Dick Van Patten dies at 86

Dick Van Patten dies at 86

The always-genial Eight Is Enough and Love Boat actor enjoyed a long and successful career.

By (Reuters)

Published: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:41 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:46 PM

Dick Van Patten, who played the paterfamilias on the 1980s TV dramedy Eight Is Enough, died on Tuesday morning. He was 86. Patten died at Saint John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California, due to complications from diabetes. The always-genial, round-faced actor also appeared in Disney films including Freaky Friday (the original, Jodie Foster version) as well as Mel Brooks comedies High Anxiety, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Space Balls.

Though long associated with television and film comedies, the actor spent a great deal of time on stage, making the first of his two dozen or so appearances on Broadway as a child back in 1937, in Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road. He had most recently appeared onscreen in a guest role as Lester on TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland. Other relatively recent credits include 7th Heaven in 2004, Arrested Development in 2005, That 70s Show in 2006 and The Sarah Silverman Program in 2008.

Van Patten starred as Tom Bradford, the father of eight children, on ABC’s Eight Is Enough from 1977-81. The show was based on the life of journalist Tom Braden, who had written a book of the same name. Van Patten also appeared in the 1987 reunion movie and 1989’s An Eight Is Enough Wedding. He reprised the role of Tom Bradford via voice work on the animated sitcom Family Guy in 1999.


Richard Vincent Van Patten was born in Kew Gardens, N.Y. He made his Broadway debut in Kurt Weill’s The Eternal Road, a spectacle of Jewish history, in 1937. The next year the youngster appeared in Paul Osborn’s hit On Borrowed Time, which was adapted into a film starring Lionel Barrymore and Cedric Hardwicke; in 1939 he was part of the George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart spectacle The American Way. In addition to his work onstage, Van Patten was involved in television from early on. He was a series regular as son Nels on CBS’ Mama, a series about a Norwegian family in San Francisco based on the play and movie I Remember Mama, starting in 1949. After 1970 the actor was a steady presence on the smallscreen for the next several decades.

During the 1970s he guested on I Dream of Jeannie, That Girl, Sanford and Son, McMillan and Wife, Love, American Style, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Phyllis, Maude, The Streets of San Francisco, The Six Million Dollar Man, One Day at a Time. During and after the run of Eight Is Enough, he guested some six times on The Love Boat, and during the 1980s he guested on series including Murder, She Wrote and The Facts of Life. Later he appeared on Touched by an Angel, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Love Boat: The Next Wave. Van Patten’s first series-regular gig came on the brief, Don Adams-created cop spoof The Partners, which also starred Adams and ran in 1971-72. He recurred on The New Dick Van Dyke Show in 1973-74 as Max Matthias, and he played Friar Tuck on ABC’s brief Robin Hood spoof When Things Were Rotten, co-created by Mel Brooks (who much later cast Van Patten in his 1993 feature spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights as the Abbot). After Eight Is Enough, he tried the series-regular route again with CBS’ brief 1990-91 drama WIOU, a primetime soap set at a TV station.

He made his feature debut in the 1963 horror Violent Midnight but more significantly played one of the scientists who aid the lead character in 1968’s Charly. In 1972 he appeared in the Larry Hagman-directed horror comedy Beware! The Blob. More impressive was his supporting role in the Clint Eastwood Western Joe Kidd the same year. Van Patten served as a commentator for the World Series of Poker from 1993-95.

His memoir Eighty Is Not Enough, co-authored with Robert Baer, was published in 2009. Survivors include wife Pat, to whom he was married since 1954; three sons, actors Nels Van Patten, James Van Patten and Vincent Van Patten; a sister, actress Joyce Van Patten; and a much younger half-brother, director-producer Timothy Van Patten. Reuters

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