Mary Tyler Moore had an incredible career. When her show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, left the air in 1977, she was forty years old and had two classic hit shows under her belt. She was half-way through her life, and despite her fame and clout, she would find the next years very challenging.
She tried her luck with five other series, though none were successful. She worked in the theater, with varied success, and made a few feature films, the best of those, Ordinary People, gained her a Best Actress nomination.
Later in her career, she guest-starred in several television series and found that audiences enjoyed seeing her again, and took a variety of roles that were different from sweet Mary Richards. Hot in Cleveland, That 70’s Show and The Ellen Show gave her the freedom to have fun. Flirting With Disaster was a film for a much younger generation but her role won her great reviews and a chance to play against type.
By 1977, we had seen Mary Tyler Moore as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, women that broke down stereotypes but also typecast her in our minds. The cold, distant and angry character in Ordinary People was a great role, but one that was hard for many of us to accept. She wanted to break free of the typecasting but that was not easy, many of us wouldn’t let her do that.
Moore was also a trendsetter in another way, businesswoman and producer. She was a partner in MTM Productions, formed in 1970, it a company named after her, with her husband Grant Tinker, and studio executive Arthur Price. When they sold the company in 1988, it brought $322 million.
MTM was home to the The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Rhoda, Hill Street Blues, Lou Grant, Remington Steele, WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, St. Elsewhere and other shows. Writer/director James L. Brooks and producer Ed. Weinberger were part of the massive pool of creative talent at the MTM. It was described as the best possible place for creative people to work, it was supportive and the artistic vision came before business. That vision started with Moore, who established that for her show and it carried over into every other project. She was known for her down-to-earth approach, and although it was her name on the show, she looked at is an ensemble show and worked to share the spotlight, even if that meant giving away some of the best lines so others could shine.
Before MTM was sold, Moore used the company to produce some of the projects she was involved in, including some theatrical productions. Tinker had left the company in 1981, when he and Moore divorced and he became the CEO of NBC.
Moore settled in New York after her namesake show went off the air, and live there for the rest of her life. She wrote two books about her life, and in later years, battled health issues, overcame alcoholism, and raised millions of dollars for diabetes research.
“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” – Mary Tyler Moore
She also met her future husband. A cardiologist, he had treated her mother, and didn’t really know who Moore was. They were married for 33 years.
“Mary was fearless, determined, and willfull. If she felt strongly about something, or that there was truth to be told, she would do it, no matter the consequences,” her husband, Dr. Robert Levine told People magazine.
After MTM, Mary Tyler Moore really learned how to live. Everyone knew her, or knew the TV image of her, but they really didn’t know her. In many ways, she didn’t know herself either, but she figured it out, and had maybe her best years.
In her book, After All, she wrote:
“Sometimes I think I’m lucky to have been an alcoholic. It is not an irresponsible thing to say. Had I not been forced to confront myself, I might never have come to know and admire that person I am.”