Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore (December 29, 1936 – January 25, 2017) was an American actress, producer, and social advocate. She was widely known for her prominent television sitcom roles in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966) and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977).[1][2][3] She received seven Primetime Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe Awards.

Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore 2000 (1).jpg
Moore in 2000
Born(1936-12-29)December 29, 1936
New York City, U.S.
DiedJanuary 25, 2017(2017-01-25) (aged 80)
Resting placeOak Lawn Cemetery, Fairfield, Connecticut
EducationImmaculate Heart High School
  • Actress
  • producer
  • activist
Years active1957–2013
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
  • Dick Meeker
    (m. 1955; div. 1962)
  • (m. 1962; div. 1981)
  • Robert Levine
    (m. 1983)
Mary Tyler Moore signature.svg

Her film work included 1967's Thoroughly Modern Millie and 1980's Ordinary People, the latter earning Moore a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[4][5][6] Moore was an advocate for animal rights, vegetarianism[7] and diabetes prevention.

With her two most prominent roles challenging gender stereotypes and norms, The New York Times said Moore's "performances on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show helped define a new vision of American womanhood".[8] The Guardian said "her outwardly bubbly personality and trademark broad, toothy smile disguised an inner fragility that appealed to an audience facing the new trials of modern-day existence".[9]

Early lifeEdit

Moore was born on December 29, 1936, in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City to George Tyler Moore (1913–2006), a clerk, and Marjorie Hackett (1916–1992).[10][11][12] Her Irish-Catholic family lived in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. The Moores later lived in a rented apartment at 144-16 35th Avenue in Flushing, Queens. Moore was the oldest of three children; with a younger brother named John, and a younger sister named Elizabeth.

When she was eight, Moore's family left New York City and moved to Los Angeles at the recommendation of Moore's uncle, an MCA employee.[13] She was raised Catholic,[14] and had attended St. Rose of Lima Parochial School in Brooklyn until the third grade. She then attended Saint Ambrose School in Los Angeles, followed by Immaculate Heart High School in the Los Feliz neighborhood of the city.[15][16] Moore's sister, Elizabeth, died at 21 "from a combination of ... painkillers and alcohol", while her brother died at the age of 47 from kidney cancer.[17]

Moore's paternal great-grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Tilghman Moore, owned the house which is now the Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters Museum in Winchester, Virginia.[18]


Moore in Johnny Staccato (1960)


Early appearancesEdit

Moore's television career began with a job as "Happy Hotpoint", a tiny elf dancing on Hotpoint appliances in TV commercials during the 1950s series Ozzie and Harriet.[19] After appearing in 39 Hotpoint commercials in five days, she received approximately $6,000.[20] She became pregnant while still working as "Happy", and Hotpoint ended her work when it became too difficult to conceal her pregnancy with the elf costume.[19] Moore modeled anonymously on the covers of record albums, and auditioned for the role of the elder daughter of Danny Thomas for his long-running TV show, but was turned down.[21][22] Much later, Thomas explained that "she missed it by a nose ... no daughter of mine could ever have a nose that small".[22]

Moore's first regular television role was as a mysterious and glamorous telephone receptionist in Richard Diamond, Private Detective. It is erroneously reported that in the show her voice was heard but only her legs appeared on camera, adding to the character's mystique.[23] Her legs appeared in episode 3 of the 3rd season, but she was cleverly shot above the waist in other episodes with her face at least partially hidden. About this time, she guest-starred in John Cassavetes' NBC detective series Johnny Staccato, and also in the series premiere of The Tab Hunter Show in September 1960 and the Bachelor Father episode "Bentley and the Big Board" in December 1960. In 1961, Moore appeared in several big parts in movies and on television, including Bourbon Street Beat, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside 6, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Steve Canyon, Hawaiian Eye, Thriller and Lock-Up. She also appeared in a February 1962 episode of Straightaway.[24]

Moore with Dick Van Dyke in 1964

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966)Edit

The original cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970). Top: Valerie Harper (Rhoda), Ed Asner (Lou Grant), Cloris Leachman (Phyllis). Bottom: Gavin MacLeod (Murray), Moore, Ted Knight (Ted).

