For some of you she’s Mary Richards. Maybe you know her as Laura Petrie. For my generation and many that followed she will always be that feisty, independent brunette with an ear to ear smile. And while it’s her two long-running series that we will continue to watch and enjoy, it was her exceptional dramatic performance in Robert Redford’s directorial debut, Ordinary People, that earned her an Academy Award nomination. I interviewed Redford at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival three years ago, and this is what he said.
“I’ve always liked the idea of going off in casting, going off-center. Mary Tyler Moore was America’s sweetheart, you know. The Dick Van Dyke Show was fantastic. Really, really, funny, funny show. And she was great. I had a place on the beach in Malibu. I’m sitting on this fall or winter day and there’s nobody on the beach. I’m sitting there looking out at the ocean and suddenly I see this figure walking by. She’s all bundled up and it’s Mary Tyler Moore; she had a place down the beach. When she was walking by, she was all bundled up, all alone and that wasn’t the Mary Tyler Moore I had seen on television. She was deep in thought, thinking something and I thought, “Hmm.” And it stuck in my head. Then years later, I guess that image came back to me [for Ordinary People]. I said, ‘You know, maybe Mary Tyler Moore’ and the studio thought I was nuts. They said, ‘You can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Well…’ I met with her and she agreed to do it and that was a very brave move on her part.”
The toss of her hat (which has been immortalized with a statue in Minnesota), her wonderful chemistry with Dick Van Dyke, that beautiful and unforgettable grin. Actress, singer, comedienne, role model, producer, philanthropist. Mary Tyler Moore was all of those things–and she will be dearly missed.