Mary Tyler Moore, TV Legend, Dead at 80

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Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore, one of the most respected and influential actresses in television history, died today (Jan. 25) in Connecticut. Moore, who rose to fame in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66) and then with her own groundbreaking sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77) was 80. The cause of death has not yet been announced but it was known that she had been suffering from several health issues.

TMZ reported earlier today that seven-time Emmy winner Moore was in “grave condition” and was on a respirator for a week prior to her death, with family members having gathered to be with her. The site added that Moore had long battled diabetes and underwent brain surgery in 2011.

A representative issued this statement: “Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.”

Mary Tyler Moore, who always used her birth name professionally, was born December 29, 1936 in Brooklyn, N.Y. She grew up first in Flushing, Queens, and then Los Angeles, where her family moved when she was 8 years old. Moore’s first show business experience came as a dancer—she got work on TV commercials in the 1950s, and minor roles on TV programs until, in 1961, she began gaining the attention of casting agents and the TV appearances rolled in.

That year, Carl Reiner cast Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show as Laura Petrie, the wife of Van Dyke’s character Rob Petrie, a writer for a TV sitcom.

Van Dyke tweeted this tribute…

The program was a huge hit, winning Moore stardom and an Emmy, but after five years it was canceled. and she made plans to launch her own program.

Moore was far from finished though: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a half-hour sitcom that revolved around her life as a single woman with a career in a TV newsroom, was groundbreaking, portraying its lead character, Mary Richards, as an independent single working woman more than able to stand up to her gruff boss, Lou Grant (played by Ed Asner).

Mary Tyler Moore in the ’60s

Other stars on the program, including Betty White, Ted Knight, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod and Cloris Leachman, saw their own fame skyrocket due to their involvement with the show. Some later starred in their own spinoff shows based on their MTM Show characters, including Asner, whose Lou Grant continued the newsroom motif.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show became one of the most successful, influential and critically acclaimed sitcoms in television history, winning 29 Emmy Awards in all, including three consecutively for Outstanding Comedy Series (1975–77). By its final year, however, the program’s ratings had begun to slip. The show was canceled and although there were specials and reunions later on, it was never fully revived.

Moore remained active throughout the rest of her life, starring in other shows that attempted to rekindle the success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show but could not. She appeared in several Broadway plays and in films (she had once co-starred with Elvis Presley, playing a nun in 1969’s Change of Habit). It was her appearance in 1980’s Ordinary People that finally brought her serious recognition as a film actress; she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the drama.

Here is the trailer from Change of Habit, which co-starred Moore alongside Elvis Presley

Watch the opening and closing themes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show

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