Mary Tyler Moore, whose career can be traced back to the 1960s and whose TV roles helped begin a new era for women in American television, has passed away at the age of 80. According to Vanity Fair, Moore’s death was confirmed by her spokesperson Mara Buxbaum, who said she died of cardiopulmonary arrest after she contracted pneumonia. Moore had been battling health problems for some time now, and her “grave condition” was reported by TMZ a week before she passed away. According to Buxbaum:
- She passed away in the company of family and friends
- She will be remembered as a groundbreaking actress and producer
- She will be remembered by those who loved her as a fearless visionary
Soon after the news of her passing broke out, thousands of people, especially women who grew up with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, took to social media to express their condolences as well as the impact that Moore had on their lives. “Mary Tyler Moore changed the world for all women. I send my love to her family,” tweeted Ellen DeGeneres.
She’s mostly known for her iconic roles in The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Here are 16 facts about Mary Tyler Moore that you should know:
1. When she first entered the show business, she wanted to be a dancer. At age 17, she appeared in a commercial for Hotpoint appliances where she played Happy Hotpoint, a tiny dancing elf. She reportedly appeared in 39 Hotpoint commercials in only five days, and received close to $6,000 for her work (which would be the equivalent of roughly $50,000 today).
2. For her first recurring TV role, only her legs appeared on the screen. She played a mysterious telephone receptionist on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, where only her voice could be heard and only her legs appeared on camera. Soon after her first role, she began to appear in various secondary roles in a few NBC shows including Johnny Staccato, Overland Trail and The Tab Hunter Show.
3. She anonymously appeared on numerous LP covers including Raoul Martinez: Cha, Cha, Cha, Lew Raymond: Million Settlers, Steve Phillips: Organ Favorites, Miguelito Valdez!: Latin Rhythms and Nestor Amaral: Favorites from Italy.
4. She first auditioned for the Danny Thomas series Make Room for Daddy before landing her iconic role in The Dick Van Dyke Show. She didn’t get cast in Thomas’ show, but he reportedly recommended her to Van Dyke by remembering her as “the girl with three names.”
5. Her only son, Richard, died in a tragic freak accident. Richard, a gun collector, was cleaning one of his guns when it went off, shooting him in the head. He was 24 years old.
6. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 33. According to Mercury News, her fight with diabetes was ongoing and she eventually lost most of her sight to the disease. Her battle inspired her to become the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Using her celebrity power, she helped raise funds and awareness of the type of diabetes that she had been struggling with.
8. In 1980, she moved away from her roles as America’s sweetheart, and starred in the film Ordinary People. According to MTV News, the movie “openly dealt with the idea that not every woman wants to be a mother and not every woman loves her child.” It was a more real, painful, and cruel look at motherhood, one that was almost the complete opposite of what Moore had done up to that point. The performance earned her the 1980 Academy Award for Best Actress.
9. Moore was also an animal rights activist. She worked with the group Farm Sanctuary, alongside fellow actress Bernadette Peters. Together they launched “Broadway Barks” which was an event that urged people to adopt shelter dogs.
10. Mary Tyler Moore was a lot like her character in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was a strong icon, inspiring, and her words were a source of inspiration and consolation to those who needed it. “You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you,” she said. “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”
12. She always knew what she wanted to do with her life: “I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do. Some people refer to it as indulging in my instincts and artistic bent. I call it just showing off, which was what I did from about three years of age on.”
13. Soon after Moore passed away, fashion designers like Michael Kors, Zac Posen and Isaac Mizrahi remembered her as a fashion icon for the 1970s working woman. Mizrahi told the Hollywood Reporter that she was “the great democratic symbol of style” of his time. “It wasn’t money or special privilege that gave her style,” he went on, “she made all women feel like they, too, could be stylish and have happy stories.”
14. According to MTV News, The Mary Tyler Moore Show wasn’t just the chronicles of a plucky career woman in the 1970s, but also a show that taught us “the power of emotional intelligence, and that there isn’t just one way to fight for change.”
16. During an interview with Variety, Michelle Obama talked about the influence that The Mary Tyler Moore Show had on her growing up. At age 11, Obama learned that a woman’s happiness didn’t depend on marriage thanks to Moore’s show, and she felt encouraged to think that getting an education and building a career are also paths that can lead to happiness and fulfillment for a woman.