Beloved television icon Mary Tyler Moore has died at the age of 80. With her passing on January 25 at a Connecticut hospital, surrounded by loved ones including her husband of 33 years Dr. Robert Levine, now's the perfect time to revisit Moore's stellar television and film career that spanned seven decades.
- Legendary Television Actress Mary Tyler Moore Is Dead At 80
- Why Mary Tyler Moore Meant So Much To Everyone
- Eight Television Families That Can Still Teach Us Something About Life
1. Mary Surprises Oprah, 1997
While this television appearance sees #MaryTylerMoore appearing as herself, it marks one of the many reasons why she was so loved. Oprah Winfrey, a TV icon in her own right, was hosting her talk show, discussing some of her favorite celebrity women. She brought up Moore, and explained what a huge influence the actress had been on her during her formative years as a budding TV journalist, first in local TV then throughout her stratospheric career progression.
Moore, to #Oprah's surprise, had been hiding backstage, listening to the host wax lyrical about how much she admired her. When Moore made her surprise appearance on the stage just as Oprah was about to shift topics, it was a moment that brought the house down and moved Oprah to tears. Moore looked radiant as she smiled, embraced Oprah and held her hand as they chatted. She was charming, friendly and so effervescent, it's not difficult to see why Moore was America's sweetheart.
2. 'Chuckles Bites The Dust' — The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1975)
It's difficult to believe that the humor of a sitcom can hold up so well after more than 40 years, but this episode does exactly that. Moore is at her absolute comic best in this episode. As always, the fictional WJM-TV newsroom reflected the realities of journalists everywhere; there are times when news reporters may make some humor out of the mayhem that they frequently report on, and that is exactly what the characters here did. Mary was appalled by her colleagues' behavior, but when it came time for Chuckles the Clown's funeral, we're gifted with one of the best scenes in TV history. This is the reason why this episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show is frequently cited as the best one ever.
3. 'Love Is All Around' — Hot In Cleveland (2013)
In a crisp salute to the actresses who starred in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Hot in Cleveland reunited #BettyWhite with Moore, Georgia Engel, Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman. Leachman reflected this week that when the ladies reunited on screen, she suspected it might have been the last time she'd see Moore:
"The last time I saw her was our 'Hot In Cleveland' reunion. I had a feeling I wouldn’t see her again. If I could see her one last time I’d hold her in my arms and say, 'We love you.'"
When Moore was first seen in "Love is All Around," White cracked, "Looks like she made it after all." Then when the ladies were starting to get snarky about losing out on the Life magazine cover, bemoaning the fact that Moore alone got to take center stage, she righteously pointed out, "I had the smile." That she did.
4. Moore Appears On Saturday Night Live (1989)
Who knew that Moore would appear on #SNL and manage to keep it so PG? Whether she was performing the monologue, referencing how the show had earned a boycott by a group representing the American family for using the word penis 28 times, or appearing as a customs agent, she defined her appearance with some of the best family entertainment, while still showing something of a naughty twinkle in her eye.
It is probably one of the better remembered SNL appearances for Moore's acknowledgement that while she might be known for family-oriented fare, there was still a bit of an adult sense of humor lurking. Here's part of the customs agent skit she appeared in:
5. Moore As Beth Jarrett — Ordinary People, (1980)
This could well have been one of the most challenging roles of Moore's storied career. Playing a mother whose son committed suicide would be trying for any actress, especially given Moore's occasionally strained relationship with her only child, son Richard. Just one month after the film released, Richard died as the result of an accidental self-inflicted gun blast to the head.
Her #Oscar-nominated role in Ordinary People was a dimension of Moore that fans had rarely seen. With her character Beth at times cold toward her family — who are themselves trying to come to terms with the loss of the older brother and son, and desperate for any form of normalcy — her portrayal is haunting and vivid.
6. 'Put On A Happy Face' — The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1973)
Mary Richards lived by the maxim that the show must go on, even when it seems as though the world is going crazy around her. Mary is up for a prestigious Teddy Award so must put in an appearance at the awards show even though she's nursing a cold, is having a bad hair day and her dress is ruined. As she tearfully steps onto the stage, she tells the audience, "I usually look so much better than this." It was a moment that women everywhere could relate to.
7. 'Once I Had A Secret Love' — The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1976)
The unthinkable has happened: Lou has had a one night stand with Sue Ann Nivens. He is filled with regret, but talks to Mary about it in confidence. When Mary reveals the news to Murray, Lou is livid — so much so, in fact, that he tells Mary that while he'll stay her boss, they will no longer be friends. At one point, Mary's in tears over the matter, but as always, the friendship between her and Mr. Grant wins out above anything that might come between the two.
