(RNN) – America’s favorite girl-next-door for seven seasons on the beloved Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Best Actress nominee in 1981 for her role in Ordinary People has died, according to the Associated Press.
Moore died surrounded by family and friends at a hospital in Connecticut, her publicist Mara Buxbaum told AP.
The show broke barriers in 1970s television, portraying a 30-something a single woman working in a TV newsroom in Minneapolis. The show signified a cultural shift in the country as more women entered the workplace. The introduction of the show where she tossed her beret into the air showed that the girl next door was smart and could be career-minded.
The show won 29 Emmys and Moore brought home four Emmys for her role as Mary Richards, who moved to Minneapolis to start over after breaking off an engagement.
Before she starred as an associate producer at perennial last-place affiliate WJM, Moore played housewife Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show for five seasons.
Born of “impoverished nobility” in Brooklyn, NY, in 1936, Moore said she was a natural performer almost from birth. She married her first husband, Richard Carleton Meeker, in 1955 at the age of 18.
“My grandfather once said, having watched me one entire afternoon prancing and leaping and cavorting, ‘This child will either end up on stage or in jail.’ Fortunately, I took the easy route,” she once quipped.
She was nominated for nine Golden Globes, winning three for her work in the Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Ordinary People respectively.
In spite of all her success, acting was not her original plan.
“I wanted to be a dancer. In fact, so much as, that I will go to my grave feeling a failed dancer rather than a successful actress,” she once joked in an interview with the Archive of American Television. “You don’t let go to those childhood dreams and images.”
Still, dancing would help her get her foot in the Hollywood door and pave the way for acting. Moore landed her first acting gig as Happy Hotpoint, a dancing elf shilling Hotpoint appliances during the Ozzie and Harriet Show.
After a number of dancing roles, Moore found out “being a chorus girl was less than a fulfilling artistic endeavor,” and found an agent who advised her, “Don’t do anymore dancing on television.”
She eventually auditioned for the role of Danny Thomas’ daughter on Make Room for Daddy, but Thomas, well known for his trademark hook nose, told her “With a nose like yours, kid, no one would believe you’re my daughter.”
While her nose may have been too small to play his offspring, Thomas would remember her and she was later invited to audition as Laura Petrie, wife of Rob Petrie, played by Dick Van Dyke on the Dick Van Dyke Show.
She won the role, two Emmys and the attention of the legendary Lucille Ball, who once told her “You’re very good.”
“That was the greatest gift I ever received in this business. I don’t think I have another moment that compares with the impact of those words,” Moore said.
She’d also eventually win the heart of Grant Tinker, an advertising man she met on the set and who became her second husband.
“It was love at first meeting, it felt very, very special,” she said.
In 1969, she and Tinker would establish MTM Enterprises, a production company behind The Mary Tyler Moore Show, as well as some of the most successful show of the ’70s and ’80s, including The Bob Newhart Show, as well as spinoffs for Mary Tyler Moore Show characters Lou Grant, Mary’s grumpy boss played by Ed Asner, and Rhoda Morgenstern, her funny best friend, played by Valerie Harper.
The company’s trademark meowing kitten was a nod to MGM’s roaring lion.
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