Your Shopping Cart | Your Account Information | Catalog Quick Order | Customer Service | Order Status | Contact Us


AboutBlogOur Radio Show SEARCH   KEYWORD

Happy Birthday, Art Van Harvey!

The actor born Arthur Harvey Van Berschot in Chicago, Illinois on this date in 1883 had much in common with the fictional Victor Rodney Gook, the laid-back patriarch Art played for so many years on the popular daytime radio comedy Vic and Sade. Both men were enthusiastic card players (Van Harvey was particularly fond of bridge and pinochle) and for further relaxation, both Art and Vic were always up for a game of horseshoes. (You’ll recall that Vic worked on his ringers and leaners over at Ike Kneesuffer’s, where Ike had an indoor horseshoe-pitching court in his basement.) Art did differ from his radio doppelgänger, however, when it came to cuisine: in a May 1934 edition of Radio Guide, Art Van Harvey rhapsodizes about smoked sturgeon, calling it “sheer. palate-tickling ecstasy” in a column (“The Dish I Like Best”) that has the feel of one of Vic and Sade creator Paul Rhymer’s scripts. Van Harvey loved it so much that when he was introduced to it as a child he would answer any adult queries of “What are you going to be when you grow up?” with “A fish-taster in a sturgeon factory!”

Art Van Harvey really aspired to be an actor…yet his mother disapproved, declaring that “an actor is an emissary of the Devil.” Still, Mother Van Harvey signed off on allowing her son (who had developed a proficiency for dialects, including Jewish, Irish, and Italian) to perform in kindergarten and grammar school plays, reasoning he wouldn’t be too harmed by their amateur nature (particularly if they were for the benefit of charity). At the age of fourteen, Art got a job as an office boy with the Chicago Board of Trade, a stock and grain brokerage house. It was not a job he had for long; Van Harvey got his pink slip after sneaking off to the theatre one too many times.

Art Van Harvey tried other jobs after he was dismissed from his position, but nothing seemed “a proper fit.” He then got into vaudeville, a venture he genuinely enjoyed for several years. He left that life to go into farm advertising (as a grain salesman), but kept his hand in acting by participating in amateur dramatics. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 freed up Van Harvey to continue performing, which he did with a successful radio audition that allowed him to show off his talents for dialects and mimicry. Art played “Jeffrey Barker” on the Blue Network’s Welcome Valley (1932-36) and, of course, the role of “Vic” on the program that bestowed upon him radio immortality: Vic and Sade.

In his book Radio Comedy, Arthur Frank Wertheim describes Art Van Harvey as “a Wallace Beery type” and notes that the actor “played the mild-mannered Vic in a quiet low-key style with a twist of cynicism that made the small-town Midwestern character unforgettable.” Although Vic and Sade creator Paul Rhymer modeled the character of Vic after his own father, Rhymer also used Vic to express his own views of small-town life, taking pointed aim at bureaucracy. (Vic was a 9-to-5 office drone, working as Chief Accountant for Consolidated Kitchenware Company’s Plant Number Fourteen.) Rhymer got a particular kick out of lampooning fraternal organizations and secret societies; many of Vic and Sade’s funniest installments revolved around Vic’s membership in the Sacred Stars of the Milky Way, Drowsy Venus Chapter. (He was a Sky-Brother and the Exalted Big Dipper.)

Art Van Harvey’s duties on Vic and Sade kept him pretty busy; he took brief absences from the program on only two occasions due to illness. (Van Harvey suffered a mild heart attack in 1940, prompting Rhymer to introduce the previously unheard Uncle Fletcher [played by Clarence Hartzell] to the microphone.) As such, Art’s radio resume features only a few additional entries — he was heard in Author’s PlayhouseCurtain TimeThe Magic KeyThe Radio Hall of Fame, and The Silver Eagle. Art did not reprise his role as Vic when Vic and Sade transitioned to television in 1949 (on NBC’s Colgate Theatre), but he did when the show had a brief two-month run on a Chicago TV station in 1957. Van Harvey also had a part (as Father McGuire) in the 1950 film The Golden Gloves Story and portrayed “Calvin Sperry” on the NBC-TV daytime drama Hawkins Falls, Population 6200 from 1954 to 1955. Art Van Harvey died in 1957 at the age of 73.

Art Van Harvey’s signature radio role of Vic Gook is front-and-center on one of Radio Spirits’ most prized CD releases, Vic and Sade. You can also check out two 1940 broadcasts of the series on our potpourri compilation of classic radio comedy, Great Radio Sitcoms. Happy Birthday, Art!

Leave a Reply