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SAG Awards 2013: Dick Van Dyke honored with Life Achievement Award

Actor Dick Van Dyke accepts the Life Achievement Award onstage during the 19th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium on Jan. 27, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Mark Davis/Getty Images

Last year, Dick Van Dyke took to the Screen Actors Guild Awards stage to present Mary Tyler Moore with the guild's lifetime achievement award.

This time, it was his turn to be celebrated.

The 87-year-old actor, best known for the 1960s hit comedy "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and Disney's big-screen musical "Mary Poppins," was honored with the 49th Life Achievement Award at Sunday's SAG Awards ceremony.

After waiting on stage for a prolonged standing ovation to end, Van Dyke said, "That does an old man a lot of good."

Van Dyke told the audience that "the years have been full of surprises and a lot of fun." He also called this "the greatest generation of actors ... you've all lifted the art to another place now."

He also added, "Aren't we lucky to have found a line of work that doesn't require growing up? I love that."

His career started with work as a disc jockey and a stand-up comic in the late '40s. He even worked as a national television morning-show host, with no less than Walter Cronkite serving as his news anchor.

But perhaps Van Dyke's most critical career break came in 1960, when director Gower Champion hired him as the male lead opposite Chita Rivera in the new Broadway-bound stage musical "Bye Bye Birdie."

Van Dyke had no professional dance experience, and out-of-town tryouts did not go well. Nevertheless, Champion refused to fire the actor, who would go on to New York with Rivera and win a Tony award for his performance.

About a year later, Van Dyke was starring in his own sitcom, in the role of TV comedy writer Rob Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Three prime-time Emmys for Van Dyke and more than 50 years later, the series remains revered by many critics as one of the earliest models of great workplace comedy.

"'The Dick Van Dyke Show' was the most fun I ever had and the most creative period of my life," he said on the red carpet.

During the series' run, Van Dyke also enjoyed big-screen hits, including the 1963 "Birdie" movie and the 1964 all-star comedy, "What a Way to Go!" But biggest of all was "Mary Poppins," in which he introduced the Oscar-winning song "Chim Chim Cher-ee."

"I'm world-famous for my Cockney accent," Van Dyke kidded in his acceptance speech. He has said his British-born co-star, Julie Andrews, told him he never got the accent right.

These days, Van Dyke sings with his vocal group, The Vantasix, and enjoys life with his wife of one year, makeup artist Arlene Silver. The couple met seven years ago at the SAG Awards.