In 1961, Carl Reiner cast Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show, a weekly series based on Reiner's own life and career as a writer for Sid Caesar's television variety show Your Show of Shows, telling the cast from the outset that it would run for no more than five years. The show was produced by Danny Thomas' company, and Thomas himself recommended her. He remembered Moore as "the girl with three names" whom he had turned down earlier.[25] Moore's energetic comic performances as Van Dyke's character's wife, begun at age 24 (11 years Van Dyke's junior), made both the actress and her signature tight capri pants extremely popular, and she became internationally known. When she won her first Emmy Award for her portrayal of Laura Petrie,[26] she said, "I know this will never happen again."[27] When playing Laura Petrie, Moore would also often wear the fashion attire of Jackie Kennedy, such as capri pants, and resonated with the "feel-good nature" of the Kennedy Administration's Camelot.[28]

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977)Edit

In 1970, after having appeared earlier in a pivotal one-hour musical special called Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman, Moore and husband Grant Tinker successfully pitched a sitcom centered on Moore to CBS. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a half-hour newsroom sitcom featuring Ed Asner as her gruff boss Lou Grant. The Mary Tyler Moore Show became a touchpoint of the Women's Movement for its portrayal of an independent working woman, which challenged the traditional woman's role in marriage and family.[29][8] The show also marked the first big hit for film and television producer James L. Brooks, who would also do more work for Moore and Tinker's production company.[30]

Moore's show proved so popular that three other regular characters, Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern, Cloris Leachman as Phyllis Lindstrom and Ed Asner as Lou Grant were also spun off into their own series, and again featured Brooks and his former production partner Allan Burns as producers. The premise of the single working woman's life, alternating during the program between work and home, became a television staple.[25][31] After six years of ratings in the top 20,[32] the show slipped to number 39 during season seven.[33] Producers asked that the series be canceled because of falling ratings, afraid that the show's legacy might be damaged if it were renewed for another season.[33] Despite the decline in ratings, the 1977 season would go on to garner its third straight Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy.[34] During its seven seasons, the program won 29 Emmys in total (Moore herself winning three times for Best Lead Actress in a sitcom).[35] That record remained unbroken until 2002, when the NBC sitcom Frasier won its 30th Emmy.[35]

Later projectsEdit

Moore in 1978

During season six of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore appeared in a musical/variety special for CBS titled Mary's Incredible Dream,[36] which featured Ben Vereen. In 1978, she starred in a second CBS special, How to Survive the '70s and Maybe Even Bump Into Happiness. This time, she received significant support from a strong lineup of guest stars: Bill Bixby, John Ritter, Harvey Korman and Dick Van Dyke. In the 1978–79 season, Moore starred in two unsuccessful CBS variety series. The first, Mary, featured David Letterman, Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz and Dick Shawn in the supporting cast. After CBS canceled that series, it brought Moore back in March 1979 in a new, retooled show, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour. Described as a "sit-var" (part situation comedy/part variety series), it had Moore portraying a TV star putting on a variety show.[32] The program lasted just 11 episodes.[37]

In the 1985–86 season, she returned to CBS in a sitcom titled Mary, which suffered from poor reviews, sagging ratings, and strife within the production crew. According to Moore, she asked the network to pull the show as she was unhappy with the direction of the program and the producers.[38] She also starred in the short-lived Annie McGuire in 1988.[39] In 1995, after another lengthy break from TV series work, Moore was cast as tough, unsympathetic newspaper owner Louise "the Dragon" Felcott on the CBS drama New York News, the third series in which her character was involved in the news media. As she had with 1985's Mary, Moore quickly became unhappy with the nature of her character and was negotiating with producers to get out of her contract for the series when it was canceled.[40]

