Who can turn the world on with her smile…
Today, Mary Tyler Moore, one of Television’s favorite icons passed away at the age of 80 after being placed on a respirator the previous week.
One of my favorite things about the Mary Tyler Moore show was its theme. It encourages a single woman in her thirties to step out on her own and start living. The best part was when she tossed her hat up in the air. That showed a woman of confidence. A woman who knew that she was going to make it after all. Incidentally, the hat toss was ranked by Entertainment Weekly as the second greatest moment in television.
Before she was Mary Richards, Mary Tyler Moore played the role of housewife, Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Carl Reiner recalls casting her for the part. “I saw 26 girls!” He told Conan O’ Brien in 2013. He was won over by Mary’s reading. “I grabbed the top of her head and said ‘Come with me.’ I walked her down the hall to [series producer Sheldon Leonard] and said ‘I found her!’” I was a big fan of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
I was surprised to hear that initially the Mary Tyler Moore show was not an immediate hit. It failed in its test trial. People thought Mary was a loser and that she wouldn’t succeed. However, show began to resonate with feminists because it was the first to mention the pill. And that it was ok for a woman not to have a date on Saturday night. The show also tackled issues such as equal pay for women, pre-marital sex, homosexuality marital infidelity and divorce, infertility and addiction to sleeping pills. The show went on to become one of the most acclaimed television programs in US television history. It received high praise from critics during its run, garnered Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series three years in a row (1975–77), and continued to be honored long after the final episode aired. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America ranked The Mary Tyler Moore Show No. 6 in its list of the 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time. It was the first American show to feature as its central character a never-married and independent career woman.
Although she became famous and was well loved for her role as Mary Richards, the epitome of modern feminism and received an Oscar nomination for her serious turn as a cold, emotionally withdrawn mother in Ordinary People, acting wasn’t Mary’s first choice of a career. At the age of 17, she decided that she wanted to be a dancer. Her television career began with her dancing in TV commercials. She modeled anonymously on the covers of a number of record albums and auditioned for the role of the older daughter of Danny Thomas for his long-running TV show but was turned down. Much later, Thomas explained that “no daughter of mine could have that [little] nose.” Mary appeared on several shows before she was hired for the role of Laura Petrie for which she won an Emmy. The idea for the Mary Tyler Moore Show was Mary’s and her husband’s. And the rest, as you know, is history.
Mary Tyler Moore was active in charity work and involved in causes such as animal rights and diabetes. At the age of 33, Mary herself was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In 2011, she had surgery to remove a meningioma, a benign brain tumor. In 2014 friends reported that she had heart and kidney problems and was nearly blind.
Ironically, Mary Tyler Moore who became an icon for the feminist movement turned down Gloria Steinem’s invitation to join the movement because she did not believe in Steinem’s view that “women owe it to themselves to have a career.” Mary believed that that women have an important role in raising children.
Notes to Women salute this amazing, accomplished and classy woman who became the American sweetheart of television. She was an inspiration for housewives, career women and single women. She was an inspiration for all women.
Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.
You truly have to make the very best of what you’ve got. We all do.
I’ve always been independent. I’ve always had courage. But I didn’t always own my diabetes.