Barbara Perry Dies: ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’, was 97

Renowned stage performer and actress Barbara Perry passed away on Sunday in Hollywood due to natural causes at the age of 97. Her illustrious career spanned over several decades, featuring unforgettable roles in Samuel Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963), The Naked Kiss (1964), and iconic TV shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show. She also graced our screens most recently on Baskets. Her legacy as a talented artist and influential figure in the entertainment industry will always be remembered.

Perry, born in Norfolk, Va. in 1921, displayed her early love for performance as a member of the children’s ballet of the Met’s corps de ballet. She made her debut on the big stage during Madame Butterfly. Perry dived into dance, specializing in tap, and stage performances at the famous Hollywood Bowl in the 1930s. 

Perry’s dancing talent propelled her to a variety of nightclubs, including Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Chez Paris in Chicago, Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles, and Café de Paris in London. In her illustrious career, she had the privilege of opening for icons Lena Horne and Peggy Lee.

In her debut, she graced the silver screen in 1933’s Counsellor at Law alongside renowned actor John Barrymore. Shortly thereafter, she secured a minor role in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, cementing her place in the film industry.

Perry’s impressive career spanned across various mediums including film, theater, and television. She notably contributed to the creation of Samuel Fuller’s films Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964). Among her other accomplishments, Perry acted alongside theater legends Burgess Meredith and Eddie Foy Jr. on Broadway, and had recurring roles on multiple TV shows, even in recent years. These roles include portraying Mrs. Douglas, a neighbor on two episodes of How I Met Your Mother, and an employee in a gift shop on a 2017 episode of Baskets.

In the 1963 episode of The Andy Griffith Show entitled “Class Reunion,” Perry plays the role of Mary Lee Becktel, a resident of Mayberry. The episode highlights the Class of ’45 reunion, during which Perry, Griffith, and Knotts join together in singing the Mayberry Union High fight song. The song expresses nostalgia and admiration for the football team: “We’ll hit the line for points every time, the Orange and Blue will try, try, try, try…”

Fans of the Dick Van Dyke Show may recognize Perry as “Pickles”, the wife of Buddy Sorrell (played by Amsterdam) from the first season of the beloved sitcom. She was later replaced by Joan Shawlee for three episodes in 1963.

She has an impressive list of film and television credits to her name, including appearances in Tap (1989), Father of the Bride (1991), Just Write (1997), Mr. Woodcock (2007), and The Back-up Plan (2010), as well as roles in popular TV shows like The Hathaways, The Donna Reed Show, Bewitched, My Three Sons, Barnaby Jones, St. Elsewhere, and Newhart.

Perry’s impressive creative accomplishments include writing and performing in the critically acclaimed one-woman show Passionate Ladies, recognized with two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. Additionally, she was honored in October with the prestigious Founders Award from SAG-AFTRA.

The late actress’s second spouse was renowned animator Art Babbitt, noted for creating the beloved character of Goofy and contributing to Disney’s cherished films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Fantasia (1940). Their union, which began in 1967, lasted until Babbitt’s passing in 1992. Babbitt’s former spouse was the celebrated dancer Marge Champion.

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