland
1988 The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking Greg the Glue Man
1988 Going to the Chapel Rick
1989 Dirty Tennis Himself Short film written by his son James
1992 Body Trouble Max
1992 Final Embrace Larch
1993 Robin Hood: Men in Tights The Abbot
1995 A Dangerous Place Principal
1996 For Goodness Sake II Game show host
1996 Love Is All There Is Dr. Rodino
1998 Evasive Action Parole Officer
1999 Angel on Abbey Street Preacher
1999 Y2K – World in Crisis Host Documentary
2000 Big Brother Trouble Captain Stacey
2000 The Road Ahead Host Documentary
2000 The Price of Air Mr. Rye
2002 Groom Lake Irv Barnett
2003 Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star Himself
2004 The Sure Hand of God Jamie Denton
2004 Quiet Kill Frank Rubin
2005 Freezerburn Alan Merkel
2008 The Christmas Conspiracy Narrator Short
2009 Opposite Day Jack Benson
2009 Sarah's Choice Pastor Smith Direct-to-video
2010 First Dog Himself
2012 You'll Never Amount to Anything Grandpa Beck Pre-production
2016 Silver Skies Himself


Year Title Role Notes
1949–1957 Mama Nels Hansen
1958 The Silent Service Hadley Episode Title "Tiger Shark". Executive Officer of the subject submarine.
1958 Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer Paul Sterovsky
1959 Rawhide Matt Reston
1961 Naked City Carhop
1961–1962 Young Doctor Malone Larry Renfrew
1970 The Governor & J.J. Bertrum Bannister
1970 I Dream Of Jeannie Grocery store manager Season 5, Episode 26; "My Master, the Chili King"; Air date: May 26, 1970; series finale
1970 That Girl Mr. Morse
1970 Arnie Walter Granscog / Walker
1971 Confessions of a Top Crime Buster Sgt. Nelson Higgenbottom TV movie
1971 Great Performances Raymond
1971–1972 The Partners Sgt. Nelson Higgenbottom
1971–1972 The Doris Day Show April's Father
1971–1973 Love, American Style Segments: "Love and the Tattoo", "Love and the Parent's Sake" (George), "Love and the Particular Girl" (Jack)
1972 Sanford and Son Hamlin
1972 The Don Rickles Show David
1972 Hec Ramsey Earl Enright
1972 The Crooked Hearts Edward, the desk clerk TV movie
1972 Banyon Earl Gifford
1972–1973 The Paul Lynde Show Dr. Willis / Wollner
1972–1974 The New Dick Van Dyke Show Max Mathias / Mr. Compton
1972–1975 Medical Center Dr. Feldman / Dr. Whittaker / Man at Hotel
1972–1976 Emergency! Carter Merkle / Morris Meers
1972–1976 The Streets of San Francisco Thurman Barber / John Collins
1973 McMillan & Wife Henry
1973 The Brian Keith Show Jerry Mason
1973 Cannon George Abel 2x18 Murder for Murder
1973 Thicker than Water John
1973 Adam's Rib Commissioner Hoyt
1973 Wait Till Your Father Gets Home
1973–1975 The Rookies Fullmer / Waldon
1973–1983 Insight Jerry
1974 Banacek Donald Morgan
1974 Chopper One
1974 The Girl with Something Extra Morgan
1974 Young Love April's Father TV movie
1974 Ernie, Madge and Artie TV movie
1974 Sierra Ed
1974 Kolchak: The Night Stalker Alfred Brindle
1974 Adam-12 Harry Curtis
1974–1976 Barnaby Jones Melvin Pearson / Merle Overton
1975 Hot l Baltimore A.J. Horn
1975 Grandpa Max Mr. Unger TV movie
1975 Ladies of the Corridor Mr. Humphries TV movie
1975 When Things Were Rotten Friar Tuck
1975–1976 The Six Million Dollar Man Harry Green / Palmer
1976 Ellery Queen Billy Geeter
1976 Ace Mr. Mason TV movie
1976 Charo and the Sergeant Chaplain TV movie
1976 The Love Boat O'Neil, the Doctor TV movie
1976 Phyllis Walter
1976 Maude Gordon Coleman
1976 The New Adventures of Wonder Woman Jack Wood
1976 What's Happening!! Mr. Claxton
1976 The Tony Randall Show Myron C. Dobbs
1976–1977 Happy Days Asst. Principal Marvin Conners / Hunsberger
1977 Gibbsville Patrick Malloy
1977 C.P.O. Sharkey Psychiatrist
1977 One Day at a Time Frank
1977 High Anxiety Dr. Philip Wentworth
1977–1981 Eight Is Enough Tom Bradford
1978 With This Ring Alvin Andrews TV movie
1978–1984 The Love Boat Charlie Dillinger / Congressman John Whitcomb / George Hayes
1979 Diary of a Teenage Hitchhiker Herb Thurston TV movie
1982 High Powder Tom Reed TV movie
1983 Too Close for Comfort Arthur
1983 The Fairest of Them All Host TV movie
1983–1985 Hotel Frasier Pratt / Herbert Pitts
1984 The Hoboken Chicken Emergency Mayor TV movie
1984 Masquerade
1984 Finder of Lost Loves Alan Nettles
1984 The New Mike Hammer
1985 Crazy Like a Fox
1985 The Midnight Hour Martin Grenville TV movie
1986 Murder, She Wrote District Atty. Fred Whittaker
1986 Picnic Howard Bevans TV movie
1986 Combat Academy Principal
1987 The Facts of Life Frank Stickle
1987 Eight Is Enough: A Family Reunion Tom Bradford TV movie
1987 Rags to Riches Phil Johnson
1987 A Mouse, a Mystery and Me Santa Claus TV movie
1987 War of the Stars
1988 14 Going on 30 TV movie
1989 Growing Pains Nick Simpson
1989 An Eight Is Enough Wedding Tom Bradford TV movie
1989 Jake Spanner, Private Eye The Commodore TV movie
1990 McGee and Me! Graham
1990–1991 WIOU Floyd Graham
1993 The Golden Palace Taylor
1993 The Odd Couple: Together Again Roy TV movie
1993 Diagnosis: Murder Monty Emerson
1994 Burke's Law Dr. Paul Hampton
1994 Baywatch Henry / Sam
1994 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Orphanage Worker / Santa
1995–1998 Touched by an Angel Eb / Jerry
1996 Maybe This Time Jack
1996 Boy Meets World Amish Farmer
1997 The Weird Al Show The Burglar
1998 The Love Boat: The Next Wave Sid Glacken
1998 Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction Chester Segment: "The Chess Game"
1999 Family Guy Tom Bradford
2002 Another Pretty Face Levi Downs TV movie
2002 The Santa Trap Santa Claus TV movie
2003 Life with Bonnie Himself Episode: It's a Wonderful Job
2004 7th Heaven James Rodgers, Sr.
2005 Arrested Development Cal Cullen Episodes: "Spring Breakout" and "Righteous Brothers"
2011 Hot in Cleveland Lester


