When Mary Tyler Moore passed away on January 25, 2017, the world lost one of its most shining gems.
She was best known for her roles in the beloved sitcoms The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
As Laura Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show, she played Rob Petrie’s devoted, adoring, and bumbling spouse. She was the quintessential 1960s housewife and mother.
As Mary Richards, in contrast, on the Mary Tyler Moore show, she was a strong independent woman who proudly embraced her career and autonomy. She became a reluctant feminist symbol of sorts, serving as a de facto spokeswoman for women’s changing position in society. Although she would shrug off the feminist label in her later years.
Undeniably, both characters, as polar opposite as they may have been, highlighted her witty, endearing charm. She could make audiences laugh while encouraging us all to think.
Not only did she shine so brightly on the screen, but she also was a highly influential off set as well. When she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 33, she became an outspoken advocate for people suffering from the disease. She chaired the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for many years and even petitioned Congress for increased funding and research to be invested into studying the illness.
But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Mary Tyler Moore’s life can’t be summed up so quickly. Her life was packed full of accomplishments and successes, struggles and hardships, and everything in-between. Let’s pay our respects to this timeless actress, producer, and social advocate by taking a moment to take a closer look at her life.
Stick around for the whole video to see what Hollywood record The Mary Tyler Moore managed to break, but first, let’s look at how she got her start.
She Got Her Start Selling Appliances
When she was just 17 years old, Moore decided that she wanted to be a dancer. She had her first opportunity to pursue her life’s dream when she was hired as a dancer for Hotpoint Appliances. She played a diminutive elf named ‘Happy’ that danced atop various appliances that the company sold. In total, she filmed 29 commercials with Hotpoint in just five days. She was compensated for her work with a $6,000 paycheck.
She was fired from her Hotpoint advertising gig when she revealed that she had become pregnant. Hotpoint tried to work with her at first but once her pregnancy became too difficult to conceal they gave her the boot.
Her First TV Role Only Showed Her Legs
Richard Diamond, Private Detective was first a radio show that ran from 1949 to 1953. It was then adapted into a popular television show that ran from 1957 to 1960.
Mary Tyler Moore’s first television role was Richard’s mysterious receptionist, Sam. Audiences only ever heard her voice and saw her legs. She remained one of the most mysterious characters in the show and added to the show’s intrigue.
She Was An Album Cover Model
For a number of years, Moore modeled anonymously for dozens of album covers. She made for one super sexy pin-up on the covers of easy listening records from artists and ensembles like Miguelito Valdes, The Norman Leslie Orchestra, and Raoul Martinez and his Orchestra. Collectors can find many of these albums on eBay.
Her Long Name Helped Her Get Noticed
Before she ever nabbed her first major role as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore had gone to an audition for the Danny Thomas sitcom Make Room for Daddy.
She was turned down for the part because Danny thought she lacked enough resemblance to him to pass as his kin, but Thomas was wildly impressed by how much talent and spunk the young actress had. She made a very solid impression that led to Thomas recommending her to his buddy Dick Van Dyke. He remembered her as the girl with three names.
She Stood Up For Her Right To Wear Pants
A woman wearing pants on television isn’t the kind of thing that today’s audiences would even take note of., but back in the day, it was a scandalous move.
Producers originally envisioned Laura Petrie as dressing very conservatively, taking style pointers from June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver. She hated the idea of having to constantly do house chores like vacuuming and sweeping in a long dress. It didn’t make any sense to her that her character would dress like that.
Instead, she insisted that she wear the vastly more comfortable capri style pants that she would become well known for. She drew upon the housewives that she knew firsthand in her life for the fashion choice. No one she knew was cleaning houses in dresses and ankle-length skirts.
Producers originally weren’t fond of the idea of her wearing pants. Sponsors also raised concerns, but Moore persisted and eventually was given the go-ahead to sport the groundbreaking attire. She wasn’t the first woman to wear pants on television. Lucille Ball did that years prior, but Moore was one of the first influencers that really brought the wardrobe choice into the mainstream.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show Was Record Breaking
We already mentioned how the Mary Tyler Moore Show was trailblazing for featuring a strong independent female lead that was making gains in a male-dominated world, but the program also broke ground in other ways.
