I originally intended the “Where did they go?” series only to include people who had small roles in films that I love, but while working on new installments of my Recap & React series, I began to wonder about a certain child actor.
As any reader of this blog knows, I love The Dick Van Dyke Show and have been slowly re-watching the episodes in the order that they aired, posting plot synopses and mini-reviews of each episode along the way.
Soon after publishing the first post in the “Where did they go?” series, I was doing a bit of multitasking — watching and taking notes on the show, while also brainstorming ideas for this series in the margin of my notes page. Lo and behold, the first episode of Dick Van Dyke‘s second season prominently features the character of Ritchie, who is deep in mourning after one of his pet ducks passes away.
Ritchie is, to be completely honest, not a character I usually pay much attention to. He’s an adorable and funny little dude, but most of the series’ episodes focus on his parents, with him playing only a small part. If you had asked me prior to writing this post, I couldn’t have even named the actor who played him, which of course made me want to research his post-Dick Van Dyke career all the more.
Ritchie Petrie was portrayed by Larry Mathews. Born on August 15, 1955, the actor’s given name was Larry Mazzeo. (Ironically, Rose Marie, who portrayed Sally on The Dick Van Dyke Show, was born on August 15, 1923. Birthday buddies!)
Prior to his work as Ritchie Petrie, Mathews did not work in the entertainment industry, and during The Dick Van Dyke Show‘s run he only recieved one other acting credit: a 1962 episode of The Dick Powell Theatre.
Whatever potential his role as Ritchie had given him for a career in the entertainment industry seems to have fizzled out quickly. Mathews’ Hollywood career was stagnant throughout the ’70s and ’80s, with the exception of appearances as himself in This Is Your Life (1972) and Good Old Days (1977). Wikipedia reports that he chose to leave acting behind and got a degree from UCLA, but since they give no citation I’m not sure how reliable this information is. The site also reports (again, with no citation) that Mathews currently works behind-the-scenes in showbiz.
In the 1990s and beyond, Mathews only racked up three more acting credits. He resurrected his role as Ritchie for a 1993 TV special which featured comedy sketches along with clips of Dick Van Dyke’s five favorite episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. He reprised the role again in a 2004 Dick Van Dyke Show reunion special.
With the exception of that one appearance on The Dick Powell Show, Mathews’ only non-Dick Van Dyke Show acting credit has been in a 2011 short film, A Day in the Life of Plain Jen.
Beyond his few acting credits, Mathews has participated in a couple of documentaries about child stars and classic television, also giving a few interviews to programs like Entertainment Tonight. He seems to reflect fondly on his time as Ritchie Petrie, and IMDb reports that he even owns a desk that was used on the show.