Mary Tyler Moore, who changed depiction of women, dies at 80
Mary Tyler Moore, the star of TV’s beloved “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” whose comic realism helped revolutionize the depiction of women on the small screen, died Wednesday, said her publicist, Mara Buxbaum. She was 80.
Moore gained fame in the 1960s as the frazzled wife, Laura Petrie, on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” In the 1970s, she created one of TV’s first career-woman sitcom heroines in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
“She was an impressive person and a talented person and a beautiful person. A force of nature,” producer, creator and director Carl Reiner, who created the “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” told the Associated Press.
She won seven Emmy awards over the years and was nominated for an Oscar for her 1980 portrayal of an affluent mother whose son is accidentally killed in “Ordinary People.”
Moore’s first major TV role was on the classic sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” in which she played the young homemaker wife of Van Dyke’s character, comedy writer Rob Petrie, from 1961-66.
With her unerring gift for comedy, Moore seemed perfectly fashioned to the smarter wit of the new, post-Eisenhower age. As Laura, she traded in the housedress of countless sitcom wives and clad her dancer’s legs in Capri pants that were as fashionable as they were suited to a modern American woman.
Laura was a dream wife and mother, but not perfect. Viewers identified with her flustered moments and her protracted, plaintive cry to her husband: “Ohhhh, Robbbb!”
But it was as Mary Richards, the plucky Minneapolis TV news producer on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970-77), that Moore truly made her mark.
At a time when women’s liberation was catching on worldwide, her character brought to TV audiences an independent, 1970s career woman. Other than Marlo Thomas’ 1960s sitcom character “That Girl,” who at least had a steady boyfriend, there were few precedents.
Mary Richards was comfortable being single in her 30s, and while she dated, she wasn’t desperate to get married. She sparred affectionately with her gruff boss, Lou Grant, played by Ed Asner, and always addressed as “Mr. Grant.” And millions agreed with the show’s theme song that she could “turn the world on with her smile.”
The series ran seven seasons and won 29 Emmys, a record that stood for a quarter century until “Frasier” broke it in 2002.
“Everything I did was by the seat of the pants. I reacted to every written situation the way I would have in real life,” Moore told the Associated Press in 1995. “My life is inextricably intertwined with Mary Richards’ and probably always will be.”
“Mary Tyler Moore” was the first in a series of acclaimed, award-winning shows she produced with her second husband, Grant Tinker, who died in 2016, through their MTM Enterprises. “The Bob New-hart Show,” “Hill Street Blues,” “St. Elsewhere” and “WKRP in Cincinnati” are among the MTM series that followed.
Moore won her seventh Emmy in 1993, for supporting actress in a miniseries or special, for a Lifetime network movie, “Stolen Babies.” She had won two for “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the other four for “Mary Tyler Moore.”
She turned to serious drama in 1980’s “Ordinary People,” playing an affluent, bitter mother who loses a son in an accident. The film won the Oscar for best picture and best director for Robert Redford, and it earned Moore an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe.