A Modern Woman – Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore

The Legacy of Mary Tyler Moore

Earlier this year, Greenwich lost one of its most admired and beloved residents – actress Mary Tyler Moore. She had lived in Greenwich since 2006. When I was a young child, I remember seeing her on television as “Happy Hotpoint”, the dancing elf promoting kitchen appliances.  Later, I saw her on the Dick Van Dyke Show, and in the seventies remember her standing in a Minneapolis street, tossing her hat into the air.  Although she lived in Greenwich for many years, I never saw her in person.  Somehow, I felt a fondness for her, simply from her television persona.  Mary projected a very positive, happy attitude that seemed contagious.  She simply made you feel good.

Early Life And Show Business

Mary Tyler Moore was born on December 29, 1936, in Brooklyn New York to George Tyler Moore and Marjorie Hackett Moore. Her father was a clerk for Con Edison.  She was the eldest of 3 children.  Her family moved from New York City to Los Angeles in 1945 when she was 8 years old. While in high school, she began acting and dancing. She gave up college to pursue acting. In the 1950s, Mary got that job as “Happy Hotpoint”,  and was a chorus dancer in television variety shows.  By 1959, she was playing the private secretary in “Richard Diamond, Private Detective”.  She was also chosen for guest appearances on “Johnny Staccato”, “Bachelor Father”, “The Tab Hunter Show”, “77 Sunset Strip” and “Surfside 6”.

Mary Tyler Moore In Movies And Television

In 1961, Mary made her first film debut in the movie “X-15” with David McLean and Charles Bronson.  She got a big break in 1961 when she was cast as Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.  She won Emmys in 1964 and 1966.  When the show ended, she turned her attention to movies.  Mary appeared in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”(1967) and “Change of Habit” (1970).  She appeared in “Run a Crooked Mile” (1969) opposite Louis Jourdan.

Dick Van Dyke

Perhaps her most successful role was that of Mary Richards in the television hit “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970).  Mary and her second husband Grant Tinker established the MTM Production Company.  The show was groundbreaking in that it reflected changing attitudes about women in the workplace.  It broke many barriers.  There’s a statue of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat into the air in downtown Minneapolis.  It was installed in 2002.

Mary received Emmys in 1973, 1974 and 1976 for her acting.  The last episode of her show aired in 1977.  MTM produced many other hits such as The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978), Taxi (1978-1982), Hill Street Blues (1981-1987), Cheers (1983 -1993), Rhoda (1974-1978), Phyllis(1975-1979) and The Lou Grant Show (1977-1983).

Hard Times

Despite all her success, Mary encountered some tragedy in her life. Her sister Elizabeth died of a drug overdose in 1978.  In 1980, her son Richard accidentally died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Another brother died of kidney cancer in 1992. Two out of her 3 marriages ended in divorce: Ricard Meeker (1955-1961), and Grant Tinker (1962-1981).  She was married to Dr. Robert Levine from 1983 until she died.  Alcoholism forced her to enter the Betty Ford Rehabilitation Center, and she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Unfortunately, she developed kidney and heart problems and lost her vision.  Mary became a strong proponent for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In 2011, she had a benign tumor removed from her brain.

It’s fitting that she was awarded the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. She broke a lot of the stereotypes associated with women and the entertainment industry.  Mary lived her life and portrayed roles, that promoted the advancement of women in all areas. She was a trendsetter and a pioneer in the television industry.

On January 25, 2017, Mary Tyler Moore died in Greenwich Hospital from cardiopulmonary arrest following a bout with pneumonia.

Rest In Peace, Mary.


Heffernan, V;  Mary Tyler Moore, Who Incarnated the Modern Woman on TV, Dies at 80; New York Times; January 25, 2017.  Accessed online at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/arts/television/mary-tyler-moore-dead.html? on 5/19/2017