Saturday, January 28, 2017

REDS Remember Mary Tyler Moore

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: What a shock it was to read of the passing of Mary Tyler Moore. She was such an icon, such a central fixture in the public imagination, it seems hard to believe she could get old and die like regular mortals. That lanky, elegant figure, that swoop of brunette hair, that distinctive voice and million megawatt smile - all tied together with perfect comedic timing and the ability to convey a whole monologue in one glance.

She had a five-decade long career, but The Mary Tyler Moore show is what she'll be most remembered for. It's hard to imagine now how revolutionary it was to see a single career woman holding her own back in the early seventies. Mary Richards dated, but her life wasn't about finding a man. It was about her job, and her coworkers and friends. The show touched - lightly, amusingly - on sex, birth control, equal pay and equal opportunity, but it was Mary herself, happy and fulfilled in an office instead of wearing an apron at home, that changed perceptions and showed a different kind of life to millions of girls and young women. It feels like all of us have lost a beloved, flag-waving, feminist aunt.

Reds, what are your memories of Mary Tyler Moore?

Jenn: As a Gen-X, latchkey kid, I feel as if I was raised by Laura Petrie ("Oh, Rob!") and Mary Richards ("You've got spunk!) and I couldn't have asked for finer role models in my after school rerun watching TV time. Laura Petrie was so funny and charming and hip, while Mary was smart and clever and valued her people. As I watched her, I really believed that I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it. What a gift for a young girl to have. What an impact to make on several generations of women. Mary Tyler Moore really could turn the world on with her smile.

HALLIE EPHRON: As a Baby Boomer, I desperately wanted her hair. That perfect flip. Of course I watched the show every week. And when I came to New York to meet with my editor for the first time, and came up out of the subway to see the Flatiron Building looming over me, it was Mary I channeled (even though I knew I wasn't in Minneapolis)... if I'd been wearing a hat I'd have flung it up in the air. "You're gonna make it after a-all!"

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, I cannot begin to tell you. A woman in television? Huh. I was actually working at my first TV station in 1975 and in Indianapolis--so you can imagine how hilariously must-see that show was! And the people were perfect--I still don't know how they completely understood and portrayed the types and the dynamics.  It makes me shake my head with nostalgia just thinking about it--I was in exactly the same milieu at the time it was on. We all got courage from Mary! She was so tough and vulnerable at the same time--I love when she got spunky. How did that go--didn't she hate being called spunky?  And my mother :-) got the two of us completely conflated.

RHYS BOWEN: Oh how I envied that hair! Especially when she was Laura Petrie and it flipped up in a way mine never would. I enjoyed her as Mary Richards much more because I'd worked for the BBC and I'd met some of those characters. However at the BBC I have to say that on the whole women were treated absolutely equally so it was a shock to me to find that women in other jobs were not treated like men. I was glad Mary was a role model for young women demanding equal treatment and respect.
But I'll always remember Mary for her role in Ordinary People--what a stretch for someone who had played adorable comedy. We've had a horrible twelve months of loss of our icons, haven't we. Enough, grim reaper!

INGRID THOFT:  I have to admit that I wasn't quite old enough to watch "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" when it was first on air, but I do remember catching the occasional rerun and thoroughly enjoying it.  Like Rhys, I remember MTM best for her role in "Ordinary People."  She gave a tour de force performance as the brittle, unforgiving mother, evidence of her extraordinary range.  The other thing that comes to mind when I think of MTM?  She married a man fifteen years her junior at a time when women just weren't doing that sort of thing.  Her choice of spouse was another instance in which she was blazing new paths and proving that anything men could do, women could do, too.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I grew up on Dick Van Dyke. It was my parents favorite show, and that was the only night that we were allowed to eat in the den on TV tables--what a treat! I think my dad had a big crush on MTM--she was his ideal woman. Recently I saw two episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show that had been colorized (did anyone else see those?) and her comedic timing was just brilliant. The Mary Tyler Moore show didn't make as much of an impression on me--those were years when I didn't watch much TV at all--but I watched enough to see my own role differently when I went out into the work world. Groundbreaking.

