From the Archives: Morey Amsterdam; ‘Buddy’ on ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’

Morey Amsterdam
(File photo)
Times Staff Writer

Morey Amsterdam, a veteran comedian and character actor who was best remembered for his role as Maurice “Buddy” Sorell on the long-running “Dick Van Dyke Show,” died Monday. He was 87.

Amsterdam suffered a heart attack at his home and was later pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

The comic was a seasoned veteran of vaudeville, radio and early television when he was cast with Dick Van Dyke as Rob Petrie and Rose Marie as Sally Rogers on the show that ran from 1961 to 1966. The three played writers for a seldom-seen Carl Reiner as the title character on the fictitious “The Alan Brady Show.”

After the first year, Amsterdam lost 55 pounds and had cosmetic surgery to remove the sagging skin under his chin, making his character appear younger, thinner and happier.


“Everyone who can afford to change his appearance for the better should do so,” he told The Times in 1962. “It can alter a person’s outlook on life and improve his personality.”

Born in Chicago, Amsterdam attended UC Berkeley. Although he was encouraged by his musician father to become a concert performer, he wound up using his cello only as a prop in his comic routines.

He began performing with the Optimistic Doughnut Program and the Rube Wolf Orchestra in 1930.

The versatile actor was a comedy writer for the Al Pearce Gang in 1932 and for MGM later in the 1930s. He wrote for such entertainers as Will Rogers and Fanny Brice, and for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan.

Amsterdam’s first stab at television was on “Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One” in 1948. He went on to host “The Morey Amsterdam Show” and in 1950 “Broadway Open House,” which evolved into “The Tonight Show.”

He was a regular on comedy variety shows throughout the 1950s and also became popular in films, including “It Came From Outer Space” in 1953 and “Machine Gun Kelly” in 1958. He appeared in several beach movies of the 1960s.

Amsterdam also owned The Playgoers Club in Hollywood and was vice president of American International Pictures, which produced some of his films.

In recent years, he had appeared in television specials, including “Comic Relief” in 1992 and “The Dick Van Dyke Show Remembered” in 1994. He also was in the 1992 motion picture “Sandman.”


The comedian is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Kay, and two children, Gregory and Cathy.


From the Archives: Benny Carter, 95; Legendary Saxophonist Also Was Composer-Arranger, Bandleader


From the Archives: Eartha Kitt dies at 81; TV’s Catwoman, sultry singer of ‘Santa Baby’

From the Archives: Actor Peter Sellers, Comic Film Genius, Dies at 54

From the Archives: His popular novels blended social criticism, dark humor

From the Archives: Steve Allen, TV Innovator, Author, Composer, Dies at 78