Mary Tyler Moore, whose career 'inspired a generation of women,' dead at 80

Actress Mary Tyler Moore, known for her influential role as an independent career woman in her eponymous TV sitcom, has died at 80.

Her show was a cultural game-changer, depicting a young, successful, single woman in the working world

Actress Mary Tyler Moore, known for her influential role as an independent career woman in her eponymous TV sitcom, has died at 80.

Moore, whose performances in classic TV programs The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show made her a household name across North America, died on Wednesday, with her husband and friends nearby, according to her publicist Mara Buxbaum.

"She was an impressive person and a talented person and a beautiful person. A force of nature," producer, creator and director Carl Reiner, who created the The Dick Van Dyke Show," told The Associated Press. "She'll last forever, as long as there's television. Year after year, we'll see her face in front of us."

Born on Dec. 29, 1936, in New York and raised in Los Angeles, Moore began studying acting and dance in high school. She began her show business career as a dancer in the 1950s, performing in television commercials and variety shows, before gradually picking up smaller acting roles.

Film and TV roles

Mary Tyler Moore appears with co-stars Dick Van Dyke, left, and Larry Matthews in The Dick Van Dyke Show. (Associated Press)

Moore made her movie debut — appearing opposite David McLean and Charles Bronson in the film X-15 — in 1961, the same year she rocketed to fame as Laura Petrie, the beloved wife on The Dick Van Dyke Show. The role allowed the actress to show off her energy and comedic chops, eventually earning her a pair of Emmy Awards.

After the series ended in 1966, Moore balanced film and TV roles, with co-stars ranging from Julie Andrews (in Thoroughly Modern Millie) to Elvis Presley (in Change of Habit) to Louis Jourdan (in Run a Crooked Mile).

She reinforced her place in TV history with her widely acclaimed comedy series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which started in 1970 and which she both starred in and produced.


Featuring Moore as Minneapolis TV news producer Mary Richards, the show was a cultural game-changer in its depiction of a young, successful, single woman in the working world. 

Its female-focused format — alternating between the protagonist's professional and personal life — became a staple of U.S. broadcast television.

Remembering Mary Tyler Moore

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Featured VideoMary Tyler Moore, the television icon and star of The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has died at the age of 80

"What Mary reflected to us was a way of being in the world when we needed one. She was a person who went to work, who showed us what that was like. She had a kind of slightly messy personal life on camera. She had a slightly messy personal life off camera too, but she showed us you could sort of persevere with grace and with grit," film and TV journalist Johanna Schneller told CBC News.

"She inspired a generation of women who went into the media. ... She just showed us a way forward."

Dick Van Dyke Show creator Reiner echoed that sentiment in an interview with CBC's As It Happens.

"When she threw her hat the air, she liberated women. She epitomized the ability for women to compete in the working world," Reiner said, referring to Mary Tyler Moore Show's iconic opening credits. 

Film and TV journalist Johanna Schneller on Mary Tyler Moore's legacy

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Featured Video'She inspired a generation of women who went into the media,' Schneller says Media ID:

The show's powerhouse cast also included Ed Asner, Betty White, Ted Knight, Gavin MacLeod, Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman.

Leachman called her late colleague "America's sweetheart."

"The picture that we all have of her, that's how she was— sweet, kind, so tender, so delicate," she said in a statement to People magazine.

The pair reunited in 2013 on an episode of the TVLand sitcom Hot In Cleveland. It was the last time Leachmen saw Moore. 

"I had a feeling I wouldn't see her again," Leachman said.  "If I could see her one last time, I'd hold her in my arms and say, 'We love you.'"

Moore won three more Emmys for the series, which also spawned spinoffs Rhoda, Phyllis and The Lou Grant Show. It is still considered one of the best-written U.S. TV series of all time.

Successful businesswoman 

Besides her own show, Moore's company MTM Productions (which she founded with former husband Grant Tinker) was also behind a host of other TV hits in the 1970s and 1980s, including The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and Newhart.

Though latter TV efforts (including Mary, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour and New York News) failed to find the same success, Moore persevered onstage and onscreen. She won a Tony Award for Broadway's Whose Life Is It Anyway? in 1980, the same year her turn in Ordinary People earned her a best actress nomination for the Oscars.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show cast members, from left, Ed Asner, Betty White, Moore and Ted Knight pose at the 1976 Emmy Awards. The show is still considered among the best-written American TV programs of all time. (Reed Saxon/Associated Press)

Other credits included TV movies (picking up her sixth Emmy for 1993's Stolen Babies) and films such as David O. Russell's Flirting with Disaster. The Screen Actors Guild presented her with its lifetime achievement award in 2011.

Moore was a longtime advocate for animal rights, forming the charity Broadway Barks with actress Bernadette Peters. Diagnosed with diabetes in her 30s, she also became a prominent spokeswoman for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Moore and her ex-husband Grant Tinker, seen in 1997, produced a host of hits through their company MTM Productions. (Chris Pizzello/Associated Press)

She penned two memoirs, revealing in the first (1995's After All) her struggles with alcoholism and in the second (2009's Growing Up Again) her life dealing with diabetes.

Moore endured serious health issues in recent years, including surgery in 2011 to remove a benign tumour from her brain. She also suffered complications from her Type 1 diabetes, according to colleagues such as Dick Van Dyke, who told interviewer Larry King in 2015 that the illness has "taken a toll on her."

Moore is predeceased by her son, Richard, who died of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1980. She is survived by her third husband, Robert Levine.

Upon news of her death, tributes began to pour out from colleagues, friends and fans.

"Mary Tyler Moore's humour, style and vulnerability have had a profound influence on me as a television creator and on every woman I know working in television to upend expectations of traditional femininity," Girls star and creator Lena Dunham wrote in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Her remarkable presence and ahead-of-her-time ability to expose the condition of single working womanhood with humour and pathos will never be forgotten … I never met her and I'll love her forever. I know I'm one of millions."

Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, who co-starred with Moore in Ordinary People, said: "Mary was and is and now always will be, perfect. She was the perfect actor to work with, the performance she gave was perfect, painfully perfect, and the friendship she offered was perfect. I am in her thrall."

Mary Tyler Moore, seen here posing with a statue of herself in Minneapolis, Minn., has died at the age of 80. The statue depicts Moore tossing her hat into the air in an ode to the iconic opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. (Getty Images)

With files from Alice Hopton, Sheena Goodyear and Associated Press