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Mary Tyler Moore, who “made it after all” in two classic sitcoms, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died in a Connecticut hospital today.
“Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine,” said her longtime representative Mara Buxbaum. “A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.”
Born Dec. 29, 1936 in Brooklyn Heights, New York, Moore decided at age 17 that she wanted to be a dancer. Her television career began with Moore’s first job as “Happy Hotpoint,” a tiny elf dancing on Hotpoint appliances in TV commercials during the 1950s family sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” After auditioning for the role of the older daughter on Danny Thomas’ long-running TV show, and being turned down, Mary landed her first regularly scheduled role as a mysterious and glamorous telephone receptionist on drama “Richard Diamond,” Private Eye. But only Mary’s voice was heard and her legs appeared on camera.
Early guest TV appearances (where you actually saw Mary) were dramas “Johnny Staccato,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Bourbon Street Beat,” “Surfside Six” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” and sitcoms “Bachelor Father” and “The Tab Hunter How.”
In 1961, Carl Reiner cast Mary in “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which resulted in the first two of her six Emmy awards. Two years after “The Dick Van Dyke Show” ended in 1970 came Mary’s self-titled sitcom in 1970, which, not to confuse viewers who remembered her as Van Dyke’s wife, featured Mary as a single 30-year old career woman. In its seven seasons on CBS, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” won 29 Emmys, a total that has only been surpassed by “Saturday Night Live,” “Frasier” and, most recently, “Game of Thrones.”
After the show, Mary continued her acting career and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of a mother grieving the loss of her son in 1980’s “Ordinary People.” Several attempts at another long-term television series, including variety series “Mary,” sitcoms “Mary” and “Annie McGuire,” and drama “New York News” all ended after one season.
Mary’s additional film roles included “Thoroughly Modern Millie” with Julie Andrews, “Change of Habit” with Elvis Presley, “Just Don’t Stand There” with Robert Wagner, and “Flirting With Disaster” in 1996.
Moore and her husband at the time Grant Tinker founded MTM Enterprises in 1969, which produced a string of TV series including “The Bob Newhart Show,” “WKRP in Cincinnati,” “The White Shadow,” “St. Elsewhere,” “Hill Street Blues,” and “Mary Tyler Moore Show” spin-offs “Rhoda,” “Phyllis” and “Lou Grant.”
Over the course of her illustrious career, Mary also won a Tony award, three Golden Globes and a SAG lifetime achievement award, and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was the recipient of a Peabody. She most recently appeared in an episode of TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” alongside her “Mary Tyler Moore co-stars Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Georgia Engel and Betty White.
“Mary Tyler Moore was a once-in-a-generation talent,” CBS chairman Leslie Moonves said in a statement. “She will be long remembered as a gifted actress, television pioneer and a role model to so many. CBS has lost one of the very best to ever grace our airwaves and our industry has lost a true legend and friend.”
Rest in Peace, Mary. And thank you for all the wonderful memories.