In the mid-1990s, Moore appeared as herself on two episodes of Ellen. She also guest-starred on Ellen DeGeneres's next TV show, The Ellen Show, in 2001. In 2004, Moore reunited with her Dick Van Dyke Show castmates for a reunion special called The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.[41]

In 2006, Moore guest-starred as Christine St. George, the high-strung host of a fictional TV show, in three episodes of the Fox sitcom That '70s Show.[42] Moore's scenes were shot on the same soundstage where The Mary Tyler Moore Show was filmed in the 1970s.[42] Moore made a guest appearance on the season two premiere of Hot in Cleveland, which starred her former co-star Betty White.[43] This marked the first time that White and Moore had worked together since The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended in 1977.[44] In the fall of 2013, Moore reprised her role on Hot in Cleveland in a season four episode which not only reunited Moore and White, but also former MTM cast members Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper and Georgia Engel as well. This reunion coincided with Harper's public announcement that she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was given only a few months to live.[45]


Moore appeared in several Broadway plays. She was the star of a new musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany's in December 1966, but the show, titled Holly Golightly, was a flop that closed in previews before opening on Broadway. In reviews of performances in Philadelphia and Boston, critics "murdered" the play in which Moore claimed to be singing with bronchial pneumonia.[46]

She starred in Whose Life Is It Anyway with James Naughton, which opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre on February 24, 1980, and ran for 96 performances, and in Sweet Sue, which opened at the Music Box Theatre on January 8, 1987, later transferred to the Royale Theatre, and ran for 164 performances.

During the 1980s, Moore and her production company produced five plays: Noises Off, The Octette Bridge Club, Joe Egg, Benefactors, and Safe Sex.[47]

Moore at the 40th Primetime Emmy Awards in 1988

Moore appeared in previews of the Neil Simon play Rose's Dilemma at the off-Broadway Manhattan Theatre Club in December 2003 but quit the production after receiving a critical letter from Simon instructing her to "learn your lines or get out of my play".[48] Moore had been using an earpiece on stage to feed her lines to the repeatedly rewritten play.[49]


Moore made her film debut in a bit as a nurse in the Jack Lemmon comedy Operation Mad Ball (1957). Her first speaking part came in X-15 (1961).[50] Following her success on The Dick Van Dyke Show, she appeared in a string of films in the late 1960s (after signing an exclusive contract with Universal Pictures), including Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), as a would-be actress in 1920s New York who is taken under the wing of Julie Andrews' title character, and two films released in 1968, What's So Bad About Feeling Good? with George Peppard, and Don't Just Stand There! with Robert Wagner. She starred opposite Elvis Presley as a nun in Change of Habit (1969).[51] Moore's future television castmate Ed Asner appeared in the film as a police officer.[52]

After not appearing in another feature film for eleven years, Moore returned to the big screen in the coming-of-age drama Ordinary People (1980). For her role as a grieving mother unable to cope either with the drowning death of one of her sons or the subsequent suicide attempt of her surviving son (played by Timothy Hutton who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance), she received her first and only Oscar nomination.[4][53] Despite that success, Moore shot only two more films in the next fifteen years: the poorly received Six Weeks (1982)[54] and Just Between Friends (1986).[55] She returned to films with the independent hit Flirting with Disaster (1996).[56]

Moore appeared in the television movie Run a Crooked Mile (1969), and after the conclusion of her series in 1977, she starred in several television movies, including First, You Cry (1978), which brought her an Emmy nomination for portraying NBC correspondent Betty Rollin's struggle with breast cancer. Her later TV films included the medical drama Heartsounds (1984) with James Garner, which brought her another Emmy nomination, Finnegan Begin Again (1985) with Robert Preston, which earned her a CableACE Award nomination, the 1988 mini-series Lincoln, which brought her another Emmy nod for playing Mary Todd Lincoln, and Stolen Babies, for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 1993.[57] Later she reunited with old co-stars in Mary and Rhoda (2000) with Valerie Harper, and The Gin Game (2003) (based on the Broadway play), reuniting her with Dick Van Dyke. Moore starred in Like Mother, Like Son (2001), playing convicted murderer Sante Kimes.


