A retrospect of the work and life of Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore: A Look Back At An Iconic Actress

As the world reels from the news of the death of Mary Tyler Moore, we thought it appropriate to take a look back at the life and work one of the most beloved actresses of the 20th Century.

From her early life in Brooklyn, New York, Mary Tyler Moore new that she wanted to be on stage. At first, she wanted to be a dancer and appeared in 39 commercials as the Happy Hotpoint Elf for Hotpoint Appliances. After that gig ended because of her first pregnancy, she went on to guest star in numerous television series, including Johnny Staccato, Bachelor Father, and The Tab Hunter Show.

Her star began to rise, and she was tapped to star alongside Dick Van Dyke in The Dick Van Dyke Show by producer Danny Thomas. Mary Tyler Moore, “the girl with three names,” played Laura Petrie, Van Dyke’s wife. She was the first actress on a sitcom to be shown wearing pants. Sponsors were so angry that she was limited to one scene with pants per episode. However, her comedic performance couldn’t be stopped and earned her an Emmy nomination in 1963. She lost to Shirley Booth that year but came back to win in both 1964 and 1966. She also won a Golden Globe for her role in 1965. The Dick Van Dyke Show ended its five-year run in 1966.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

In 1970, Mary and her husband Grant Tinker wrangled a half-hour sitcom order from CBS. This sitcom became the platform that catapulted Mary Tyler Moore into fame. It was also responsible for three spinoffs, Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the first series to showcase the life of a single working woman in the 1970’s and would go on to be copied by numerous other shows. The series ran for seven years, maintaining its grip as one of the top 20 shows in all but its final season. The series finale was the seventh most watched show during that week.

Mary Tyler Moore, iconic actress, died at age 80
[Image by Ffooter/Shutterstock]

The Mary Tyler Moore Show won a total of 29 Emmys during its seven-year run, a record that it held for 25 years until the NBC sitcom Frasier won its 30th Emmy in 2002. The Emmy Awards the show garnered through its time on CBS include the following.

  • Outstanding Comedy Series: 1975, 1976, 1977
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Mary Tyler Moore) 1973, 1974, 1976
  • Actress of the Year (Mary Tyler Moore) 1974
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor (Ed Asner) 1971, 1972, 1975
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor (Ted Knight) 1973, 1976
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress (Valerie Harper) 1971, 1972, 1973
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress (Cloris Leachman) 1974
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress (Betty White) 1975, 1976

The show also won three Golden Globes; one for Moore for Best Actress in a Comedy in 1971 and two for Ed Asner as Best Supporting Actor in 1972 and 1976.

After The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Mary Tyler Moore was never able to recapture the particular magic that led to nearly a decade of iconic television. She had several series start, including two variety shows, and two dramas, but all were canceled due to poor ratings. She went on to guest star on some other series. She starred as herself on The Ellen Show with Ellen DeGeneres, praising Ellen for trying to save a 65-year old lobster from a cooking pot. She also had a notable turn guest starring on That ’70s Show where she played a version of her television character.

In 1980, Mary starred in the drama Ordinary People, playing a mother who is unable to cope with one of her son’s drowning death and another’s suicide attempt. She acted alongside Donald Sutherland, Judd Hirsch, and a young Timothy Hutton. Moore received her only Oscar nomination for that role but eventually lost to Sissy Spacek, who played Loretta Lynn in the biopic A Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Mary Tyler Moore and a look back at her work
Mary Tyler Moore poses with Jack Lemmon at the Academy Awards. [Image by Randy Rasmussen/AP Images]

Personal Life and Health Crises

Moore was also a fierce advocate of animal rights. She worked tirelessly with Farm Sanctuary to show the dangers of factory farming and increase ethical treatment of animals who live and work on farms. She cofounded Broadway Barks, the annual animal adoption drive held every July in Shubert Alley. During the adoption drive, Broadway actors showcase adoptable cats and dogs to the public.

In 1969, Mary Tyler Moore was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, the disease that would eventually lead to her death in 2017. She was the International Chairperson of the JDRF and used her status to raise funds and increase awareness of diabetes mellitus type 1. In 2014, due to complications from diabetes, she had gone nearly blind. Dick Van Dyke told Larry King during an interview that Mary was not well at all. She was placed on a respirator during the week of January 15, 2017, before succumbing to diabetes-related complications on January 25, 2017.

Mary Tyler Moore is survived by her husband, Dr. Robert Levine.

As tragic as her death is, Mary Tyler Moore brought laughter, smiles, and hope to millions of people throughout her celebrated career. Let us all take courage and learn from one of her best known quotes:

“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”

[Featured Image by Don Brinn/AP Images]