Dick Van Dyke. Photo via sagawards.org

Was Dick Van Dyke’s British chimney sweep accent in “Mary Poppins” convincing to real Brits?

It may not matter as Britain’s film and TV academy announced Thursday the 91-year-old dancer, actor, comedian will get top British honors for being “instrumental” in a TV career best known for the “Dick Van Dyke Show.”

Van Dyke will receive the Britannia Award for Excellence in Television, honoring a career that has been “instrumental in the elevation of the medium of television,” according to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles.

Van Dyke, best known for his small-screen role in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and big-screen features such as “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang,” will receive the honor Oct. 27 at the Beverly Hilton.

“I appreciate this opportunity to apologize to the members of BAFTA for inflicting on them the most atrocious Cockney accent in the history of cinema,” Van Dyke, 91, said.

BAFTA officials said Van Dyke was chosen for the honor in recognition of a career that has brought him five Emmys, a Tony Award, a Grammy, a SAG Lifetime Achievement Award and membership in the Television Hall of Fame.

“We truly are in a golden age of television and we couldn’t think of a better way to recognize this than by celebrating someone who was at the forefront of making it the global medium that it has become,” said Chantal Rickards, CEO of BAFTA Los Angeles. “We look forward to his acceptance speech in whatever accent he chooses on the night. We have no doubt it will be `supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”‘

A native of Missouri who grew up in Illinois, Van Dyke won three Emmy awards for “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and collected another one in 1977 for the variety series “Van Dyke and Company.” He also won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1984 for children’s programming for an episode of “CBS Library.”

Van Dyke began his career on stage and radio shows before landing television hosting jobs. He made his Broadway debut in 1959, but hit it big the following year with his casting in “Bye Bye Birdie,” which earned him a Tony Award. It also earned him “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which ran for five seasons.

In the midst of the show’s run, he starred with Julie Andrews in “Mary Poppins,” a film that won five Oscars.

His other film credits include “Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang,” “Divorce American Style,” “Fitzwilly,” “Some Kind of a Nut,” “The Comic” and “Cold Turkey.”

He returned to television in the early 1970s in “The New Dick Van Dyke Show” and made guest spots on shows such as “The Bill Cosby Show,” “Columbo” and “Lola!” He appeared in a string of made-for-television movies in the 1980s and 1990s, before returning to series television in “Diagnosis: Murder,” which co-starred his son Barry.

Van Dyke has also been active in helping the homeless, supporting the Midnight Mission in downtown Los Angeles and appearing regularly at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

He has four children from his marriage to the late Marjorie Willet Van Dyke, and seven grandchildren. In 2012, he married make-up artist Arlene Silver.

—City News Service

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