Both stars initially refused to do this ''just too hard'' dance routine on The Dick Van Dyke Show
"No one made it easy for Dick and Mary."
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Most fans of The Dick Van Dyke Show know that series creator Carl Reiner often wrote from a deeply personal space, turning moments from his own life into comedy gold, as portrayed by Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie.
For example, Rob Petrie's stuttering proposal, Reiner said in The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book, played out on TV in the episode "The Attempted Marriage" just as it did for Reiner in real life. The book's author Vince Waldron set the scene, "The highlight of the episode was the unforgettable sequence where Rob stutters his faltering marriage proposal to Laura in an open-air jeep — a scene, Reiner says, that was no more than a thinly veiled takeoff on his own quaking proposal to Estelle."
But as The Dick Van Dyke Show progressed, Reiner started writing beyond his own life, and for a very powerful reason. Reiner saw in his stars the opportunity to create more magical moments, so when he went to write for Rob and Laura Petrie, he saw bigger scenes than the ones that took place in his own life. And in one particularly notable case, he saw a song-and-dance number that would delight audiences for decades.
Reiner described a scene from "Oh, How We Met on The Night That We Danced" where the stars sing. "That was pure Dick and Mary. I invented that because I wanted to see Dick and Mary dance together," Reiner said. He goes on to explain that after the show was cast, Reiner learned that both stars had "an uncanny knack for song and dance," so the series creator took note and put it into the script for the next episode he could.
You'd think this must've been an exciting moment for Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, but according to Reiner, that's a hop, skip and a jump away from the truth.
When the stars read the scene and saw they were expected to do a soft-shoe number, Reiner said, "They came to me and said, 'We can't do this! It's just too hard!'" But Reiner did not relent, pushing the choreographers to stay on his leading performers, and in the end, Reiner said, "No one made it easy for Dick and Mary, because we knew they were both so good."
Although Van Dyke was by this time known in the musical comedy world due to Bye, Bye Birdie, Reiner claimed it came as a surprise to him that Moore was equally as strong at song and dance, which you can watch for yourself in the video at the top of this post. The stars are "grace personified," Reiner said, performing that otherwise untouchable Judy Garland/Gene Kelly duet "You, Wonderful You."
The end result was indeed so wonderful that later, in a 2017 interview with CBS News, Reiner still hadn't gotten over how his stars had nailed that scene, saying, "When [Mary] and Dick did a soft-shoe to 'You, Wonderful You' across the stage, I melted, as audiences did all over the country."