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Mary Tyler Moore

  • Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York
  • Birthday: December 29
Date of passing: 
January 25, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most beloved and acclaimed actresses in television history. Best known for her roles in the iconic comedy series The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she won seven Emmy Awards over the course of her career.

Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most beloved and acclaimed actresses in television history. Best known for her roles in the iconic comedy series The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she won seven Emmy Awards over the course of her career.

On The Dick Van Dyke Show, which aired from 1961 to 1966, she played Laura Petrie, wife of TV writer Rob Petrie, played by Van Dyke. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, regarded by many as as one of the best television comedies of all time, aired from 1970 to 1977. Moore starred as Mary Richards, a Minneapolis news producer, in a cast that also included Edward Asner, Valerie Harper, Ted Knight, Gavin MacLeod, Betty White and Cloris Leachman. The program was noteworthy at the time for centering on a single, independent career woman.

Moore went on to star in two short-lived variety series, Mary and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, as well as the scripted comedies Mary and Annie McGuire.

In addition, she made guest appearances in numerous series, and had roles in such telefilms as Finnegan Begin Again, Heartsounds and Stolen Babies, and the miniseries Lincoln.

She also appeared in many features films, including Thoroughly Modern Millie, Don’t Stand There, What’s So Bad About Feeling Good?, Change of Habit, Just Between Friends, Flirting with Disaster and Ordinary People, in which, playing against type as an emotionally remote mother devastated by the death of her son, she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar.

Moore died on January 25, 2017, in Greenwich, Connecticut. She was 80.

For her outstanding contributions to the medium of television, she was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1986.

Upon her induction, the Academy published the following biographical portrait, written by Jack Slater:


In a medium that thrives on the force of personality, Mary Tyler Moore successfully fashioned a television rarity: the vulnerable, warm, loving but independent woman.

Mary Richards of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS was the level-headed, believable, educated everywoman of the 1970s, an updated version of the girl next door who could also spend the night with the guy next door. She represented America's New Woman in a medium where women were frequently portrayed, especially in comedy series, as one-dimensional figures: happy housewives, vapid virgins or merry man-hunters. Through the warmth of her personality, the independent woman became America’s sweetheart.

“Approachable may be the key word,” TV Guide once said in describing Moore and her alter ego, Mary Richards. “Anybody can identify. In television, that’s a commodity worth millions.”

Moore was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 29, 1936. According to her mother, the child was “a pain in the neck to raise, because she wanted to be a dancer and an actress so badly.”

When the Moore family moved to Los Angeles at the end of World War II, Mary’s ambitions intensified, with ongoing ballet lessons and recitals.

By the time she graduated from Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, Moore, at seventeen, was a professional dancer. She successfully auditioned to portray Happy Hotpoint, a three-inch pixie who helped to sell Hotpoint appliances in a national commercial. The job led to other commercials, chorus line work on variety shows and bit parts in numerous series.

In 1959 she landed her first role as a series regular, on Richard Diamond, Private Eye, starring David Janssen. Moore portrayed Sam, the sultry voiced switchboard operator, seen only from the waist down to show off her shapely legs. She left the anonymous role after one season, moving on to guest-star on such shows as 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye.

At about the same time, she auditioned for the role of Danny Thomas’s daughter in Make Room for Daddy. She didn’t get the part, but two years later Thomas remembered the actress “with the three names” when he was working with producer-director Carl Reiner in helping to cast The Dick Van Dyke Show.

This time Moore did get the part. In 1961 she became Van Dyke’s television wife, Laura Petrie, on a show that became a television classic. Her work as a bright, somewhat flighty, yet steel-minded young housewife garnered her two Emmys and catapulted her to stardom.

When the show ended in 1966, Moore moved to the stage, taking on the ill-fated Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Next she starred in such movies as Thoroughly Modern Millie, Change of Habit and What's So Bad About Feeling Good?

In 1970 she returned to television to star in the series that was to become her greatest triumph. From September 19 of that year to  September 3, 1977, The Mary Tyler Moore Show dominated the airwaves and earned four more Emmys for the actress.

As enacted by Moore, Mary Richards, the idealized career woman — an associate news producer on Minneapolis’s WJM-TV – symbolized the gifted American single woman who, while enjoying men, could forge her own way without any man’s help. 

“It’s hard to be objective about Mary Richards,” Moore once said. “I find she’s so much like me, and I think perhaps I like best her enthusiasm, her vulnerability and her convictions. She doesn’t have the strength of ten women. I love her jutting chin and her easily pierced armor.” 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the first of many successes for MTM Enterprises, the production company established by Moore’s then-husband, Grant Tinker. The company took Moore’s initials as its name and spoofed MGM’s roaring lion by using the logo of a meowing kitten. Other MTM series included The Bob Newhart Show, Rhoda, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere.

Moore’s subsequent television work included the dramatic films First You Cry, in which she portrayed news correspondent Betty Rollins, and Stolen Babies, for which she won her seventh Emmy, as well as two short-lived comedy series, both named Mary. She returned to the Broadway stage in 1979 to star in Whose Life Is It, Anyway?, for which she won a Tony Award. In 1980 she starred in the feature film Ordinary People, earning an Oscar nomination.

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Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore

Photo credit: 
AP Photo/Rene Perez


7 Wins15 Nominations