LUCY BURDETTE: I loved both of those shows too, but like Rhys and Ingrid, ORDINARY PEOPLE is the performance that sticks in my mind. (One of my all-time favorite movies.) After I saw it, I remember telling my father (who was married to an emotionally withholding woman) that he must go see it too. He must have heard something dire in my voice because he snuck off to see the movie without the wife. I think Mary Tyler Moore helped him get out of a lousy relationship!

READERS, what do you remember most about Mary Tyler Moore?


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  2. Like everyone else, I appreciated how her work affected the lives of women.
    I remember Mary on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the iconic “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” There were several short-lived series after the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” . . . “Mary” in which she played an older, slightly jaded Mary Richards-type character. Perfect comedy. And yet another newspaper series, “New York News,” a drama in which Mary portrayed the head of a New York City newspaper; the story revolved around the paper and its reporters. Neither series found an audience quickly and, in the way of networks, did not find a niche before cancellation. But both showcased the talents of this remarkable actress.

    Most of all, however, I so enjoyed her dramatic performances [as Mary Todd Lincoln; as a baby smuggler] . . . “Ordinary People” was simply amazing.

    She will be missed . . . .

  3. Mary? Where to begin? But oh, those Dick Van Dyke Show episodes. I remember them all so well. My favourite ever line from DVD, Laura in this scene:

    Laura gets a phone call from Sally that upsets her horribly.

    Rob keeps trying to guess what it could possibly be. Finally...

    Rob: You're not going to have another....?
    Laura: No, no.... [beat] Would Sally call and tell me that?

    (In case you're wondering, it turns out Sally was at an art gallery and saw a nude painting of Laura)

  4. My memories of Mary Tyler Moore:

    I remember the opening scenes of the Mary Tyler Moore show. This was years before any tv shows had subtitles. That was one of my first memories as a young child. I had a kindergarten teacher who looked like her. A friend's mom had the hair flip like hers. Recently I had seen the Dick Van Dyke reruns with subtitles on cable tv and she was Laura Petrie.

    I remember when she was in the movie Ordinary People with Donald Sutherland and Tim Hutton. I think Robert Redford was the director. I think I saw her in other roles too.

    Still surprised that she lived as long as she did!

    Rhys, your story about the BBC resonated with me because I have two Deaf friends who worked in television. One Deaf friend had an internship with NBC News in Washington DC (horrid experience) and another Deaf friend had an internship with the BBC in London. She had positive experiences with the BBC. She told us that they treated her with respect. Even though she had a profound hearing loss, they treated her equally.


  5. What I remember most about MTM in both the DVD Show and the MTM Show was that she was so relatable to ordinary women. Sure, she had that great smile and her hair was perfect--but these characters were full of emotion and quirks and uncertainties and humor and honesty. In her personal life, off-screen, she was classy--no drunken celebrity melt-downs, no parade of new 'loves.'

  6. Mary Tyler Moore was just always there as I was growing up -- I graduated from high school the same year the MTM Show ended. I agree with everything that has been said already. In fact, the only thing I'll add, for the sake of variety, is this: Does no one else remember the movie she did with Elvis? He was a doctor and she was a nun dressed in plain clothes, they felt a strong attraction, and she had to eventually choose between her calling and Elvis. It was pretty schlocky, but at the same time, I still remember it.

  7. I felt as if I lost a close friend when I saw the obit.

    I remember the Dick Van Dyke Show, but I was of an age to take Mary as a role model during the Mary Tyler Moore show (I even had a wooden K on my wall just like Mary's M). Her passing leaves a hole in the heart of the world.

  8. I will remember Mary Tyler Moore for being such a classy actress and person. I loved watching The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in reruns growing up. When I graduated and got a job in a new city, watching the MTM show helped me get through some tough patches. I too loved her performance in Ordinary People. I also really enjoyed it when she did movies with Sam Waterston as I thought they were so cute together. Having two siblings living with Type 1 diabetes, I really appreciate everything she did for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as well.

    Now I heard that yesterday Sir John Hurt died. This really has not been a good 12 months for losing our favorite entertainers.

