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The Real Reason Mary Tyler Moore Wore a Wig for Her Show

Mary Tyler Moore was a groundbreaking actress, whose show, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” set the bar for excellence in television, both for female leads and for shows in general. But before she started up her classic show, she became famous on another sitcom, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” It was a breakout role, as audiences around the country fell in love with the beautiful, funny, and talented performer. But did you know that she chose to wear a wig when she transitioned to her own show? In this video, we’ll explain why, as well as take a look at her time on the Dick Van Dyke Show and other aspects of her storied career. Join Facts Verse, as we present: The Real Reason Mary Tyler Moore Wore a Wig for Her Show.

Many people might not realize that Mary Tyler Moore wore a wig during the entire first season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And while it’s not like actors need a specific reason to make a wardrobe or costume choice, if it makes sense for the role, fans have bever been entirely sure why Mary made that decision. Well, according to a post by Me-TV, advertising their airing of the show, Mary’s decision had nothing to do with the show. It actually had a lot more to do with her previous show, The Dick Van Dyke Show. Mary had become so successful and famous from her role as Laura Petrie, that the execs in charge of her new show were worried that audiences would think it was the same character. We can’t imagine WHY they thought that, considering audiences are well familiar with the idea of actors playing multiple roles over the course of their career. Perhaps back then it wasn’t as widespread. Or perhaps the execs just assumed the viewing audience was stupid. Regardless, they decided that in order for fans not to get confused, they’d ask Mary to wear a wig for her role in her new show. There’s no data showing how many people were still confused by it, or how many people it helped. But what we do know is that she ended up ditching the wig after the first season. So, clearly it wasn’t too vital for the functioning of the show.

The Dick Van Dyke Show

Mary Tyler Moore went from being an unknown entity to a household name over the course of portraying Laura Petrie, wife of Dick’s character Rob. In fact, her comedic skills and on camera presence led the writing and production team to create more and more storylines and screen time for her. Laura Petrie was a  multi talented character, not only providing a stable home as a wife and mother, but also as a talented dancer and writer. In fact, Laura had a story arc that had her writing talent budding to the degree where Rob felt a little threatened by it. But the show was on during the era of classic TV, with all of its classic TV tropes that often reflected society at the time. So that meant Laura’s primary role was as a wife and mother. But Mary’s portrayal and general charisma meant they had to find her more and more things to be involved in. This likely played a huge influence in the role of Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore show, a character that proved a pioneer when it comes to women roles on TV.

Moore had beaten out more than 60 other actresses when she auditioned, and reportedly almost didn’t get the role after skipping her audition. But we can all be thankful she ended up on the show, not only for her incredible performance as Laura Petrie, but also for how her dynamism on screen led to the revolutionary Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Laura Petrie’s Future

Over the years, many journalists have asked Mary to reflect back on her time as both Laura Petrie and Mary Richards. In 997, one interviewer asked Mary what she thought the futures of both characters would have been after the shows ended. Mary thought that Mary Richards’ life would have been much more impressive. And this wasn’t necessarily a reflection on what the actress thought about her Mary Richards character. It was more about the life that Laura led. It was a much more cookie-cutter existence, one befitting the types seen on television at that time. Moore said she thought Laura wouldn’t have a spectacular life, primarily because of her stagnant existence. She explained that since Laura was married to Rob and he was a the breadwinner, it would seem likely that she’d live out her life primarily in the home as a wife and mother. She hypothesized that Laura might have had another kid or two, and then remained a great mother. She did say that maybe after the kids were out of the house, Laura would perhaps go back to being a dnace instructor. In particular she mused that maybe Laura would have taught dance to disabled people. Moore said she might have ended up doing a series of things of that nature, which she describes as being “quietly wonderful.”

The show’s ending

In an interview, Mary Tyler Moore was asked for the reasons that The Dick Van Dyke Show ended. She talked about how it didn’t have anything to do with the show’s quality dwindling, or unhappy people behind the scenes, or things of that nature. Instead, she said, it was much more about the big names involved wanting to explore other avenues. She pointed out that Dick had recently come off of his legendary performance in Mary Poppins, and that he was looking to expand more into films. She also talked about how Carl Reiner was writing a Broadway play at the time, and wanted to focus his energy on that more, and other projects as well. She said people were looking to stretch their wings in a variety of media. However, she found it devastating that the show was coming to an end. She said that while she wanted to expand and succeed in the post-show era as well, she found herself heartbroken that this important chapter of her life was ending. She said had even been offered the lead in Breakfast At Tiffany’s on Broadway. So it’s not as if the offers weren’t rolling in for her at the time. But she likened it to a family that was being pulled apart. She had never felt comfortable with the family of the show at first, since it was different from her real family. She likened it to being more like an aunt and uncle. But by the time the show ended, she had grown to love the cast and crew like immediate family. And suddenly they were been asked to all go their separate ways. Moore found this incredibly sad. She said it even extended out to the prop guys, the craft service guys, the wardrobe person, and on and on. She found that after the show was over, she missed them all. Though she did admit to having these same feelings years later when the Mary Tyler Moore Show ended. Clearly Mary is someone who formed strong attachments to people she worked with. That’s likely one of the big reasons why she was so beloved both on and off camera.

Mary’s pants

Much has been written over the years about the subtle, but hugely influential, choice that Mary made for Laura’s wardrobe. Women on TV had, until that point, only been seen in dresses. It was a nod to the conservative attitudes that pervaded society, resulting in a lack of freedom and independence for women. Or, as Mary put it in an interview in 1995, the classic sitcom wife lived in a bounded set of parameters. She pointed out that the wives on TV were generally obedient to their husbands, and represented the classic values of loving, honoring, and obeying them.

So when Mary showed up on The Dick Van Dyke show as Laura Petrie, wearing cropped pants, it caused a huge stir. But it wasn’t a casual decision, nor was it rooted in some sort of rebellious move by Moore. Rather, she recognized that the way the character was written meant she’d have the opportunity to play someone who was opinionated and had agency. But at the same time, Laura was appealing because she asserted her rights and freedoms while never making her husband look like a fool. Moore pointed out that society, at that moment, was still of the mindset of “Hey, wait a minute, lady, you only go so far here.” And that by creating a free thinking and bold female character, they broke new ground. Moore also admits that it was helped by her insistence on donning capri pants rather than being in dresses.

Mary Tyler Moore is considered a legend in Hollywood. Her breakthrough performance as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke show paved the way for a more modern and progressive representation of women on TV. Not to mention that it made her an immediate star. She was able then to use that star power to push the boundaries of sitcom television even more, and The Mary Tyler Moore show is held up as one of the finest examples of American sitcoms of that era, if not all time. And Moore broke boundaries using a mix of talent, bravery, and grace. It’s no wonder she’s admired by so many people.

Now it’s time to hear from you. Did you know that Mary Tyler Moore wore a wig for the first season of the Mary Tyler Moore show? Did Mary’s take on what Laura Petrie would have done with her life surprise you? Let us know in the comments section below!

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