Fans remember Dick Van Dyke for his iconic roles in family films such as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. However, off-screen, he had issues surrounding his romantic relationships.
According to Dick Van Dyke’s 2011 memoir, My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, Van Dyke and his first wife, Margie Willie, grew up together in Danville, Illinois, and started dating when Van Dyke was 20.
In 1945 Willie left her boyfriend to be with Van Dyke, the pair dated for years.
Later in 1948, they tied the knot while appearing on a live radio show called “Bride and Groom.” The show lured the pair in because, according to Dyke, “We were too broke to get married.”
The show’s producer offered to pay for their wedding and honeymoon if they exchanged nuptials on his show.
“We exchanged our vows in front of a minister and two radio microphones while 15 million people listened!” Van Dyke told the Guardian.
The Love Triangle That Caused Dick Van Dyke To Stop Eating
When it was revealed that Van Dyke had another leading lady in his life, the couple separated in the late ’70s.
In 1975, Van Dyke began a romantic relationship with his agent’s secretary, Michelle Triola. She, too, came from an entertainment background but put her showbiz career on pause when she dated Lee Marvin.
In Van Dyke’s book, he wrote, “All the things Margie didn’t like, Michelle did, and gradually it got to where I was inventing excuses to call Sol so that I could speak with Michelle.”
Van Dyke also revealed that the friendly phone calls ultimately led to a full-blown affair.
“Our phone conversations turned into lunches, and those evolved into low-key dinners in dark restaurants where we could avoid attention,” wrote Van Dyke.
However, the forbidden relationship left Van Dyke feeling conflicted about what to do in his marriage. Van Dyke even stopped eating due to the stress of the situation.
“I worked harder going back and forth between my two worlds than I did on the show, I lost seven pounds in the first two months. I told people it was work. In truth, it was the stress of dividing my time between two extremely strong, attractive women,” he recalled.
He finally came clean to his wife, and according to the actor, she was shocked. However, they had many “emotional and productive talks” that ended with the two filing for divorce.
Even though Van Dyke continued his relationship with Triola, he remained close with Willie after their divorce.
“I made sure Margie knew she would never want for anything materially or financially,” he wrote. “My one regret was leaving her alone. For myself, I was confident that I was making the right decision.”