Dick Van Patten, the genial, round-faced comic actor who appeared on Broadway as a child, starred on TV in its infancy and then, in middle age, found lasting fame as the patriarch on TV’s “Eight is Enough,” has died.
Van Patten died Tuesday in Santa Monica, California, of complications from diabetes, according to his publicist, Daniel Bernstein. He was 86.
Born in New York, the veteran entertainer began his career as a model and child actor, making his Broadway debut in 1935 at the age of seven, billed as “Dickie Van Patten.” He would go on to appear in 27 other Broadway plays, including the comedy classic “Mister Roberts,”
In 1949, he began a seven-year run on one of TV’s earliest series, “Mama,” playing one of the sons of a Norwegian-American family in early 1900s San Francisco.
Van Patten’s greatest TV success was as Tom Bradford, a widower and father of eight who met and married Abby, played by Betty Buckley, with whom he set up a loving if chaotic household. The ABC comedy-drama aired from 1977-1981.
His many TV appearances also included “Sanford and Son” ”The Streets of San Francisco,” ”Adam-12,” ”Happy Days” ”The Love Boat” “Touched By An Angel,” ”Arrested Development” and, most recently, “Hot in Cleveland.”
Film projects included “Spaceballs,” ”High Anxiety,” the original “Freaky Friday,” ”The Santa Trap” and “Soylent Green.”
An animal enthusiast, Van Patten co-founded Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods in 1989 as well as founding National Guide Dog Month which began in 2008 to raise awareness and money for nonprofit guide dog schools in the United States.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Patricia Van Patten (a former June Taylor Dancer), and his three actor sons — Nels, Jimmy and Vincent.