Iconic actress passes away at 80, was a trailblazer for women in Hollywood
The television community is mourning the loss of Mary Tyler Moore who died Wednesday at the age of 80. She was known for playing two iconic characters: Lauria Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Born in Brooklyn’s Flatbush section, Moore’s first TV appearance was in 1955, as the “Happy Hotpoint”, the Hotpoint Appliance Elf, during commercials for ABC’s The Adventures Of Ozzie and Harriet. After a few stints here and there, she was cast by Carl Reiner in The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran on CBS for five years. Moore’s portrayal of Laura Petrie won her two Emmy Awards.
But it was her return to CBS in 1970 that made the biggest impact. Starring in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore portrayed an independent, unmarried woman in her thirties – unheard of for a TV show at the time (remember, ABC’s That Girl did feature a young single woman which debuted four years earlier, but she was engaged.) The program was set in Minneapolis – also a first for any TV show – set in the state of Minnesota. And the series was a ratings and critical success, winning a total of 29 Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes, a Peabody Award and peaking in seventh place during the 1972-73 season. Moore also spun-off three shows: Rhoda, Phyills, and The Betty White Show.
The Writers Guild of America ranked Mary Tyler Moore sixth in its “101 Best Written TV Series Of All Time” list.
In 1975, Viacom Enterprises (now CBS Television Distribution) picked up the syndication rights to Mary Tyler Moore and sold the series for then-record prices for an off-network sitcom. NBC’s five owned-and-operated stations (including WNBC in New York, KNBC in Los Angeles, and WMAQ in Chicago) purchased the series for $52,000 per episode for seven years. Due to the now-defunct prime-time access rule however, those stations ran Moore in early fringe (4-6 p.m.) as a news lead-in as opposed to 7-8 p.m. (6:30 p.m. in Chicago.)
The independent production company producing Mary Tyler Moore was MTM Enterprises, formed by Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker in 1969 (Tinker died nearly two months ago.) The Mary Tyler Moore show was the first hit in the fin-syn era as the financial interest and syndication rules took effect in 1970, freezing the three major networks out of the syndication business for 25 years. MTM prospered during this era, producing hit TV shows for CBS, then later ABC and NBC. The logo for MTM was Mimsie The Cat, owned by Moore – intended to parody the MGM lion logo. MTM was sold in 1988 – most of its properties are now owned by 21st Century Fox. (for more on MTM and Tinker, click here.)
Moore’s resume also included memorable theatrical performances including Ordinary People and Six Weeks, and TV movies Finnegan Began Again and Thanksgiving Day, which also featured Chicago radio personality Jonathon Brandmeier.
After her show ended in 1977, Moore was unable to duplicate her past success, bombing in a 1978 variety show (who did give us the comedic talents of David Letterman) and 1985’s ferociously panned sitcom comeback. Both futile efforts were called Mary. Moore did make appearances on several TV shows afterward, including Fraiser, King of the Hill (voicing a nun), The Naked Truth, And That ’70’s Show, where she recreated her hat-tossing moment.
Moore also appeared in reunion movies with Valerie Harper in 2000’s Mary and Rhoda and 2004’s The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. Her last TV appearance was in 2013’s Hot In Cleveland, where she was reunited with former MTM cast member Betty White.
In May 2002, the city of Minneapolis honored Moore by unveiling a statue of her near the location of South 7th Street and Nicolet, featuring her iconic hat throw – the same location where the opening sequence was filmed. The statue now sits in the Minneapolis Visitor Information Center in downtown Minneapolis while Nicolet Mall is being reconstructed.