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Mary Tyler Moore (born December 29, 1936) is an Academy Award-nominated American actress and comedian, perhaps best known for The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), in which she starred as Mary Richards, a 30-something single woman who worked as a news producer at WJM-TV in Minneapolis, and for her role as Laura Petrie, wife of television comedy writer Rob Petrie (played by Dick Van Dyke) on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966). Moore played leading roles in two of the most fondly remembered classic comedy series, making a tremendous impact on television over two decades.
She has also appeared in various films over the years. Her best-remembered performance came in 1980s Ordinary People, which garnered her an Oscar nomination for a role that was the polar opposite of the characters viewers had become accustomed to seeing her portray on television. She has also been active in charity work and various political causes, particularly diabetes and animal rights.
The eldest of three siblings, Moore was born in 1936 in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York to George Tyler Moore and Marjorie Hackett. She moved to California when she was eight years old. She attended Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic school in Brooklyn; St. Ambrose School Los Angeles on Fairfax; and the exclusive Immaculate Heart High School on Los Feliz Boulevard in Hollywood, California conducted by the cutting-edge nuns of the California Institute of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary of the Blessed Virgin Mary (now known as the Immaculate Heart Community).
At the age of 17, Moore started with a role as "Happy Hotpoint" on television commercials broadcast during Ozzie and Harriet. During these commercials she would dance around on the Hotpoint (a General Electric subsidiary) appliances. (Her time as "Happy Hotpoint" ended when her pregnancy, with her only child Richard, became too obvious for her to hide any longer, according to Moore in her autobiography.)
She later appeared in several bit parts in movies and on TV shows, including Bourbon Street Beat, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside Six, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Steve Canyon, and Hawaiian Eye. Moore anonymously modeled on the covers of a number of record albums and auditioned for the role of the older daughter of Danny Thomas for his long-running hit TV show, but was turned down. Much later, Thomas explained that "no daughter of mine could have that [little] nose." Moore's first regular television role was as a telephone receptionist on the show Richard Diamond, Private Detective; in that series, only her legs were shown. (She was canned from the show when she asked for a raise. She was replaced with another actress, also only visible by her legs [also from Moore's autobiography].)
In 1961, Carl Reiner cast her in The Dick Van Dyke Show, an acclaimed weekly series based on Reiner's own life and career as a writer for Sid Caesar's television variety show, telling the cast from the outset that it would run no more than five years. Moore's energetic comedic performances as Van Dyke's character's wife, begun at age 23, made both the actress and her signature tight capri pants extremely popular, and she became nationally famous. When she won an Emmy award for her portrayal of Laura Petrie, she said, through her tears, quite incorrectly, "I know this will never happen again!"
In 1970, after having appeared earlier in a pivotal one-hour musical special called "Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman," Moore was cast in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a half-hour newsroom sitcom featuring Ed Asner as her gruff boss Lou Grant, a character that would later be spun off into an hour-long dramatic series. The premise of the single working woman's life, alternating during the program between work and home, became a television staple that would often be used in the future. After six years of high ratings in the top 20, the show slipped to number #39 during its seventh season. Producers argued for its cancellation due to its falling ratings, afraid that the show's legacy might be damaged if it were renewed for another season. This was to the surprise of the entire cast including Mary Tyler Moore herself when they were all told they would soon be filming their final episode. After the announcement, the series finished strongly and the final show was by far the most watched show during the week it aired. The series had become a touchpoint of the Women's Movement because it was the first to show, in a serious way, an independent working woman.
After a brief respite, Moore threw herself into a completely different genre. She attempted two failed variety series in a row: Mary, which featured David Letterman and Michael Keaton in the supporting cast and lasted three episodes, and The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, which was canceled within three months. About this time, she also made a one-off musical/variety special for CBS, titled "Mary's Incredible Dream", which featured John Ritter, among others. It did poorly in the ratings and, according to Moore, was never repeated and will likely never see the light of day again because of legal problems surrounding the show.
In the 1985-86 season, she returned to CBS in "Mary", which suffered from poor reviews, sagging ratings, and internal strife within the production crew. According to Moore, she asked CBS to pull the show, as she was unhappy with the direction of the program and the producers.
She also starred in the unsuccessful "dramedy", "Annie McGuire", in 1988.
In 2004, Moore reunited with her Dick Van Dyke Show castmates for a reunion "episode" called The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. In August 2005, Moore guest-starred as Christine St. George, a high-strung host of a fictional TV show on three episodes of Fox sitcom That '70s Show. Moore's scenes were shot on the same soundstage where The Mary Tyler Moore Show was filmed in the 1970s.
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