From playing Mr. Dawes Senior in Mary Poppins to Caractacus Pott in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, actor Dick Van Dyke has certainly charmed his audience with his talent and good looks for years. While he certainly must’ve been Prince Charming for a lot of women, there is just one woman he truly wants to play that role for — his wife, makeup artist Arlene Silver. And though he found her a little late in life, while in his 80s, and though she is almost less than half his age, he knew she was the one for him.
Let’s start at the beginning…
When he met Silver for the first time, father-of-four Van Dyke already had more than 30 years of experience as a husband with his first wife, ex Margie Willet. Though he was in his final years of dating actress Michelle Troila Marvin when he locked eyes with Silver at the SAG awards in 2006, there was an inexplicable connection between them.
So much so that he sat down at her table and introduced himself, something he usually didn’t do. “I never approached a strange woman in my life,” the actor told Oprah: Where Are They Now?, quoted HuffPost. “[It was] instinct. So, I walked over, sat down and introduced myself.”
“I remember seeing Dick at the catering table with his bow tie and his big smile,” Silver recalled to Parade in 2018. “Right when I sat down, he was sitting next to me. He said, ‘Hi, I’m Dick.’ The first thing I asked him was, ‘Weren’t you in Mary Poppins?’” And that was the beginning of their friendship.
But what about their relationship?
The Dick Tracy actor remained with actress Marvin until she passed away in 2009 due to health issues. But it was when he hired Silver as his makeup artist that the sparks that flew turned a solid friendship into a blossoming relationship. “When we were working together on a movie, there was one time when we were doing a night shoot… and he was laughing like he always does, but it was the way he was lit or something — he had on a sweater and I thought, ‘Wait a minute!’ I just felt a little different,” the 48-year-old makeup artist told Parade.
And their 46-year age gap meant absolutely nothing to the two of them. “She would drop by, cook my dinner or bring me dinner, and just took care of me. So, I mean, I had to marry her,” Van Dyke joked. “I became totally dependent!”
Soon enough, on February 29, 2012, the two decided to tie the knot and exchange their vows, regardless of what anyone thought of the age gap. “It’s a really nice relationship, most people like her a lot,” Van Dyke’s publicist told ABC News. “Despite their obvious age difference, Dick has never been happier. She brings a lot of light into his life.”
And there were doubts before getting married. “I thought… ‘There’s no way that this could ever work,’” Silver told HuffPost. “My brother just said, ‘It’ll never work. What do you talk about? What do you do together?’” Van Dyke added. “The fact is, we talk all the time, and we do everything together.”
Speaking to Rumor Fix, the 93-year-old actor said about his new bride at the time, “I’m not a loner. I have to have a life partner. I found the perfect one.”
How do they keep their marriage strong and happy?
It’s very simple. The father-of-four may be in his 90s but he much younger at heart. “He is a lot of fun. He’s not immature in a bad way. He’s immature in a good way with the wonder of a child,” she said to Parade. “He’s just fun, he’s open-minded. He’s not stuck in his ways at all. We’re both like children. We feel like we’re both having a second childhood.”
As for what she thinks of their fairy tale romance, she told The Huffington Post, “I haven’t been married before so it’s wonderful. He’s the perfect human being but he’s also the perfect partner,” she said. “I went through a lot of frogs to get my prince.”
“We don’t feel the age gap. I’m emotionally immature and Arlene is very wise for her age, so we meet in the middle,” said the actor to The Guardian. And marrying her was “one of the smartest moves I ever made,” he told Parade in 2013.
Well, he’s definitely right about his wife’s wisdom when it comes to him. When talking about a show that was meant to be shot around their married life, Silver said, “It originally revolved around Dick’s life but then I’m so much a part of his life it seems like it’s becoming sort of a portrait of an unusual relationship and how well it works… just that love is ageless.”
It truly is. Here’s to many more years of love and togetherness!