  • Van Patten, Dick; Baer, Robert (2009). Eighty Is Not Enough!: One Actor's Journey Through American Entertainment. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Phoenix Books. ISBN 978-1607477006.


  1. ^ Dunning, John (1998). On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old Time Radio. Oxford University Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-0195076783. (within Cast section) Dickie Van Patten as Finnegan's kid brother Wilfred.
  2. ^ "Dick Van Patten Biography (1928-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2017-04-20.
  3. ^ Slotnik, Daniel E. (August 22, 2012). "Rosemary Rice, Oldest Daughter of TV's 'Mama,' Dies at 87". The New York Times. p. B8. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
  4. ^ "Video Facts". Weird Al" Yankovic. Archived from the original on November 10, 2006.
  5. ^ a b "Dick Van Patten". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Dick Van Patten to be Honored with Star on Palm Springs Walk of Stars". PR Newswire. 9 January 2008. Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2011.
  7. ^ Kleinschmidt, Janice (August 2010). "A Man of Passion". Palm Springs Life. ISSN 0031-0425.
  8. ^ Ulaby, Neda (18 November 2008). "Comic John Hodgman Shares 'More Information'". Book Tour.
  9. ^ Dagan, Carmel (23 June 2015). "Dick Van Patten, 'Eight Is Enough' Star, Dies at 86". Variety. ISSN 0042-2738.
  10. ^ a b Jamieson, Wendell (23 June 2015). "Dick Van Patten, Harried Father on 'Eight Is Enough,' Dies at 86". The New York Times. p. B10.
  11. ^ "Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2012-10-13. Retrieved 2017-04-20.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

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