It earned itself 29 Emmy Awards in the seven seasons that it was on the air. No other show had won that many Emmy’s at the time. Frasier broke that record in 2002, however, when it won its 30th Emmy Award. Frasier went on to win 36 Emmy’s in total.
To date, the shows that have won the most Emmy’s are Game Of Thrones with its 57 wins and Saturday Night Live with 65.
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Mary Richards Was Supposed To Be Divorced
Producers were concerned that audiences would make the inaccurate assumption that her character had divorced Dick Van Dyke from her previous show – despite the fact that the shows are from two entirely separate TV universes. Divorce was also somewhat of a taboo subject for its time, although it’s true that Vivian Vance was the first divorcee to be portrayed on TV in The Lucy Show.
She Had Trouble Keeping A Straight Face In A Famous Scene
The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s seventh episode of season 6 was perhaps one of the series more iconic episodes. In fact, ‘Chuckles Bites the Dust’ is remembered as being one of the funniest sitcom episodes of all time.
One scene in particular really stands out. Mary Richards scolds her coworkers for downplaying the tragic death of a clown. Although, in truth, Moore struggled to contain herself during rehearsals. Every time she would mention one of Chuckles’ characters, Mr. Fee-Fi-Fo, she couldn’t help but burst out laughing. That scene was especially difficult to film as they had to film it in multiple takes to make sure that Moore looked appropriately solemn.
She Gave Variety Shoes A Try
In 1978 tried out a variety anthology show that was aptly titled, Mary. The show was canceled after only three episodes. She tried again a year later with The Mary Tyler Moore Hour but that show too fell victim to the ax of network cancellation after only 11 episodes. Both shows starred Michael Keaton and David Letterman while the two stars were still relatively unknown.
Moore Married Her Mom’s Doctor
Moore’s first marriage was to Dick Meeker in 1955. The two would go their separate ways just 6 years later in 1951.
Her second marriage was to NBC network executive Grant Tinker in 1962. The couple would create MTM Enterprises, the production company responsible for fro producing The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That marriage also ended in divorce in 1981.
In a strange twist of fate, she tied the knot with one Dr. Robert Levine in 1983. He was her mother’s heart physician. The two remained married until her death in 2017.
Moore’s Only Son Tragically Killed
Mary and Richard Meeker, her first husband had one child. Richard Jr. was born on July 3, 1956.
On October 14, 1980, when Richard Jr. only 24 years old, he killed by an accidental gunshot to the head while he’s holding a tiny .410 shotgun. That specific model later removed from the market because of its sensitive hair-trigger.
She Was A Vegetarian – Sort Of
Mary Tyler Moore was an outspoken animal rights activist. She insisted upon a vegetarian diet and advocated it for others. Although, she wouldn’t called a vegetarian by today’s standards as she still routinely ate fish. That would make her a pescatarian.
Moore’s Health Problems
She didn’t quite have the easiest life. She struggled for many years with alcoholism and as we mentioned already she diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1969. That was also the same year that she had a miscarriage which devastated her mental state.
In 2011, she had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. 2014, It then confirmed that Moore was suffering from kidney and heart problems . In her later years, she lost most of her eyesight as well.
Moore passed away at the age of 80 in 2017. She was put on a ventilator a week prior at Greenwich Hospital after suffering from cardiac arrest that was complicated by pneumonia.
Because of being seen as a symbol for Women’s Lib, many labeled Moore as a moderate or a liberal, but her personal politics not as easy to categorize. She endorsed Richard Nixon in 1972 but went on to endorse Jimmy Carter in 1980. In her later years, Moore became a fan of Fox News and host Bill O’Reilly.
She wasn’t a fan of how the world had unfolded since her days in the limelight. Mary saw much of what considered as progress as being harmful. She identified as a Libertarian Centrist in a 2009 interview with Parade magazine and revealed that she would have campaigned for John McCain if he had asked her to.
Hopefully, we’ve touched on some of the most important parts of Mary Tyler Moore’s life. If we missed anything major, let us know in the comments section. And while you’re at it, tell us which one of her shows you enjoyed more between The Dick Van Dyke Show or The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
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Anyways, be safe out there.