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Mary Tyler Moore

Actress

Mary Tyler Moore on her "oh, Rob!" catchphrase on The Dick Van Dyke Show

00:39

My grandfather once said, having watched me one entire afternoon, prancing and leaping and cavorting, 'this child will either end up on stage or in jail.' Fortunately, I took the easy route.

About this interview

Mary Tyler Moore always knew she'd have a career on stage, "I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do. Some people refer to it as indulging in my instincts and artistic bent. I call it just showing off, which was what I did from about three years of age on." In her Archive interview, Mary Tyler Moore discusses growing up in Brooklyn before moving with her family to Los Angeles. She chronicles her first TV job, as "Happy Hotpoint" on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet , which she began right after graduating high school, and discusses her time as a chorus dancer before choosing to pursue acting. After she revealed that she had played the unseen "Sam" on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, her career began to take off. She turned to comedy when Carl Reiner cast her as "Laura Petrie" in The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Moore discusses the show, as well as meeting her future husband Grant Tinker on the set. She then talks about her next series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the first of many series produced by MTM Productions. She speaks of her later series and her acclaimed work in the film Ordinary People, and on stage in Whose Life is it Anyway? Mary Tyler Moore was interviewed in New York City on October 23, 1997. Diane Werts conducted the two-hour interview.

My grandfather once said, having watched me one entire afternoon, prancing and leaping and cavorting, 'this child will either end up on stage or in jail.' Fortunately, I took the easy route.

Interview Highlights

Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on her "oh, Rob!" catchphrase on The Dick Van Dyke Show

Mary Tyler Moore on her "oh, Rob!" catchphrase on The Dick Van Dyke Show

Mary Tyler Moore on her "oh, Rob!" catchphrase on The Dick Van Dyke Show00:39
Embedded thumbnail for Dick Van Dyke Show, The

Mary Tyler Moore on The Dick Van Dyke Show episode "My Blonde-Haired Brunette" (airdate: October 10, 1961)

Dick Van Dyke Show, The01:47
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on Lucille Ball giving her the greatest gift "she ever received in the business"

Mary Tyler Moore on Lucille Ball giving her the greatest gift "she ever received in the business"

Mary Tyler Moore on Lucille Ball giving her the greatest gift "she ever received in the business" 01:15
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on the character of Mary Richards, exemplified on "The Good-Time News" episode

Mary Tyler Moore on the character of Mary Richards, exemplified on "The Good-Time News" episode

Mary Tyler Moore on the character of Mary Richards, exemplified on "The Good-Time News" episode01:32
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore Show  episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust"

Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust"

Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust" 02:18
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on tossing hat in the air for the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Mary Tyler Moore on tossing hat in the air for the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Mary Tyler Moore on tossing hat in the air for the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show00:45
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore  show finale, "The Last Show" (airdate: March 19, 1

Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore show finale, "The Last Show" (airdate: March 19, 1

Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore show finale, "The Last Show" (airdate: March 19, 102:53
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on her work on the film Ordinary People

Mary Tyler Moore on her work on the film Ordinary People

Mary Tyler Moore on her work on the film Ordinary People02:14
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on her Tony Award-winning Broadway role in Whose Life is it Anyway?

Mary Tyler Moore on her Tony Award-winning Broadway role in Whose Life is it Anyway?

Mary Tyler Moore on her Tony Award-winning Broadway role in Whose Life is it Anyway?01:52
Embedded thumbnail for Mary Tyler Moore on how she'd like to be remembered

Mary Tyler Moore on how she'd like to be remembered

Mary Tyler Moore on how she'd like to be remembered01:11

Related Content

From the Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television:

Mary Tyler Moore's most enduring contributions to television are in two classic sitcoms, The Dick Van DykeShow (1961-66) and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77), although she has appeared in the medium in a variety of roles both before and after these series. Her first on-camera television work was as a dancer, and it was as "Happy Hotpoint," a singing and dancing home appliance, that she first caught the public eye. Her first regular series role as "Sam" the receptionist on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, was notable primarily because it featured only her dancer's legs and voice.

As Laura Petrie, the beautiful, talented and not-so-typical suburban housewife to comedy writer Rob (Dick Van Dyke) on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Moore earned critical praise (and Emmy Awards) as she laid the foundation for the wholesome but spunky identity that would mark her television career. Though she lacked their experience in television comedy, Moore was no mere "straight woman" to comedians Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie; she managed to stake out her own comic identity as a lovely and competent housewife who was frequently thrown a curve by her husband's unusual friends and career. Thanks to the show's explorations of the Petries' courtship (they met while he was in the military and she a USO dancer), Moore was able to display her talents as both dancer and singer, as well as comedic actress, on the show. While The Dick Van Dyke Show stopped production in 1966, it appeared in reruns on the CBS daytime lineup until 1969, keeping Moore's perky persona in the public eye as she sought film roles and stage work for the remainder of the decade.

