Dick Van Dyke accidentally mispronounced Rob Petrie's name and his wrong pronunciation stuck

Wait. Is it Pet-re or Pee-tree?

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When Dick Van Dyke first arrived on set of The Dick Van Dyke Show, he felt sure enough about his own talent that he allowed Carl Reiner to coax him into putting his then-unknown name on his new TV show.

With so many veterans of comedy around him, he had a confidence that the show was really coming together, and he was proud to have his name on it.

The only thing he really doubted when shooting the pilot episode "The Sick Boy and the Sitter" was whether or not his new onscreen wife Mary Tyler Moore actually had the ability to do comedy.

"I was concerned that Mary wasn’t much of a comedian," Van Dyke wrote in his memoir My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business.

"It is hard to imagine," he wrote. "But she was stiff and proper, polite. She didn’t seem to have much of a funny bone. I saw a little Katharine Hepburn in her, but not much Lucille Ball."

While Dick was busy doubting Mary, though, he didn’t notice that he got something pretty major wrong about his own character when he was doing what he considered a perfect reading of the pilot episode: the pronunciation of Rob Petrie’s name.

"As we shot the pilot, I mispronounced Rob and Laura’s last name, saying Pet-re rather than Pee-tree, as Carl had done in the original when he based the name on some actual neighbors of his in New Rochelle," Van Dyke wrote. "Nobody corrected me, and so it stuck."

Just as Van Dyke was wrong about the pronunciation of Rob Petrie’s name, he admitted he was just as wrong about Mary and her comedic talents. He said after a few days of reading together, he knew that Mary really got it when she delivered the line "Oh, Rob!" one day at rehearsal with perfect comedic inflection.

Suddenly, Dick saw what Carl Reiner had seen in the very green Mary Tyler Moore.

"Of course, I was wrong [about Mary]," Van Dyke wrote. "And therein is yet another reason Carl was known as a genius and I was referred to as 'the actor playing Rob Petrie.'"

Van Dyke credited Mary with being an "A-plus student" of the veteran character actors on the show like Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie.

"She absorbed everything — the chemistry, the rhythm — and emerged a comedian herself," Van Dyke said, adding, "I had never seen a transformation like hers, and I still haven’t."

For Van Dyke, becoming Rob Petrie — however it was pronounced — was a transformation, even if he did pronounce the character’s name wrong, thus changing the way we’ve all referred to the Petrie family forever.

And of course, after The Dick Van Dyke Show ended, Mary Tyler Moore took what she learned onset and transformed again, forever becoming identified as not Laura Pet-re, but Mary Richards through The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

The two costars remained close, but both became slammed with acting work and had to let go, unable to hold onto their time together as the Petries.

"When The Dick Van Dyke Show ended, we vowed to get together for lunch every three weeks," Van Dyke wrote. "It never happened. Busy schedules, career demands, and family obligations made such a well-intentioned promise impossible to fulfill."

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FloridaTopCat 13 months ago
This article says that Dick and Mary remained close after the Dick Van Dyke Show ended, But of the hundreds of guest stars on his Diagnosis Murder TV Show, Mary never made an appearance - and several stars from the MTM shows of the 70's like Betty White and Cloris Leachman were guest Stars; and the reverse was mostly true, Dick was a guest star (as Rob Petrie) on the Mary Tyler Moore Hour (1979) of which there were only 11 episodes ever made, but he did not appear on the hit Mary Tyler Moore show or its spin-off's like Rhoda, etc.
JDnHuntsvilleAL 30 months ago
OK, now how about explaining why Laura was called *Lori* several times in the first few episodes.
ELEANOR 33 months ago
If you mention Dick Van Dyke's name in Merry Olde England, you will instantly get an earful and it's all to do with pronunciation. Anyone and everyone across the Pond will instantly tell you exactly the one fact that they know about Dick Van Dyke and that is that he did a really terrible Cockney accent in "Mary Poppins." Now Dick Van Dyke did a lot of physical stuff in that movie; but as soon as he opened his mouth, the Brits were not amused.
ncadams27 33 months ago
From my quick research Petrie is Scottish for Peter and is pronounced the same way - Pee-tree. But, not being Scottish, he pronounced the way it is spelled.
cynkgreen ncadams27 29 months ago
It is also a French name & as such, he pronounced it correctly. I would never have considered pronouncing it any other way!
BillyMeTV 33 months ago
I think Dick Van Dyke pronounced then name correctly according to there rules of spelling. Isn't a vowel that is followed by two consonants supposed to be short, not long? If you want it to be long, you would put two E's in a row or use ie right? I'm not a great speller so I'm likely wrong about this. :-)

cynkgreen BillyMeTV 29 months ago
No, see my comment above, you are correct for a different but still a valid reason.
ncadams27 cynkgreen 29 months ago
Considering the actors who played Rob’s father, I don’t think the writers envisioned his ancestors to be French. But you are both correct. Consider how KANSAS is pronounced in the two states of Kansas and Arkansas.
Runeshaper 33 months ago
That's too funny LOL It's cool that 2 stars got along so well (-:
Pacificsun 33 months ago
I don’t think MTM in DVD ever was that funny but from a viewer's perspective she didn’t need to be. After all there were 3 other very strong comedians and she needed to be the glue (like AG in TAGS) to hold it together (meaning the story line). She had some quirky tropes which were enough to carry her through, like that nervousness, anxiety, and apologetic nature. She was a very different character in MTM even though she turned out to be a good student of timing from observing DVD. But those characters were 2 very different types and personalities! However MeTV’s story makes clear (the point being) how DVD’s perceptions changed, as did the pronounciation of his last name.

I also hear other (supporting) characters pronouncing their last name differently. Like the older lady who was in charge of the Community Play and Variety Show. In her squeaky voice didn’t she keep saying “Oh Mr. Peetrie?” Could be my misunderstand, and welcome a correction!
MrsPhilHarris Pacificsun 33 months ago
Yes there were several episodes where people called him Peetrie such as “I’m No Henry Walden”.
UTZAAKE 33 months ago
The most famous Petrie beyond Rob and Laura is Geoff Petrie, the Portland Trail Blazers' first-ever star player pre-Bill Walton.
AgingDisgracefully UTZAAKE 33 months ago
A TRUE blazer of trail.
cynkgreen UTZAAKE 29 months ago
Yes & he pronounced it as DVD did...
MrsPhilHarris 33 months ago
I thought Mary was very stiff in the first episode.
cynkgreen MrsPhilHarris 29 months ago
I thought I liked that show years ago, watching reruns when I was a young teenager. But watching it now I find her irritating with that tremulous, about to cry voice so often used - "Oh Ro-ob". Maybe it's just the dichotomy of male/female roles, enforced strictly at times in this show but yet other times (e.g. Sally) relaxed, that is irritating as I've become completely 21st century brain washed. Also I don't remember noticing years ago how often & rather arrogant DVD was in this show, until I've seen him in recent years in other TV series. Makes me think it's a character trait of his, not necessarily the role he may have been playing. Of course, considering his age, he will likely be the next one remembered & celebrated here on MeTV & no doubt be referred to as "beloved". All just IMO.
MrsPhilHarris cynkgreen 29 months ago
I must admit as time goes on I find the Laura character more and more annoying. Every time she dances I cringe lol. I still like the show, but my fav characters are Alan Brady, Mel Cooley, Jerry Helper and Millie Helper.
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