When I think of Mary Tyler Moore’s passing (at age 80 in Greenwich,CT) this week I am reminded of two very distinct types of women. There is the perky and adorable Laura Petrie she portrayed on The Dick Van Dyke Show when she was barely out of her teens; juxtaposed with a chilling performance as a grieving mother in the Robert Redford directed Ordinary People which explored a darker and almost sinister side to her that was recognized with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (she lost to Sissy Spacek for her role in Coal Miner's Daughter).
In between those roles she managed to help produce her Emmy Award winning series The Mary Tyler Moore show whose main character (Mary Richards) embodied the coming of age of women’s independence from the confines of the nuclear housewife to a career path as a successful news producer. The series would explore the tribulations of being a single woman in her early 30’s and negotiating what was then a changing dynamic in how America’s values and roles were defined. Her character came of age during it’s seven year run and left on a high note in one of the funniest season finales ever.
She was a role model for women both in and out of her industry and shared a partnership with her husband Grant Tinker with her MTM Enterprises which produced a variety of American sitcoms and drama television series such as Rhoda, Lou Grant and Phyllis (spin-offs from The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, Friends and St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues among others.
Unfortunately there was tragedy in her life as well. In 1980 her only child from her first marriage (Richard) died of an accidental gunshot wound at age 24. A year later she would divorce Tinker. Ms.Tyler Moore admitted to being a recovering alcoholic and also suffered from type one diabetes which caused a myriad of health problems during her later years.
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