December 29, 1936 – January 25, 2017
I can’t remember the first time I saw Mary Tyler Moore on TV.
It was either her performance as the progressive Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show (’61-’66) or her brilliant and truly groundbreaking performance as Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (’70-’77).
I thought The Dick Van Dyke Show was funny but I loved The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I used to watch it all the time with my Mom. I used to reenact Mary throwing her hat into the air on the playground at school. I dreamed of putting a Giant M on my wall and when I was old enough to buy one I did just that.
Overall, she was an inspiration to so many women around the world. I wasn’t alive when The Mary Tyler Moore Show was airing new episodes but she still touched my soul.
Having the Women’s March on Washington only days before her death seems like a bittersweet ending for this Feminist Icon.
How many women who marched on Saturday was touched by Mary Richards?
Moore was a trained dancer before she went on to acting. Moore would go on to state, “I’m a failed dancer but a successful actress”. Her big break being the Dick Van Dyke Show. Back then women were made to be flawlessly dressed on television which included wives to wear pearls and skirts even when cleaning the house. Mary Tyler Moore objected this standard and insisted on pants. Since none of her friends cleaned in heels. The studio settled on Moore being allowed to wear capris pants.
Moore started The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a show about a career focused woman succeeding in a male dominated field while casually dating men without the end game of marriage. Mary Richards was not focused on finding a husband, she lived on her own and did her own things. Never having to apologize for it. Moore was not the first actress to portray a career woman, that title would go to Marlo Thomas’s Ann Marie from That Girl (’66-’71). Moore has commented on this fact saying, “Anne Marie opened the door and Mary Richards walked right through it”. The show did not sit back on purely featuring Mary Richards as a single independent woman, they also focused on many controversial topics of the times, subjects such as, equal pay for women, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, marital infidelity and divorce, as well as infertility, and adoption.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was produced by MTM, the Production Company Moore cofounded with her second husband, Grant Tinker. Making her her own Producer, much like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz with Desilu Studios.
Over her career Moor accumulated a lengthy list of Awards:
- Seven Emmy awards, two for Dick Van Dyke, four for Mary Tyler Moore and her last was for her role in the 1993 miniseries, Stolen Babies.
- Three Golden Globes, one for Dick Van Dyke, one for Mary Tyler Moore and one for the 1980 film, Ordinary People.
- She also received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her role in the film.
- In 2012, Moore received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Although she had a successful career, Moore has been dealt with a lifetime of heart-break. Her Father was emotionally distant, her mother was an alcoholic, her sister, Elizabeth died of a drug overdose in 1978 and in 1992 she assisted her terminally ill brother, John in trying to commit suicide but it was unsuccessful. He died three months later from Kidney Cancer. Most tragic of all her only child, her son, Richie died after an accident involving a gun in 1980. (The gun he owned was later recalled). Despite of all this tragedy, Moore kept pushing forward and kept smiling.
Which is good advice for anyone in despair. Things happen and life deals you some bad hands. You can either let that define you or you can pick yourself up and keep on truckin’.
I’ll leave you with this iconic scene from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Thank you for Reading.
*Some Fun Facts*
Reportedly Mary Tyler Moore told the producers she was older than she really was in order to get the role of Laura. This fact was later incorporated in episode The Dick Van Dyke Show: Laura’s Little Lie (1963) in which Rob and Laura have to get re-married in The Dick Van Dyke Show: Very Old Shoes, Very Old Rice (1963) because Laura had lied about her age, telling Rob she was 19 in reality, she was only a 17 year young damsel.
Jack Cassidy was offered the role of Ted Baxter. He turned it down because he didn’t want to be in the supporting cast of a female-led show. Cassidy later guest starred as Ted’s brother.
Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore played a married couple so convincingly on the show that many viewers actually thought they were married in real life. They did in fact become very close – “like siblings”, as Dick Van Dyke said – and both admit they had crushes on each other while the show was in production. They have remained close friends ever since.
She could turn the World on with her Smile!