Actress From My Favourite Show Passed Away At 80

Mary Tyler Moore, who defined the word “spunky” as pioneering single TV-news producer Mary Richards in the ‘70s sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died today of pneumonia in Greenwich, CT. She was 80.
The Brooklyn native, born Dec. 29, 1936, moved to Los Angeles as a child and lived primarily with her aunt to get away from her parents, who were both alcoholics, according to the New York Times. Her first break came as Happy Hotpoint, a dancing sprite featured in advertisements for Hotpoint appliances. She appeared as a dancer in a number of television shows before turning to bit acting roles and landing a role on The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Though best known for her role in the CBS program that ran from 1970-1977, the beloved Moore was first introduced to the mainstream television audience through The Dick Van Dyke Show. She played Laura Petrie, the wife of Van Dyke’s character, comedy writer Rob Petrie. That show ran from 1961-1966.
Through those characters, Moore, a seven-time Emmy winner, helped define the changing roles of women in society. On The Dick Van Dyke Show she was a stay-at-home, devoted wife and mom who was very smart but prone to declare “Oh, Rob,” when she needed assistance. Only a few years later, as the women’s movement gained steam, she starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which she produced with her then husband, Grant Tinker. Moore portrayed a woman who moves to Minneapolis after a broken engagement, who learns, as the opening theme song stressed, she could make it on her own, after all. Throughout the show’s run, she looked for love as her career advanced, but the overarching motif was that she did not need a man to complete her or to reach her goals and that her work family was just as important as any nuclear one.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show is considered one of the best television shows of all time and TV Guide ranks the iconic “Chuckles Bites The Dust” episode, where Richards and her newsroom pals unsuccessfully try to hold it together at a clown’s funeral, as the No. 3 TV episode of all time. Tina Fey cited Mary Richards as one of her role models in her creation of 30 Rock’s TV producer Liz Lemon.
Even after The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air, Moore and Tinker’s production company, MTM Enterprises, remained a television powerhouse, producing multiple spinoffs, such as Rhoda and Lou Grant, as well as other hits like The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues and St. Elsewhere. Known for its logo, a spoof on the MGM logo featuring a kitten inside a gold circle, MTM Enterprises’ TV shows are now owned by 20th Century Fox Television.

Moore moved on to star, against type, as the brittle, tightly wound mother in Robert Redford’s directorial debut, 1980’s Ordinary People, a role for which she earned a Golden Globe award, as well as an Oscar nomination. She went on to win a Tony Award that same year for her portrayal as a quadriplegic in Whose Life Is It Anyway on Broadway. She also won acclaim for her role as a Ben Stiller’s mom in the 1996 comedy, Flirting With Disaster and as murderer Sante Kimes in the TV movie, Like Mother Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes.
A diabetic herself, Moore was a relentless champion for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, as well as an animal rights advocate. She is survived by her husband of more than 30 years, Dr. Robert Levine, and was preceded in death by her only son, who died in 1980. Six years after her son’s passing, Moore told Reader’s Digest, “Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.”

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