Skip to content

Mary Tyler Moore Dies at Age 80

One of TV’s first sitcom career-woman stars, she won 7 Emmy awards

Mary Tyler Moore on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' in 1970

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Mary Tyler Moore (as Mary Richards) in the newsroom of her iconic television show

Actress Mary Tyler Moore, who died on Wednesday at age 80 in Greenwich, Conn., will be remembered for starring in two of the most iconic sitcoms in television history.

As charmingly overemotional housewife Laura Petrie in “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” which aired from 1961 to 1966, she was the perfect foil for Van Dyke. In “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” a hit from 1970 to 1977, Moore found humor in the travails of a 30-something woman who opted for a career instead of marriage at a time when that was still considered an unconventional choice.

Here are a few of the things we admire about Moore.

She rose to stardom from a humble background. Moore grew up in Los Angeles, where she was the daughter of a utility company clerk, and started in show business as a dancer in the chorus of “The Eddie Fisher Show” and other variety programs.

She wasn’t afraid of serious roles. In the 1980 film “Ordinary People,” Moore’s portrayal of a tightly wrapped, emotionally distant mother in a family struggling with tragedy earned her an Oscar nomination as best actress. She won a Tony that same year for her role as a quadriplegic sculptress in “Whose Life Is It Anyway” and scored one of her seven Emmys for portraying an evil orphanage director in the 1993 made-for-TV movie “Stolen Babies.”

Her prestige helped get other quality shows on TV. MTM Enterprises, the production company she formed with then husband Grant Tinker, springboarded on the success of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to bring daring and imaginative series such as “Lou Grant,”  “The Bob Newhart Show” and “Hill Street Blues” to television in the 1970s and 1980s.

She used her own struggles to help others. Moore, who had type 1 diabetes, spoke out about the challenges of living with the disease. As chairwoman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International, she helped raise millions of dollars for research. In the 1980s, after seeking treatment for alcoholism, she went public about her struggle with the bottle, as well.

She inspired generations of comic actresses. Tina Fey, for example, has said that “Mary Tyler Moore Show” protagonist Mary Richards helped inspire Liz Lemon, the character Fey portrayed on the hit sitcom “30 Rock.”

Also of Interest