There are some great scenes between Moore and Ed Asner here, and while there are dark moments — who could imagine a time when Lou and Mary aren't friends? — she strikes the right balance between remorse over her betrayal of Lou and finding her way back to his heart.
8. 'Love Is All Around' — The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
The very first episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show highlighted the sexism of the 1970s, as Mary's soon-to-be boss Lou Grant fires questions at her that would most certainly be deemed inappropriate by today's standards. When Mary stands up for herself and ultimately gets the job, Lou delivers one of the many zingers for which the character would become known:
9. 'Christmas And The Hard-Luck Kid II' — The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970)
Mary gets a chance to shine in the newsroom as she is tapped to be the only one working Christmas Day. Initially she has planned to make the drive back to her hometown because she wants to spend Christmas with her parents, but being told she'll be working brings those plans to a screeching halt. She then plans on spending Christmas Eve with her best friend Rhoda, but in conversation with her colleague Fred she learns he hasn't spent Christmas with his family in years.
While the viewers might have wondered how Mary ultimately spends Christmas, this is a sweet little episode that allows Moore a chance, once again, to highlight that she can balance a certain degree of sentimentality with humor.
10. Wendy Haller — The Last Best Year (1990)
One of the critics who hailed this performance noted that when people hear the names Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters, there would be a belief that the movie would be a comedy. Not so. John J. O'Connor of The New York Times wrote:
"Ms. Moore and Ms. Peters give marvelously restrained and touching performances."
As psychologist Wendy Haller, Moore indeed gives a marvelously restrained performance, acknowledging her character's past struggles while she works with the terminal Jane to help her come to terms with her illness. It is a moving performance that proved once again how powerful Moore was as a dramatic actress.
11. Miss Dorothy Brown — Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
Moore was the young, naive Dorothy to Julie Andrews' more worldly Millie, and 50 years later, the role still resonates. As the young woman who has no idea that she is about to be sold into white slavery, Dorothy plays the innocent, unaware that Mrs. Meers is getting ready to ship her and other girls who have identified as orphans off to Beijing. Reality is a whole different matter, though, and hilarious results ensue as Millie and Jimmy work together to try to find out why so many women have gone missing.
Thoroughly Modern Millie was a wonderful opportunity for Moore to show off her dancing skills opposite Andrews; the film's elevator dance remains a highlight.
12. Laura Petrie In 'My Blonde-Haired Brunette' — The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961)
Not for the first time, Moore's Laura Petrie becomes worried that the spark has gone from her marriage to Rob and so is convinced by her friend Millie to change up her hair. The result is extreme, but the episode truly cemented Moore as co-lead of the show, rather than simply a background wife who fetched her husband's coffee and was content to clean the house and look pretty.
13. 'Never Bathe On Saturday' — The Dick Van Dyke Show (1965)
For a woman who spends comparatively little time on screen in this episode, Laura is surprisingly one of the episode's features. Having gotten her toe caught in a bathtub faucet, Laura now finds herself stuck and Rob has to rescue her. Unfortunately, he can't get through the locked bathroom door, so he has to turn to an unconventional hotel staff to help free his wife.
Reportedly, Moore was upset with this episode because she would be on screen for a fairly short time, but show creator Carl Reiner said that half the audience wouldn't be able to stop imagining her naked in a bathtub while the other half would be laughing at Rob's attempts to rescue her.
14. 'Coast To Coast Big Mouth' — The Dick Van Dyke Show (1965)
Laura gets tricked into revealing that Alan Brady is bald. When Rob realizes what Laura has said, he angrily tells her, “I’m surprised you didn’t blab about his nose being fixed!” Rob realizes that his job could be on the line and both he and Laura take slightly different approaches in trying to ensure that Alan doesn't find out that Laura said something about the toupees he wears. Sure enough, he does find out, and one of the episode's highlights is when Laura tries to apologize to Alan while Alan is surrounded by several wig stands.
15. 'That's My Boy?' — The Dick Van Dyke Show (1963)
Moore plays Laura as calm and a wee bit incredulous when Rob starts to become convinced that the baby they've brought home from the hospital is not their own. While Laura acknowledges there were a lot of mixups between her room and the other family's hospital room — the other family was named Peters, while Laura and Rob are the Petries — she notes that the only mixup was that the other family received a gift basket meant for them. The episode contains one of the longest laughs ever, though much of it had to be edited out of the final taping.
Moore's portrayal of Laura as a wife who is at first calm then increasingly disbelieving over her husband's bizarre behavior is one of the best parts of the episode, as is the big reveal of the other family.
Mary Tyler Moore, A True Acting Legend
With a career spanning nearly 70 years and a fandom that made her one of the most beloved figures on both the big and small screen, Mary Tyler Moore had very few equals. She will be sorely missed.