In Memoriam: Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore died Wednesday in a Connecticut hospital. She was 80.
Moore had suffered from cardiopulmonary arrest after she contracted pneumonia. She had been on a respirator for a week as her health began to fail. Mara Buxbaum, her longtime representative, reported she passed away surrounded by her friends and family.
A pop culture icon, Mary Tyler Moore played characters on both sides of an ongoing argument on the role of women in society and the workplace. From 1961 to 1966, she played Laura Petrie, the house-bound wife of comedy writer Dick Van Dyke, on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Then, in 1970, she played the groundbreaking role of Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Her later role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show would jet her to fame and into the annals of television history. Not only would she receive Emmy awards, but the show also addressed complex, taboo themes such as gender equality, premarital sex, homosexuality, extramarital affair, and divorce. However, most importantly, her portrayal of Mary Richards addressed the debate over women in the workforce head on and expressed a single career woman without relying on cultural archetypes.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show did more than just address complex issues of the day. Indeed, the show focused on character-driven humor common in television today. It was included as part of CBS’s famous lineup of shows such as M*A*S*H* and The Carol Burnett Show. And it directly inspired and influenced future sitcoms like Cheers and The Simpsons.
After The Mary Tyler Moore Show was suddenly canceled in 1977, Moore fought against her typecast. Known for playing sweet, cute, and funny characters, she fought to demonstrate the range and depth of her acting abilities.
Moore was successfully cast as Beth Jarrett in Ordinary People in 1980. Her role as an aloof, guilt-struck mother landed her a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award nomination to add to her growing collection of critical success and acclaim.
However, the ‘70s and ‘80s were frought with bad projects, low ratings, and personal issues. Shows such as Mary and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour suffered and were canceled after only a few hours. In 1984, she entered the Betty Ford Center for treatment after admitting to suffering from alcoholism.
She continued to search for parts which would allow her to show the range of acting abilities both on stage and on screen. Hits included Whose Life Is It, Anyway, for which she won a Tony Award; First You Cry; Gore Vidal’s Lincoln; Flirting With Disaster; and Stolen Babies, in which she won her seventh Emmy.
Mary Tyler Moore’s influence can be seen throughout modern television sitcoms. Jennifer Aniston, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler all owe a debt of gratitude to Mary Tyler Moore. Her roles blazed the trailer for the great actresses who followed.