Dec. 29th, 1936
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Mary Tyler Moore's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles2009 - Against the Current
2002 - Cheats
1996 - Flirting with Disaster
1981 - Ordinary People
1969 - Change of Habit
1967 - Thoroughly Modern Millie
1961 - X-15
Guest TV Roles
Christine St. George
Mary Tyler Moore was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, on December 29, 1936, though Moore's family relocated to California when she was eight. Her childhood was troubled, due in part to her mother's alcoholism. The oldest of three siblings, she attended a Catholic high school and married upon her graduation, in 1955. Her only child, Richie, was born soon after.
A dancer at first, Moore's first break in show business was in 1955, as a dancing kitchen appliance - Happy Hotpoint, the Hotpoint Appliance elf, in commercials generally broadcast during the popular TV program "The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet" (1952). She then shifted from dancing to acting, and work soon came, at first a number of guest roles on TV series, but eventually a recurring role as "Sam", Richard Diamond's sultry answering service girl, on "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" (1957), her performance being particularly notorious because her legs (usually dangling a pump on her toe) were shown instead of her face.
Although these early roles often took advantage of her willowy charms (in particular, her famously-beautiful dancer's legs), Moore's career soon took a more substantive turn as she was cast in two of the most highly regarded comedies in television history, which would air first-run for most of the Sixties and Seventies. In the first of these, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961), Moore played "Laura Petrie", the charmingly loopy wife of star Dick Van Dyke. The show became famous for its very clever writing and terrific comic ensemble - Moore and her fellow performers received multiple Emmy awards for their work. Meanwhile, she had separated from her first husband, and later married ad man (and, later, network executive) Grant Tinker.
After the end of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961), Moore focused on movie-making, co-starring in five between the end of the show and the start of "Mary Tyler Moore" (1970), including Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), in which she plays a ditsy aspiring actress, and an inane Elvis Presley vehicle, Change of Habit (1969), in which she plays a nun-to-be and love interest for Presley. Also included in this mixed bag of films was a first-rate TV movie, Run a Crooked Mile (1969) (TV), which was an early showcase for Moore's considerable talent at dramatic acting.
After trying her hand at movies for a few years, Moore decided, a bit reluctantly, to return to TV, but on her terms. The result was "Mary Tyler Moore" (1970), which was produced by MTM Enterprises, a company she had formed with Tinker, and which later went on to produce scores of other television programs. Moore starred as "Mary Richards", who moves to Minneapolis/St. Paul on the heels of a failed relationship. Mary finds work at the news room of WJM-TV, whose news program is the lowest-rated in the city, and establishes fast friendships with her colleagues and her neighbors. The show was a commercial and critical success and for years was a fixture of CBS television's unbeatable Saturday night line-up. Moore and Tinker were determined from the start to make the show a cut above the average, and it certainly was - instead of going for a barrage of gags, the humor took longer to develop, and arose out of the interaction between the characters in more realistic situations. It was also one of the earliest TV portrayals of a woman who was happy and successful on her own rather than simply being a man's wife. "Mary Tyler Moore" (1970) is generally included amongst the finest television programs ever produced in America.
Moore ended the show in 1977, while it was still on a high point, but found it difficult to flee the beloved "Mary Richards" persona - her subsequent attempts at television series, variety programs and specials (such as the mortifying disco-era Mary's Incredible Dream (1976) (TV)) usually failed, but even her dramatic work, which is generally excellent, fell under the shadow of "Mary Richards". With time, however, her body of dramatic acting came to be recognized on its own, with such memorable work as in Ordinary People (1980), as an aloof WASP mother who not-so-secretly resents her younger son's survival; in Finnegan Begin Again (1985) (TV), as a middle-aged widow who finds love with a man whose wife is slowly slipping away, in Lincoln (1988) (TV), as the troubled "Mary Todd Lincoln", and in Stolen Babies (1993) (TV), as an infamous baby smuggler (for which she won her sixth Emmy award). She also inspired a new appreciation for her famed comic talents in Flirting with Disaster (1996), in which she is hilarious as the resentful adoptive mother of a son who is seeking his birth parents. Moore has also acted on Broadway, and she won a Tony Award for her performance in "Whose Life Is It Anyway?".
Widely acknowledged as being much tougher and more high-strung than her iconic image would suggest, Moore has had a life with more than the normal share of ups and downs. Both of her siblings predeceased her, her sister Elizabeth of a drug overdose in 1978 and her brother of cancer after a failed attempt at assisted suicide, Moore having been the assistant. Moore's troubled son Richie shot and killed himself in what was officially ruled an accident in 1980. Moore has long been diagnosed an insulin-dependent diabetic, and had a bout with alcoholism in the mid-70s. Divorced from Tinker since 1981, she has been married to physician Dr. Robert Levine since 1983. Despite the opening credits of "Mary Tyler Moore" (1970), in which she throws a package of meat into her shopping cart, Moore is a vegetarian and a proponent of animal rights. She is an active spokesperson for both diabetes issues and animal rights. She and Levine live in Upstate New York and Manhattan.
- Son Richie's death in 1980 considered accidental, not suicide (hair trigger on gun went off - gun later removed from market for same reason).
- Left dancing for acting because it "lacked the spotlight," and she "really wanted to be a star."
- Appeared in the Broadway play "Sweet Sue" in 1988 with 'Lynn Redgrave' (qv) and a fully nude 'Barry Tubb' (qv).
- Met her husband, 'Dr. Robert Levine' (qv), when she took her mother to the hospital and he was the doctor.
- Walked out of the 'Neil Simon (I)' (qv) play "Rose's Dilemma" in December, 2003, citing problems with the playwright. Reportedly he sent her an insulting note prior to an appearance regarding her failure to memorize lines. The problem was that he had kept rewriting her lines and expected her to learn them on the spot. She was replaced by actress 'Patricia Hodges (I)' (qv), but the play closed two months later to poor reviews.
- (2001) She recently testified before Congress (along with actors 'Kevin Kline (I)' (qv) and 'Jonathan Lipnicki' (qv) and former astronaut 'Jim Lovell (I)' (qv), commander of Apollo 13) calling for an increase in funding for diabetes research and support embryonic stem cell research, which she called "truly life affirming." Also present in the hearing room were about 200 children with diabetes and their families, who were in town for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International Children's Congress 2001.
- Her sister, Liz, was born 3 months earlier than her own son. Elizabeth was born March 20, 1956, and Richie was born July 3; both in Los Angeles at Queen of Angels Hospital.
- Was paired with 'Richard Chamberlain (I)' (qv) in 1967 for "Holly Golightly," a musical adaptation of 'Truman Capote' (qv)'s earlier novel (and film), _Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)_ (qv). When it became obvious during pre-Broadway tryouts that no amount of play-doctoring was going to save a potentially disasterous show, producer 'David Merrick (I)' (qv) announced that he was closing the show one week prior to it's scheduled Broadway opening, as he put it, "out of consideration for the audience."