  9. I've been going through YouTube looking for more MTM and discovered the TV movie of her and Dick van Dyke reuniting for THE GIN GAME is free online! Wonderful performances that remind you they were/are much more than strictly comedians.

  10. My youngest daughter, at her wedding two and a half year ago, had a talent show on the Friday night. She and her groom did a song and dance that they got from an old "Dick Van Dyke Show." It was so wonderful -- to see young people paying tribute to such great performers.

    Love, love, love MTM -- not only was she a great role model on screen, but her off-screen work as a producer and in defense of animals was also inspiring.

    Fun to think of Hank as MTM!!

    1. Wow Denise, what a fun idea to have a talent show before the wedding!

      Love all your memories of M TM

  11. My grown son and I were just talking about her last night. He'd heard a replay of an interview Terry Gross on NPR did with her years ago. MTM was the first TV mom who didn't wear that frickin' shirtwaist dress, heels, and pearls to do her housework in.
    I really related to trials and travails of Mary Richards working in "a man's world." As I told my son, same damn work for less pay. My very favorite running joke in the show was how fabulously disastrous her dinner parties were.

  12. Pat D, one of my favorite thimgs about the MTM show was that her parties were disasters! I also liked the fact that Mary Richards was not perfect, that she was sometimes insecure, and that her insecurities were always portrayed humorously.

    My dad died suddenly in 1978; he was somewhat younger than I am now. For many months after, I had trouble sleeping. At that time there were middle of the night reruns of the MTM show. Laughing at the program while drinking warm milk got me through many sleepless nights.

    I admired her for her work in support of the Juvenile Diabetes foundation, and for her honesty about her struggles with alcoholism.

    It's hard to believe that she was 80; I still picture her as a young woman!

    Deb Romano

  13. Mary Tyler Moore was front and center in my growing up. The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran from 1961-1966, took me from elementary school to beginning junior high, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, 1970-1977, took me through sophomore year in high school and on through college into my first year of marriage. Talk about being there during my formative years. I loved both shows and thought Mary was so beautiful and funny and smart. Then, her powerful performance in Ordinary People showed me how versatile an actress she really was. Her passing does feel rather like a part of my youth being laid to rest.

    And, of course, while Mary Tyler Moore was entertaining us, she had a real life that was riddled with some hard knocks. Her sister's death at 21, her brother's death at 47, and her son's death at 24. Her alcoholism and diabetes. Her failed marriage to Grant Tinker, husband and business partner. But, she did seem to have that Mary Richards "I'm going to make it after all" resilience, which made us love her even more. I think we all cheered for her when she married her mother's doctor, Richard Levine, who was 18 years her junior (looked this up to make sure of the age difference). I thought it was great that she married a younger man, who apparently was devoted to her for 33 years. Like everyone else who loved this character, this woman, I wanted her to have her happy ending. And, in her rising above her problems, she helped others. Her work on behalf of juvenile diabetes, her public visit to Betty Ford, and her commitment to animals were all evidence of her strength and her ability to take charge.

    I watched the special on TV last night about Mary Tyler Moore, and she was asked what she regretted. It made me sad to hear her say that she regretted not having more children, as now she had no grandchildren to enjoy. Knowing how much my granddaughters mean to me and how they light up my life, I feel sorry that our beloved Mary didn't have that.

  14. Oh my gosh. My son just reminded me of the infamous Chuckles the Clown episode.

  15. There's a marathon on the Sundance Channel of the last season of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

  16. Sunny you should post this today. I finally took my Christmas decorations down, and I've been watching my season one MTM DVD's to keep me company. I haven't seen much of the Dick Van Dyke show, but I love the Mary Tyler Moore show. It was one of the 5 shows I was going to allow myself to buy on DVD when they started releasing show. One of my all time favorites.

    It's probably me, but I don't see it as groundbreaking. I love the comedy and the characters. I get how it was groundbreaking, but I enjoy the entertainment. The fact that it is both shows how special it really still is.

  17. So weird! For the past two days I have put up comments, and they have disappeared… Oh well… See you all tomorrow!