Barbara Perry, Actress on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' Dies at 97

Barbara Perry - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy David Van Deusen

She also appeared on 'The Andy Griffith Show,' 'Murphy Brown' and 'Baskets' and was an expert tap dancer who headlined nightclubs.

Barbara Perry, an actress and dancer who played the wife of Morey Amsterdam's character on The Dick Van Dyke Show, died Sunday of natural causes in Hollywood, family spokesman David Van Deusen said. She was 97.

Perry also worked on the Samuel Fuller films Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964), starred on Broadway with Burgess Meredith and Eddie Foy Jr. and had dozens of TV appearances, including several in the past decade. She played the neighbor Mrs. Douglas on two episodes of How I Met Your Mother and was a gift shop employee on a 2017 installment of Baskets.

On the 1963 "Class Reunion" episode of The Andy Griffith Show, Perry appears as Mayberry local Mary Lee Becktel, and she, Andy and Barney (Don Knotts) — all members of the Class of '45 — wistfully sing the Mayberry Union High fight song. ("We'll hit the line for points every time, the Orange and Blue will try, try, try, try …")

Dick Van Dyke Show trivia buffs will know Perry as "Pickles," the wife of joke writer Buddy Sorrell (Amsterdam), on two first-season episodes of the famed sitcom. (Joan Shawlee took over the role for three installments in 1963.)

And she was one of Murphy Brown's secretaries — No. 39, in fact — on the Candice Bergen comedy.

Perry was born on June 22, 1921, in Norfolk, Virginia. Her father, William, was a keyboardist and a conductor, and her mother, Victoria, sang in the chorus at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. At the age of 4, she made her stage debut as Trouble in Madame Butterfly at the Met.

Her mom brought her to Hollywood and opened Perry’s Studios, where her daughter studied dance and performed at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1930s for choreographers Michio Ito and Agnes de Mille.

Tap was a specialty, and Perry went on to headline at nightclubs including the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, the Chez Paris in Chicago, the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles and the Café de Paris in London, opening for the likes of Lena Horne and Peggy Lee.

She made her film debut in William Wyler's Counsellor at Law (1933), starring John Barrymore, and then appeared in The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935), starring Claude Rains.

On Broadway, Perry starred with Meredith in Happy as Larry in 1950 and danced with Foy in Rumple (Elliott Gould was in the chorus) in 1957. She also studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Her credits also included the films Tap (1989), Father of the Bride (1991), Just Write (1997), Mr. Woodcock (2007) and The Back-up Plan (2010) and such TV shows as The Hathaways, The Donna Reed Show, Bewitched, My Three Sons, Barnaby Jones, St. Elsewhere and Newhart.

Perry also wrote and performed in a one-woman show titled Passionate Ladies, which won two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards. And in October, she received the Founders Award from SAG-AFTRA.

Her second husband was animator Art Babbitt, who developed the character of Goofy and worked on such Disney classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Fantasia (1940). They were married from 1967 until his death in 1992. (His first wife was dancer Marge Champion.)

Survivors include her daughter, Laurel Lee, granddaughter Audrey Lee and stepdaughters Karin and Michele.