On the basis of Moore's popularity in The Dick Van Dyke Show, CBS offered her a 13-episode contract to develop her own series starting in 1970. Moore and then-husband Grant Tinker, a production executive at 20th Century Fox at the time, used the opportunity to set up their own production company, MTM Enterprises, to produce the show. Following the success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, MTM went on to produce a number of the 1970s and 1980s' most successful and critically-praised series, with Moore's contributions mainly limited to input on her own show(s) and the use of her initials.

On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore played Mary Richards, a 30-something single woman "making it on her own" in 1970s Minneapolis. MTM first pitched her character to CBS as a young divorcee, but CBS executives believed her role as Laura Petrie was so firmly etched in the public mind that viewers would think she had divorced Dick Van Dyke (and that the American public would not find a divorced woman likable), so Richards was rewritten as a woman who had moved to the big city after ending a long affair. Richards landed a job working in the news department of fictional WJM-TV, where Moore's all-American spunk played off against the gruff boss Lou Grant (Ed Asner), world-weary writer Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod) and pompous anchorman Ted Baxter (Ted Knight). In early seasons, her all-male work environment was counterbalanced by a primarily female home life, where again her character contrasted with her ditzy landlady Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman) and her New York-born neighbor and best friend, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper). Both the show and Moore were lauded for their realistic portrayal of "new" women in the 1970s whose lives centered on work rather than family, and for whom men were colleagues rather than just potential mates. While Moore's Mary Richards' apologetic manner may have undermined some of the messages of the women's movement, she also put a friendly face on the potentially threatening tenets of feminism, naturalizing some of the decade's changes in the way women were perceived both at home and at work.

After The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended its seven-year award-winning run, Moore appeared in several short-running series, including her attempt to revive the musical variety show, Mary (1978), which is best remembered for a supporting cast that included the then-unknown David Letterman, Michael Keaton, and Swoosie Kurtz. Moore's later stage, feature film and made-for-television movie efforts have represented successful efforts to break with the perky Laura Petrie/Mary Richards persona. In the Academy Award-winning Ordinary People (1979), for example, Moore's performance contrasts the publicly lovable suburban housewife--a Laura Petrie-type facade--with her character's private inability to love and nurture her grief-stricken family. She won a special Tony award for her performance as a quadriplegic who wanted to end her existence in Whose Life Is It, Anyway? And on television, she has played everything from a breast cancer survivor in First You Cry to the troubled Mary Todd Lincoln in Gore Vidal's Lincoln to a villainous orphanage director in Stolen Babies. In recent years Ms. Moore has devoted much of her attention to supporting work for the American Diabetes Association.

-Susan McLeland

MARY TYLER MOORE. Born in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A., 29 December 1937. Married 1) Richard Meeker, 1955 (divorced, 1962), child: Richard (deceased); 2) Grant Tinker, 1963 (divorced, 1981); 3) Robert Levine, 1983. Began television career as "Happy Hotpoint," dancing performer in appliance commercials, 1955; co-starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show, 1961-66; television guest appearances, 1960s and 1970s; co-founder, with Tinker, of MTM Enterprises; starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1979-77. Recipient: three Emmy Awards; Golden Globe Award; named to Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame, 1987.

TELEVISION SERIES

1959 Richard Diamond, Private Detective 


1961-66 The Dick Van Dyke Show


1970-77 The Mary Tyler Moore Show


1978 Mary


1979 The Mary Tyler Moore Hour 


1985-86 Mary 
1988 Annie McGuire


1995 New York News

MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIES

1979 Run a Crooked Mile 
1978 First, You Cry


1984 Heartsounds


1985 Finnegan Begin Again


1988 Gore Vidal's Lincoln 


1990 Thanksgiving Day 


1990 The Last Best Year


1993 Stolen Babies 


1995 Stolen Memories: Secrets from the Rose Garden

TELEVISION SPECIALS

1969 Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman, Mary Tyler Moore


1974 We the Women (host, narrator) 


1976 Mary's Incredible Dream


1978 CBS: On The Air (co-host) 


1978 How to Survive the 70s and Maybe Even Bump Into Happiness (host) 


1991 The Funny Women of Television


1991 The Mary Tyler Moore Show: The 20th Anniversary Show


FILMS

X-15, 1961; Thoroughly Modern Millie, 1967; What's So Bad About Feeling Good?, 1968; Don't Just Stand There!, 1968; Change of Habit, 1970; Ordinary People, 1980; Six Weeks, 1982; Just Between Friends, 1986; Flirting With Disaster, 1996.

PUBLICATIONS

After All. New York: Putnam, 1995.

FURTHER READING

Alley, Robert, and Irby B. Brown. Love Is All Around: The Making of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. New York: Delta, 1989.

Bonderoff, Jason. Mary Tyler Moore: A Biography. New York: St. Martin's, 1986.

Hingley, Audrey T. "Mary Tyler Moore: After All." Saturday Evening Post (Indianapolis, Indiana), November-December 1995.

Van Meter, Jonathan. "Mary, Mary Quite Contrary...." The New York Times Magazine (New York), 26 November 1995.

 

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