Mary Tyler Moore Remembered

By Littleton, Cynthia | Variety, January 31, 2017 | Go to article overview

Mary Tyler Moore Remembered


Littleton, Cynthia, Variety


About halfway through the seven-season run of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," a week came when Moore had to spend a few days in the hospital for a minor procedure.

Work on the CBS comedy continued Monday through Thursday, with co-star Betty White subbing for Moore during the table read, script revisions, and blocking. By Friday, Moore was back on the CBS Radford lot for the final run-through and taping - and she nailed every line and set-up with ease.

"She was perfect," recalls Jay Sandrich, who directed 119 of the 168 episodes of "Mary Tyler Moore" during its 1970-77 run. Sandrich says his memory of that week came back to him as he grappled with the news of her death Jan. 25 at the age of 80.

The depth of Moore's understanding of her TV alter-ego, the plucky Mary Richards, was a gift to everyone who worked on the show. "Everybody loved her," Sandrich says. "What happens usually in comedy is there's a person at the top who will not be happy about things, who constantly wants to change something. Mary wasn't like that.

She would talk with all of us all of the time. Sometimes she would suggest changes, but she never demanded anything. We all got along really well. It was just a pleasure to work there."

Moore's death prompted an outpouring of commentary about the show's influence, given its groundbreaking portrayal of a woman more focused on her career than on finding a husband. It was Moore's comedic instincts and acting skill that made the character so real and inspiring to fans.

"Mary was absolutely the best comedic actress I have ever in my life seen or worked with," says Allan Burns, "Mary Tyler Moore" co-creator and co-showrunner, with James L. Brooks. "She was not only brilliantly funny, she was vulnerable. She did not play it as a feminist heroine. She was a real person, fighting her way through."

Off-screen, Moore was warm and selfeffacing, and occasionally shy. She made pillows for cast members and producers to commemorate the show's success.

Burns emphasized that she displayed uncommon generosity toward co-stars. …

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