By Liz Raftery,
TV legend Mary Tyler Moore died Wednesday at Greenwhich Hospital in Greenwich, Conn. at the age of 80, according to reports.
Moore’s family told the New York Times that her official cause of death was pneumonia and that she had been removed from a respirator Tuesday evening.
She had been in poor health in recent years, with Dick Van Dyke telling Larry King in 2015 that she was nearly blind and unable to communicate. In 2011, Moore had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor.
Though she was a prolific theater and film actress, Moore is best remembered for her pioneering work on television as the creator and star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Born in Brooklyn, Moore and her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was 8 years old. As a teen, she appeared in several TV commercials as “Happy Hotpoint,” a dancing elf. She left the job after becoming pregnant at age 18, six weeks after marrying her first husband, Richard Carleton Meeker. (They divorced in 1961.) Her first role as a series regular was as the receptionist on Richard Diamond, Private Detective, though her face was never shown.
After several guest-starring roles in movies and on TV, Moore was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961 as the wife of Van Dyke’s character. The part earned her international fame as well as an Emmy award.
In the wake of her success on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Moore and her husband, CBS executive Grant Tinker, founded a production company and pitched a sitcom to CBS that would feature Moore as the central character. The Mary Tyler Moore Show,starring Moore as a single woman trying to balance her work and home life,was picked up, and co-starred Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman (all of whom went on to star in their respective spin-offs, Lou Grant, Rhoda and Phyllis) and Betty White. (Tinker died in November.)
Over the course of seven seasons from 1970 to 1977, the show won 29 Emmy awards and notched its place in history as one of the first series to depict a single woman in the workplace. Moore and Tinker’s company, MTMEnterprises, also produced the spin-offs, as well as The Bob Newhart Show, WRKP in Cincinnati, St. Elsewhereand Hill Street Blues. They sold the company in the 1980s.
In the late 1970s, Moore produced and starred in several musical/variety specials for CBS, with supporting players including Van Dyke, John Ritter, David Letterman and Michael Keaton. Unfortunately, a number of attempts to get a full-fledged variety series off the ground never panned out, and several of Moore’s projects were canceled within a couple of months.
Moore returned to the sitcom world in the mid-’80s and ’90s with a number of short-lived shows including Mary, Annie McGuire and New York News. She later had memorable guest-starring roles on Ellen, The Ellen Show, That ’70s Show and Hot in Cleveland. She was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1986 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Comedy Awards the following year.
In 1995, Moore released her first of two memoirs, in which she stated that she is a recovering alcoholic. Her second memoir, released in 2009, chronicles her struggle living with Type 1 diabetes. Her son, Richard, died in 1980 at the age of 24 after accidentally shooting himself while handling a shotgun. Moore and Tinker divorced in 1981 and she married her third husband, Robert Levine, in 1983.
In addition to the six Emmy awards she won over her career, Moore also received three Golden Globes and two Tony Awards. She also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance as a grieving mother in 1980’s Ordinary People, and was a recipient of the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.
Moore was also an outspoken activist for several political causes, including animal rights issues. She was also the International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
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