The young couple on Dick Van Dyke's eponymous '60s CBS sitcom won the hearts of America with their witty banter and on-screen antics, launching the career of the actress who played his TV wife, a then-unknown named Mary Tyler Moore.
"The first time I met Mary Tyler Moore, I thought she was just beautiful, but I thought she was a little young," Van Dyke says of his co-star, who was just 24 when the show started, and 11 years his junior.
The 90-year-old entertainment legend opens up about Moore in an episode of Oprah: Where Are They Now?, admitting that his initial reservations about his on-screen wife extended to more than just her youth. "She had this strange, Mid-Atlantic accent, kind of like Katharine Hepburn, and I said, 'Well, she's cute as she can be, but can she do comedy?'"
Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore
EXCLUSIVE: Dick Van Dyke says he and Mary Tyler Moore had a 'teenage crush' on each other
Actor Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore and Ed Asner attend 45th Annual Thalians Ball on October 7, 2000 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 16: Actress Mary Tyler Moore (L) and actor Dick Van Dyke attend the Tribute To Mary Tyler Moore at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 16, 2008 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Promotional portrait of American actors Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke reprise their roles as Laura and Rob Petrie on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited,' Los Angeles, California, March 10, 2004. (Photo by Tony Esparza/CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke of 'The Gin Game' at the PBS 2003 Winter TCA Tour held at the Renaissance Hotel in Los Angeles, Ca on January 9, 2003. Photo by Barbara Binstein/ImageDirect.
HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 2: Actress Mary Tyler Moore straightens actor Dick Van Dyke's tie at the TV Land Awards 2003 at the Hollywood Palladium on March 2, 2003 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
379726 08: Actress Mary Tyler Moore actor Dick Van Dyke pose for photographers at the 45th Thalians Annual Ball honoring Moore for her contributions to the world of entertainment and philanthropic efforts October 7, 2000 in Century City, CA. (Photo by Steve Grayson/Newsmakers)
Dick Van Dyke, US actor, and Mary Tyler Moore, US actress, in a wedding dress, with a piece of icing from a wedding cake on her finger, in a publicity portrait issued for the US television special, 'Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman', USA, 1969. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
1964: EXCLUSIVE American actors Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore smile while holding the Emmy Awards they won for Best Actor and Actress for the television series, 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' backstage at the Emmy Awards, Los Angeles, California. Van Dyke wears a tuxedo. Moore wears a sleeveless cocktail dress with a pearl necklace and bracelet. (Photo by M. Garrett/Murray Garrett/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
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It didn't take long for Van Dyke to see that Moore, who went on to star in her own sitcom from 1970-77, had what it takes to be a comedy star.
"It wasn't two episodes before her timing came, and her sense of humor," he remembers. "She got it like that, what a pleasure."
Moore not only held her own alongside Van Dyke in the show's song-and-dance numbers, she squared up with the actor in their domestic scenes, delivering witty banter that made the couple one of TV's best on-screen pairs.
"We had this, like a teenage crush on each other," the actor admits. "It was fun."
Van Dyke also gets candid about the darker side of fame in the Oprah special, opening up about how drinking to overcome his shyness eventually led to a battle with alcoholism.
"I was very shy -- with strangers -- I couldn't talk to people," he explains. "And I found if I had a drink, it would loosen me up. The barriers went down and I became very social. That's what got me started."
See more from the interview in the video below.
Oprah: Where Are They Now? airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. on OWN.