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Mary Tyler Moore, TV's Iconic Independent Career Woman, Has Died

The sitcom legend was 80 years old.

by Mike Pearl
Jan 26 2017, 12:15am

Mary Tyler Moore in Los Angeles, California January 8, 2012. Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage

Mary Tyler Moore, the sitcom star best known for her seven-season run as the lead of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has died at 80 years old, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Hers was the first sitcom centered on a single-by-choice woman with serious professional aspirations, opening the door for shows like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, and Girls decades later.

In her 20s, Moore played the long-suffering wife of the protagonist on The Dick Van Dyke Show, another of the most well-regarded TV comedies in American history. The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which was about a woman in her 30s who moved to Minneapolis after a breakup and found herself producing a local TV news show, also left a feminist mark in Hollywood. Premiering in 1970, it came along at a time when perhaps only a token woman might be added to a TV writing staff. However, one-third of the 75 writers hired over the history of the show were women.

The two legendary roles place Moore at the center of an interesting continuum: both a feminist icon and a symbol for the kind of idyllic, mid-century domestic bliss people get nostalgic for, even though it never really existed.

After The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended in 1977, Moore turned briefly to drama. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the Robert Redford–directed family drama Ordinary People. In the film, the son of Moore's character attempts suicide—suicide would claim her real-life son and only child shortly after the film's release.

Moore largely gravitated back to TV later in her career. In one memorable turn, she played a talk-show host on That 70s Show, despite the headache-inducing conceit that her character's show was contemporaneous with The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

She was also immortalized in the chorus of the song "Buddy Holly" by Weezer, famous for its video that is also a nostalgia trip (despite no appearance by Moore herself).

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Moore is survived by her third husband, a cardiologist named Robert Levine.

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