Moore wrote two memoirs. In the first, After All, published in 1995, she acknowledged being a recovering alcoholic,[58] while in Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes (2009), she focuses on living with type 1 diabetes.[59]

MTM EnterprisesEdit

Moore and her husband Grant Tinker founded MTM Enterprises, Inc. in 1969.[60] This company produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show and other successful television shows and films. It also included a record label, MTM Records.[61] MTM Enterprises produced American sitcoms and drama television series such as Rhoda, Lou Grant and Phyllis (all spin-offs from The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Bob Newhart Show, The Texas Wheelers, WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, Friends and Lovers, St. Elsewhere, Newhart, and Hill Street Blues, and was later sold to Television South, an ITV Franchise holder in 1988.[62][60] The MTM logo resembles the Metro Goldwyn Mayer logo, but with a cat named Mimsie instead of a lion.[63]

Personal lifeEdit

At age 18 in 1955, Moore married 28-year-old salesman Richard Carleton Meeker,[64] and within six weeks she was pregnant with her only child, Richard Jr. (born July 3, 1956).[65] Meeker and Moore divorced in 1962.[66] Later that year, Moore married Grant Tinker, a CBS executive and later chairman of NBC, and in 1970 they formed the television production company MTM Enterprises,[67] which created and produced the company's first television series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Moore and Tinker announced their separation in 1979[68] and divorced two years later.[69][70] In the early 1980s, Moore dated Steve Martin[71] and Warren Beatty.[72]

On October 14, 1980, at the age of 24, Moore's son Richard died of an accidental gunshot to the head while handling a small .410 shotgun.[73][74][75][76][77][78][79] The model was later taken off the market because of its "hair trigger".[80] Three and a half weeks earlier, Ordinary People had been released where she played a mother who was grieving over the accidental death of her son.

Moore married cardiologist Robert Levine [79] on November 23, 1983, at the Pierre Hotel in New York City.[81] They met when he treated Moore's mother in New York City on a weekend house call, after Moore and her mother returned from a visit to the Vatican where they had a personal audience with Pope John Paul II.[82] Moore and Levine remained married for 34 years until her death in 2017.

Moore identified as vegetarian, but did eat fish. Rod Preece, a historian of vegetarianism, has described her diet as pescatarian.[83]

Moore presents the JDRF's Hero's Award to the US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert for his role in securing federal funding for type 1 diabetes research in 2003.

Health issues and deathEdit

Moore was a recovering alcoholic and had been diagnosed with Type I diabetes in 1969 after having a miscarriage.[84] In 2011, she had surgery to remove a meningioma, a benign brain tumor.[85] In 2014, friends reported that Moore had heart and kidney problems in addition to being nearly blind due to diabetes.[86]

Moore died at the age of 80 on January 25, 2017, at Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut, from cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by pneumonia after having been placed on a ventilator the previous week.[87][88] She was interred in Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield, Connecticut, during a private ceremony.[89]


Moore in 2011

In addition to her acting work, Moore was the International Chairperson of JDRF (the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).[90] In this role, she used her celebrity status to help raise funds and awareness of diabetes mellitus type 1.

In 2007, in honor of Moore's dedication to the Foundation, JDRF created the "Forever Moore" research initiative which will support JDRF's Academic Research and Development and JDRF's Clinical Development Program. The program works on translating basic research advances into new treatments and technologies for those living with type 1 diabetes.[91]

Moore advocated for animal rights for years and supported charities like the ASPCA and Farm Sanctuary.[92] She helped raise awareness about factory farming methods and promoted more compassionate treatment of farm animals.[93]

Moore appeared as herself in 1996 on an episode of the Ellen DeGeneres sitcom Ellen. The storyline of the episode includes Moore honoring Ellen for trying to save a 65-year-old lobster from being eaten at a seafood restaurant.[94] She was also a co-founder of Broadway Barks, an annual animal adopt-a-thon held in New York City. Moore and friend Bernadette Peters worked to make it a no-kill city and to encourage adopting animals from shelters.[95]

