Friday, November 25, 2022

Mary Tyler Moore


"I'm not an actress who can create a character.  I play me."

Mary Tyler Moore was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 29, 1936.  She was the oldest of three children born to an Irish-Catholic family.  When she was eight years old, the family relocated to Los Angeles, where she completed her education at Immaculate Heart High School.

The move was a perfect fit for Moore, who had long had stars in her eyes.  She made her first television appearance in 1955, starring as "Happy Hotpoint," an elf, in a series of Hotpoint Appliance ads that aired during the popular sit-com The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Yup, that's really her.  She left the role after 39 commercials, as she was unable to conceal her pregnancy in the elf costume.

Her first regular television role was in the David Janssen series Richard Diamond, Private Detective.  She played a glamorous and mysterious telephone receptionist, really, never showing her face on screen.  She'd make guest appearances in other popular series of the day, including The Tab Hunter Show and 77 Sunset Strip.

In 1961, Moore shot to stardom on the popular sit-com The Dick Van Dyke Show (right) as the title character's wife, Laura Petrie.  The show was loosely based on creator Carl Reiner's own experiences as a writer on the Sid Caesar variety series Your Show of Shows.  The series ran for five seasons and 158 episodes, earning Moore two Emmy Awards for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

In 1970, Moore and her husband Grant Tinker, himself a television executive, approached CBS with a proposal for a new series.  Focusing on the star herself, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (below) would break the traditional TV mold by featuring Moore as single woman Mary Richards, trying to make a career for herself as a television journalist.  The series ran for seven seasons and often incorporated social and political themes of the day, including the Women's Movement.  Moore would win an additional four Emmy Awards for this series.  It also generated three spin-off series for CBS, including Rhoda (1974-78), Phyllis (1975-77), and Lou Grant (1977-82).

Shortly after the series ended, Moore returned to New York and the Broadway stage. She starred opposite James Naughton in 96 performances of Whose Life Is It Anyway, then later starred in 164 performances of the May-December romance story, Sweet Sue.  She'd also return to the silver screen as well, with memorable appearances in such films as Ordinary People (1980) and Six Weeks (1982).

Moore continued acting throughout the 1990s, eventually retiring in the early 21st century. She settled in Connecticut and enjoyed the quiet life.  In early 2017, she began experiencing symptoms of cardiopulmonary arrest and was admitted to Greenwich Hospital.  While there, she developed pneumonia and was placed on a ventilator.  She ultimately passed away on January 25th.  Moore was 80 years old.

Moore was laid to rest at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Pro tip: If you go to pay your respects, wear boots!

Location: Plot D-27

Rest in peace.

  • Moore authored two books about her life and career.  You can order a copy of both After All (1995) and Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes (2009) from Amazon.

  • Moore was a descendant of Lewis Tilgham Moore, a Lieutenant Colonel who fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War.

  • In 1969, Moore received a Golden Turkey Award for her performance in the Elvis Presley film Change of Habit.  She was recognized in the category "The Ecclesiastical Award for the Worst Performance by an Actor or Actress as a Clergyman or Nun."  Moore claimed to be thrilled for the recognition.  If you do nothing else today, be sure to watch the film's trailer on YouTube.  

  • That same year, Moore and Tinker founded MTM Enterprises, a successful television production company that would go on to produce such memorable series as The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cicinnati, Hill Street Blues, and many more iconic series.  The orange cat seen meowing at the end of every MTM production was named "Mimsie."

  • Moore returned to New York in the early 1980s, taking with her a collection of memorabilia from her years in Hollywood.  Included in this collection was the beret she had so famously tossed into the air during her show's opening credits.  She kept these items in a storage locker in her apartment building, which vandals soon broke into. Their whereabouts today remain a mystery.

  • The soundstage for The Mary Tyler Moore Show was later used for That 70's Show.  In 2006, Moore made a series of memorable guest appearances on the latter series.

  • In 2002, a statue commemorating Moore's iconic beret toss was created and placed at the Minneapolis intersection made famous in the show's opening credits.  It can be found outside Nicolet Mall.

  • Moore's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 7201 Hollywood Boulevard.

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