Mary Tyler Moore

Active - 1961 - 2011  |   Born - Dec 29, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York, United States  |   Died - Jan 25, 2017   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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Biography by Rebecca Flint Marx

Born in Brooklyn, NY, on December 29, 1936, actress/dancer/rubberfaced comedienne Mary Tyler Moore went on to star in the definitive television comedies of both the 1960s and the 1970s: The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966) and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977). For her performances as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, Moore won five Emmy Awards, in 1965, 1966, 1973, 1974, and 1976.

Moore got her start in television commercials, acting as Happy Hotpoint, the Hotpoint Appliance Elf during The Ozzie and Harriet Show in 1955. She then progressed to a stint as the disembodied voice and legs of Sam, the answering service lady, on Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957-1960). Three unsuccessful shows and a series of TV specials followed her more notable series: Mary (1978), the Mary Tyler Moore Hour (1979), and Mary (1985-1986). Her dramatic career took off in 1981, when she was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the repressed mother in Ordinary People. Moore had Broadway success with Whose Life Is It Anyway?, appeared in the highly acclaimed Finnegan, Begin Again with Robert Preston on HBO, and won a CableACE Award in 1993 for her performance as an evil orphanage director in Stolen Babies. In 1996, Moore gained the appreciation of a new generation of fans with her hilarious turn as Ben Stiller's neurotic mother in David O. Russell's Flirting With Disaster. She also experienced a sort of renaissance through her mention in other films, notably Douglas Keeve's 1995 frockumentary Unzipped, which featured a beatific Isaac Mizrahi extolling the virtues of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and singing its theme song. In addition to her television and film work, Moore, as a well-known diabetic, has been a longtime representative of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. And though her film and television roles would become more sporadic moving into the new millennium, Moore could still be seen in the occasional theatrical release (Cheats, Against the Current) or made-for-television movie (Miss Lettie and Me, Snow Wonder) while making guest appearances in such popular sitcoms as That 70's Show and Hot in Cleveland. Moore died in 2017, at age 80.

Movie Highlights

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  • Made her television debut as Happy Hotpoint, a tiny pixie in Hotpoint appliance commercials.
  • First recurring role in a TV series was in 1959 as a switchboard operator in Richard Diamond, Private Detective; only her legs were seen.
  • Cast opposite Richard Chamberlain in a 1966 musical adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany's. It flopped in previews and never opened.
  • Formed the production company MTM Enterprises with then-husband Grant Tinker in 1969. The company produced several hit series, including The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues, Remington Steele and St. Elsewhere.
  • Honored in 1980 with a special Tony Award for her Broadway debut in Whose Life Is It Anyway? as a quadriplegic, a role originally written for a man.
  • Inducted into the Television Arts & Sciences' Hall of Fame in 1985.
  • Autobiography, After All, was published in 1995.
  • In 2002, TV Land unveiled a statue in her honor which depicts the famous hat-throwing scene from the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in downtown Minneapolis.
  • Appeared alongside her Mary Tyler Moore Show costar Betty White for the first time since 1977 during a guest-starring stint on Hot in Cleveland in 2011.
  • Was active in animal-rescue charities and cofounded the annual pet-adoption telethon Broadway Barks with actress Bernadette Peters.
  • Was a diabetic and served as the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.