Mary Tyler Moore, whose showbiz career began as Happy the Hotpoint Elf in the early '50s and went on to help define quality entertainment on TV in the '60s and '70s, has died of complications from pneumonia. She had just turned 80 last month.
Earlier, TMZ had broken the news that Moore was on her deathbed at a Connecticut hospital.
Moore's death was confirmed in a statement to Extra:
Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.
Moore's biggest early break came mostly off-screen, playing sultry Sam on Richard Diamond, Private Detective (1957—1960), a role she held in 1959, and which required only her killer legs and suggestive voice — she was never seen.
Along with many early-TV guest spots, Moore moved on to the role of Laura Petrie on the classic The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961—1966). Embodying pluck, a fresh face on traditional femininity and comic chops that kept up with veterans like Van Dyke, Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie, Moore became America's sweetheart, and made bank, allowing her to move forward in the future as a woman calling the shots.
Though hard to believe comparing the style and subject matter of the two shows, it was only four years later that her The Mary Tyler Moore Show aka Mary Tyler Moore debuted.
That series, on which she was a producer (and not in name only — she and then-hubby Grant Tinker had formed MTM Enterprises to produce the series), became one of the most celebrated in TV history for its unflinching, yet always amusing, look at topical issues and the battle of the sexes. Starring Moore as Mary Richards, a TV news producer awkwardly but ultimately successfully asserting herself as an equal in a male-dominated field — world! — the show was a feminist anthem for the eyes, and never not intelligently funny. (By the 2000s, Moore in real life had become a conservative, saying she would have campaigned for McCain/Palin had she been asked.)
The show's handling of the death of recurring character Chuckles the Clown and the series finale are consistently ranked as being among the finest sitcom episodes ever aired.
Mary's “Mister Graaaant!” is one of TV's most recognizable catchphrases.
Moore made several attempts to revive her TV everywoman role, never successfully. First, there was Mary, a 1978 musical variety show; then The Mary Tyler Moore Hour in 1979, about Mary McKinnon, who stars in her own variety show, with backing from Michael Keaton and Dody Goodman; then the sitcom Mary from 1985—1986 with James Farentino, John Astin and Katey Sagal; and finally there was the irritating TV movie Mary and Rhoda in 2000, in which Moore and Valerie Harper reprised their MTM characters, who were dealing with being unhappy middle-aged moms.
Moore appeared in a number of films, most effectively in Robert Redford's directorial debut, Ordinary People (1980), for which she won the Golden Globe and was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Other memorable movie roles came in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), Six Weeks (1982) and Flirting with Disaster (1996).
In recent years, Moore had devoted most of her time to her work fighting juvenile diabetes. In 2012, she accepted the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award.
Moore's final acting role was in a September 2013 episode of Hot in Cleveland that reunited her with all of the female Mary Tyler Moore actors.
She is survived by her third husband, to whom she was married for over 30 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. Her only child, a son, died of an accidental gunshot wound while handling a sawed-off shotgun in 1980.
Moore had been a part of two series — The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show — with casts who have lived far longer than many comparable shows. (No adults are left from Bewitched, for example.)
The Dick Van Dyke Show: Richard Deacon died at 63 in 1984, Jerry Paris died at 60 in 1986, Morey Amsterdam died at 87 in 1996 and Ann Morgan Guilbert, who played brassy neighbor Millie on the show, just died in 2016. Until now, though, The Dick Van Dyke Show had a relatively enviable record for longevity of primary and even many secondary cast members in comparison to later series. Major players still with us include Mr. Van Dyke, Carl Reiner and Rose Marie, all 90+.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show: This cast has also shown remarkable vitality. Aside from the death of Ted Knight, who lost a battle with cancer in the '80s at age 62, all of the other major and secondary players were still with us until today, including two in their nineties (Betty White, 95; Cloris Leachman, 90).