Mary Tyler Moore, the Oscar-nominated actress best known for her roles in the television sitcoms “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” has died. She was 80.
“Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine,” her publicist, Mara Buxbaum, told ABC News. “A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.”
Moore’s portrayal of the single career woman Mary Richards in her eponymous 1970s show arrived alongside the Women’s Movement, making her a role model for generations of women, even though Moore didn’t consider herself a feminist. The show, which centered on Richards’ work as a producer in a fictional Minneapolis newsroom and her life as a single woman, earned 29 Emmy Awards, the most for any scripted series until “Frasier” won its 30th Emmy.
Moore herself earned a total of six Emmy Awards, four of them for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” She won her first Emmy for her breakthrough role of Laura Petrie in “The Dick Van Dyke Show, and in 1993, she won her sixth for the television movie “Stolen Babies.”
Although she was best known for her television work, Moore also starred in films, starting with a string of movies in the 1960s alongside such co-stars as George Peppard and Robert Wagner. She played a nun opposite Elvis Presley in his last film, “Change of Habit,” in 1969. Upon her return to the big screen in 1980’s “Ordinary People,” directed by Robert Redford, Moore received her first and only Academy Award nomination for best actress.
Moore was born in Brooklyn, New York, on Dec. 29, 1936, the oldest of three children. When she was 8, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Moore was raised Catholic. At 17, she decided to pursue dance and got her first job as “Happy Hotpoint,” a tiny dancing elf in TV spots for Hotpoint appliances. The job ended when she became pregnant with her first and only child, Richard Meeker Jr., with first husband Richard Carleton Meeker.
Moore later auditioned to play Danny Thomas‘ daughter in his long-running TV show but said she was ultimately turned down for the role because Thomas couldn’t see a daughter of his having a nose like hers. Still, Thomas remembered her when his friend Carl Reiner was looking for someone to play the role of Laura Petrie opposite Dick Van Dyke in his new sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The role made Moore a star, along with her signature capri pants. Accepting her first Emmy, Moore said, “I know this will never happen again.”
But it did, a few years later, when she and second husband Grant Tinker, who later became the head of NBC, conceived “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The show was so popular that three of its other characters would go on to star in their own spinoffs. After the show ended in 1977, Moore tried her hand at other sitcoms, variety shows and even dramatic series but was never as successful. In 2000, she and co-star Valerie Harper reunited for the TV movie, “Mary and Rhoda,” and in 2013, the two reprised their roles along with fellow co-stars Cloris Leachman and Georgia Engel, in an episode of “Hot in Cleveland.”
In addition to her work in film and television, Moore was known for her charity work with the JDRF, or former Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which helps raise funds and awareness for type 1 diabetes. Moore was diagnosed with type 1 at age 33. She was also a longtime animal rights activist.
Following her divorce from Tinker, Moore married for the third time in 1983 to Dr. Robert Levine. Her son, Richard Jr., died in 1980 at age 24 of an accidental gunshot to the head while handling a sawed-off shotgun. The model was later taken off the market.
Moore is survived by her husband, Dr. Levine.