In honor of her father, George Tyler Moore, a lifelong American Civil War enthusiast, in 1995 Moore donated funds to acquire an historic structure in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) to be used as a center for Civil War studies. The center, named the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, is housed in the historic Conrad Shindler House (c. 1795), which is named in honor of her great-great-great-grandfather, who owned the structure from 1815 to 1852.[96]

Moore also contributed to the renovation of a historic house in Winchester, Virginia that had been used as headquarters by Confederate Major General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson during his Shenandoah Valley campaign in 1861–62. The house, now known as the Stonewall Jackson's Headquarters Museum, had been owned by Moore's great-grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Tilghman Moore, commander of the 4th Virginia Infantry in Jackson's Stonewall Brigade.[18]

A statue, designed by Gwen Gillen, at Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis replicates the Tam o'Shanter-tossing image that opened The Mary Tyler Moore Show.[97]


During the 1960s and 1970s, Moore had a reputation as a liberal or moderate, although she endorsed President Richard Nixon for re-election in 1972.[98] She endorsed President Jimmy Carter for re-election in a 1980 campaign television ad.[99] In 2011, her friend and former co-star Ed Asner said during an interview on The O'Reilly Factor that Moore "has become much more conservative of late". Bill O'Reilly, host of that program, stated that Moore had been a viewer of his show and that her political views had leaned conservative in recent years.[100] In a Parade magazine article from March 22, 2009, Moore identified herself as a libertarian centrist who watched Fox News. She stated: "when one looks at what's happened to television, there are so few shows that interest me. I do watch a lot of Fox News. I like Charles Krauthammer and Bill O'Reilly... If McCain had asked me to campaign for him, I would have."[101] In an interview for the 2013 PBS series Pioneers of Television, Moore said that she was recruited to join the feminist movement of the 1970s by Gloria Steinem but did not agree with Steinem's views. Moore said she believed that women have an important role in raising children and that she did not believe in Steinem's view that women owe it to themselves to have a career.[102]

Awards and honorsEdit

In February 1981, Moore was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the drama film Ordinary People but lost to Sissy Spacek for her role in Coal Miner's Daughter.[103] In 1981 she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama for that role.[104]

Moore received a total of seven Emmy Awards.[105] Four for portraying Mary Richards on MTM Show, two for her portrayal of Laura Petrie.

On Broadway, Moore received a Special Tony Award for her performance in Whose Life Is It Anyway? in 1980,[106] and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award as well. In addition, as a producer, she received nominations for Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards for MTM's productions of Noises Off in 1984 and Benefactors in 1986, and won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play or Musical in 1985 for Joe Egg.[107]

In 1986, she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.[108] In 1987, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy from the American Comedy Awards.[109]

Moore's contributions to the television industry were recognized in 1992 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[110] The star is located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.[111]

On May 8, 2002, Moore was present when cable network TV Land and the City of Minneapolis dedicated a statue in downtown Minneapolis of Mary Richards, her character in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The statue, by artist Gwendolyn Gillen, was chosen from designs submitted by 21 sculptors.[112] The bronze sculpture was located in front of the Dayton's department store – now Macy's – near the corner of 7th Street South and Nicollet Mall. It depicts the iconic moment in the show's opening credits where Moore tosses her Tam o' Shanter in the air, in a freeze-frame at the end of the montage.[113][114] While Dayton's is clearly seen in the opening sequence, the store in the background of the hat toss is actually Donaldson's, which was, like Dayton's, a locally based department store with a long history at 7th and Nicollet. In late 2015, the statue was relocated to the city's visitor center during renovations; it was reinstalled in its original location in 2017.[115]

Moore was awarded the 2011 Screen Actors Guild's lifetime achievement award.[116][117] In New York City in 2012, Moore and Bernadette Peters were honored by the Ride of Fame and a double-decker bus was dedicated to them and their charity work on behalf of "Broadway Barks", which the duo co-founded.[118][119]


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