At five years old, Larry Mathews‘ life changed forever. Not long after his neighborhood mailman suggested that his parents get him into acting, he was cast on The Dick Van Dyke Show as Ritchie Petrie, the son of Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore‘s lead characters. Mathews spent all five seasons on the show from 1961 to 1966, but since then he has retired from acting, save for a couple special appearances over the years.
Now, Mathews is 66 years old, and after stepping out of the spotlight following The Dick Van Dyke Show, he grew up and moved on to a different career in the entertainment business. Read on to learn more about Mathews’ life today and about his relationship with his castmates.
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Mathews stopped acting after The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The Dick Van Dyke Show ended in 1966 when Mathews was 11 years old. At this point, rather than continuing with his child acting career, he retired at an early age. Mathews went on to attend college at UCLA.
But, while Mathews stopped acting for the most part, he has reprised his role of Ritchie on a couple of occasions. In 2004, he appeared in the reunion special The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. In 2021, he played Ritchie in the comedy webseries TV Therapy in which former child stars reprise their old TV roles as if their character is speaking to a therapist.
He started working behind-the-scenes instead.
As an adult, Mathews decided to pursue a different career in the entertainment business. He went into post-production sales.
“When we were doing The Dick Van Dyke Show, I was always very fascinated about the whole goings-on behind—in terms of production and shooting and cameras and even the editing of it,” Mathews said on the podcast Whine at 9 in 2014. “Often I would wander into the editing room with Bud Molin and just sit there and watch him edit and clip things together… And John Rich, who directed several of our shows—I was always asking him a lot of questions when I was a kid and he would put me up and let me look through the camera and show me what he was doing and talk to me about it… So I kind of always had the production/post production side in me.”
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He kept in touch with his co-stars.
Given that The Dick Van Dyke Show premiered 60 years ago, all of the main cast members from the show have passed away, aside from Mathews, who was only a child at the time, and Van Dyke himself, who is 95 years old. In the interview with Whine at 9, Mathews said that he stayed close with his co-stars over the years, particularly Rose Marie, who died in 2017. “Rose Marie and I have the same birthday, so we’re always at least talking to each other on our birthdays every year,” Mathews said.
Mathews also reminisced about Moore in a 2017 interview with Parade following her death. “She was like a mother in a lot of ways,” he said. “She was the figure there that I grew up with as a child…I’m lucky enough to have two wonderful families and Mary being a huge part of that.” He shared that he had last seen her in person while filming The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.
He has great memories from filming the show.
While being interviewed by Pop Goes the Culture TV, Mathews shared a funny story from set about an episode where a woodpecker kept landing on Ritchie’s head. He said when he asked how a bird would know to come to him, he was told, “Don’t worry, we’re going to put a worm on top of your head.” He added, “I went to my mom in a panic.” But, it all turned out okay. “It was actually quite funny … I said, ‘Okay, you know what, you got to deal with it.'”
Even though he had to act with a worm on his head, Mathew told Whine at 9 that the set “was always a fun place to be. It felt like you were at home in a family.” He added of being around top comedic actors as a kid, “[Working with them] was just such a treat. And even as a child, even though I didn’t quite grasp it that much, as I grew, it became very evident of what was going on… it was a wonderful experience.”
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