Television icon Mary Tyler Moore dead at 80

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Rob Moran 
Emmy-winning actress Mary Tyler Moore, who brightened television screens as the perky suburban housewife on The Dick Van Dyke Show and then as a fledgling feminist on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has died at the age of 80, a representative said.

Moore died in the company of friends and her husband Dr S Robert Levine, representative Mara Buxbaum said in a statement.

“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,” Buxbaum’s statement said.

According to reports, the actress had been taken to hospital following complications from Type 1 Diabetes, which she’d battled since she was 33. Her death was caused by cardiopulmonary arrest after she had contracted pneumonia, her family said.

A Hollywood veteran of over 50 years, Moore was best known for her delightful beret-tossing turn on the ’70s hit sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a television staple in Australian households. 

Created by James L Brooks and Allan Burns, it starred Moore as single 30-year-old Mary Richards, an independent and tough but vulnerable producer at a Milwaukee TV news room.

The role – groundbreaking for TV, in that it focused on an unapologetically non-married career woman – earned Moore three Emmys and a Golden Globe, while the series also picked up a Peabody Award in 1977 for its “sympathetic portrayal of a career woman in today’s changing society”.

Among its plotlines over its 7-season run were an episode where Richards demanded equal pay to her male co-workers, and another where she went on the pill. 

The show’s feminist impact – long lauded by the likes of Tina Fey, who’s said the series was the biggest influence on her own Emmy winner 30 Rock – continued behind-the-scenes.

Produced by Moore’s own production company MTM Enterprises, the series was among the first to up the number of women in the writer’s room. According to the 2013 book Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic, by 1973, “23 out of 75 writers on the show were women, which was revolutionary at the time”. 

Moore was also nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in 1980’s Ordinary People, the directorial debut of Robert Redford, where she played a mother struggling to cope with the death of a teenage son and her grieving family. The film was released just weeks before Moore’s own son Richard died from an accidental gunshot wound, aged 24.

A regular on the stage, Moore also picked up a special Tony Award that same year for her work in a gender-flipped version of British writer Brian Clark’s euthanasia play, Whose Life Is It Anyway?

In recent years, she had made cameo appearances in sitcoms including That 70s Show and Hot In Cleveland, alongside her old Mary Tyler Moore Show castmate Betty White.

Celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen Fry and Ben Stiller, her co-star on David O. Russell’s 1996 comedy Flirting With Disaster, were among those leading tributes to the late actress on Twitter today.

– with Reuters

 

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