The world got a tad bit dimmer today perhaps, as the woman who graced us with such talent and a 90 watt smile for so many years, our own Mary Tyler Moore, has passed at the age of 80. Yes, she lived a long life and we should all be grateful that she shared so many laughs and tears with her fans, but 80 seems too many years too short for this legendary TV and film actress.
Mary Tyler Moore represented so many things to so many women at a time when they needed her most. First showing us what a great comedienne she was as Laura in The Dick Van Dyke Show, we fell in love with her infectious girlish whimper, oh Robbbbb, and yes that beautiful wit and grace. But even then MTM gave us glimpses of the feminist heroine she would soon become when as Laura, she was one of the first woman to wear pants on a TV show. And of course the capri pant became the trend of the day. But she really took the TV world by storm after she and husband Grant Tinker created The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which an UNMARRIED career news woman Mary Richards, moves to Minneapolis to make it on her own. Oprah famously cried when she first had Mary Tyler Moore on the show as a guest because she was that much of an idol for so many career women including Winfrey. The show was a giant hit even to the last episode of the seventh season when the cast of characters famously walks in unison to grab tissues.
Lastly, I think it fitting since I am here at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival, that I acknowledge Mary’s dramatic turn in Ordinary People, directed by Mr. Redford, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, perhaps her best dramatic screen work.
More than content to be only an actress, Mary championed the cause of Juvenile Diabetes which was part of her own struggle. She talked openly about alcoholism, again sharing her own devastating battle, and she shared the pain of surviving the death of her own son by a self inflicted gun shot wound. her son Richard Meeker died in 1980 from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound. At the time it was rumored that it might have been intentional suicide, but Moore insisted the death was accidental while he was cleaning his guns. Through it all, she graced us with that smile. She worked endlessly both on screen and off to bring the world, a little more joy and how we cherished this national treasure known to some of us as, Mayr– as Rhoda might say.
Mary Tyler Moore – a screen legend, a feminist heroine, a beautiful spirit – She will be deeply missed!