During the early 1960s, a mailman followed his usual route everyday. Nothing stood out to him, except for this boy who always caught his attention. Enamored by the child’s talent, this specific mailman turned out to be this boy’s ticket to acting in the “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Previously, the mailman’s son had won a talent contest, so he hired an acting coach named Lois Auer. She happened to work for a renowned agency that managed child actors.
One day, while making his rounds, the mailman told the gifted boys’ parents who to contact for an agent. Then, the rest was history.
The intriguing, young boy was Larry Mathews, who played Ritchie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
Ironically, Mathews walked into the agency just in time to be called from Carl Reiner. They were looking for boys to try out for the role of Ritchie Petrie. Per MeTV, Mathews got the part despite not having any acting experience.
Fellow ‘Dick Van Dyke’ Actors Recall Child Actor Mathews
After he was discovered, Mathews quickly rose to fame in a short time. He recalled the moment it happened in the book “The Dick Van Dyke Show: Anatomy of a Classic.”
“Not too long after I signed with them, Carl Reiner phoned, saying he needed a little boy for the ‘Dick Van Dyke’ pilot. I was the only one sent,” Mathews said.
Apparently, the skill that he lacked was what got him chosen in the first place. Unlike the other boys auditioning, Mathews didn’t have experience.
Morey Amsterdam (played Buddy Sorrell) recounted in “The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book” why they picked Mathews.
“I want a kid who hasn’t done anything and hasn’t been in anything,” he said.
With about two months of training, the five-year-old boy debuted on the show. The role gave him instant Hollywood status.
The show’s star Dick Van Dyke remembered Mathews’ funny moments in his memoir. He said the boy would make veteran actors laugh with his childish humor, like when he referred to actress Joan Shawlee (who played Buddy’s wife Pickles) as “Aunt Wrinkles.”
Thanks to an observant mailman in Burbank, California, Mathews was one of the most beloved child actors in Hollywood.
After the series ended in 1966, Mathews also was recognized for his roles in 1977’s “Soap” and “It’s a Living,” per IMDb. Eventually, he decided to experience a traditional childhood. In 1976, he graduated college from the University of California, Los Angeles. He then took a career as an account executive.
Also, he made an appearance on various TV shows to talk about his role as Ritchie Petrie. In 2004, Mathews reprised his role on “The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.”