Mary Tyler Moore, one of the most beloved and honored actresses in television history who starred in a pair of comedies that once dominated prime-time along with American culture, has died. She was 80. Moore, who had been the CEO of the JDRF, or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes when she was 33, and had struggled with the effects of the disease in recent years, according to reports. A cause of death was not released by the family..
As an actress — dramatic and comic — there was simply no one else like her in the long history of TV. Moore combined frailty with strength, vulnerability with resolve. She seemed imbued with a sense that life’s cruelties and absurdities could humiliate but couldn’t vanquish — that she would always make it, after all.
Beyond the wide smile and easy elegance of Mary Richards and Laura Petrie — “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” respectively — viewers sensed a certain aloneness, even loneliness.
Robert Redford certainly sensed that when he cast her as Beth Jarred in 1980’s “Ordinary People,” for which she received an Oscar nomination. Fans of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” did as well, acutely so in the closing minutes of the series, when Mary tearfully said goodbye to her colleagues at WJM.
In an interview years later, she said that ending both her TV shows was emotionally wrenching for her because, “It was the end of a family — and it was not the family I ever felt comfortable with as a child. I felt at home with these people, felt comfortable, loved and supported.”
Her life was a fairy tale and tragedy. At the height of her fame, her only son, Richard, 24, killed himself in a shooting accident. She battled alcoholism. She wrote two books, or confessionals, chronicling her life and struggles, revealing that she had been abused by a family friend when she was 6, and that her father was coldly aloof, her mother also an alcoholic. Of Mary Richards — considered one of TV’s first feminists — she once said, “I didn’t feel that separate from the character I was playing.”
Besides icon, she also became a TV power broker, along with then husband Grant Tinker, and co-chief of one of TV’s most influential independent production companies — MTM, an acronym for the in-house star. She and Tinker met on the set of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” married in 1962, and with Tinker launched MTM in 1969. She starred in the production company’s first in-house production, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and a legendary run of hits followed, including “St. Elsewhere” and “Hill Street Blues.” Three spinoffs — “Lou Grant,” “Rhoda” and “Phyllis” — sprang from “Mary Tyler Moore.”
Mary Tyler Moore died on Wednesday after being hospitalized in Connecticut,
“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. 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,” said her rep Mara Buxbaum