Emmy-winning actress Mary Tyler Moore, who brightened American television screens as the perky suburban housewife on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and then as a fledgling feminist on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” died on Wednesday at the age of 80, a representative said.
Moore, who won seven Emmy Awards for her television work, died in the company of friends and her husband, Dr. S. Robert Levine, representative Mara Buxbaum said in a statement.
She had been seriously ill over the past two years, when she was in and out of hospitals and suffered from heart and kidney problems, close friends said. She was a diabetic, and in 2011 she had a benign brain tumor removed.
Moore also was nominated in 1981 for an Academy Award for the film “Ordinary People,” playing a character very different from her TV roles – an icy woman coping with a suicide attempt by her 18-year-old son.
Robert Redford, who directed the movie, said in a statement that her “energy, spirit and talent created a new bright spot in the television landscape and she will be very much missed. The courage she displayed in taking on a role darker than anything she had ever done was brave and enormously powerful.”
Moore’s eponymous show and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” were both among the most popular sitcoms of their time, with the former ranking seventh and the latter No. 20 on TV Guide’s 2013 list of best television shows.
“There are no words. She was THE BEST!,” actor Dick Van Dyke said on Twitter. “We always said that we changed each other’s lives for the better.”
Moore, asked by Reuters in 2012 when she was given the SAG lifetime achievement award how she wanted to be remembered, said: “As a good chum. As somebody who was happy most of the time and took great pride in making people laugh when I was able to pull that off.”
Ed Asner, who acted alongside Moore in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” mourned her death on Twitter, writing: “#marytylermoore my heart goes out to you and your family. Know that I love you and believe in your strength.”
Longtime TV interviewer Larry King on Twitter called Moore “a dear friend and a truly great person. A fighter.”
Moore had emerged on television in the early 1960s when many of the women in leading roles were traditional, apron-wearing stay-at-home moms like June Cleaver on “Leave It to Beaver.”
Moore’s bright-eyed Laura Petrie character was prone to moaning “Oh, Rob!” at her husband in moments of exasperation on “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” but she chipped away at that stereotype. For one thing, she wore stylish pants rather than house dresses and styled her hair like Jacqueline Kennedy’s.
Moore’s Mary Richards character on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” went even farther. Mary Richards focused on her career as an assistant producer for the news show at television station WJM in Minneapolis and was determined to fulfill the lyrics of the show’s theme song – “You’re going to make it after all” – as she joyously flung her beret into the air in the show’s opening credits.
While she may have had conservative Midwestern values and been a bit naive and prim, 30-ish Mary Richards was, by 1970s television sitcom standards, a budding feminist. She lived on her own, was not hunting a husband and protested that she was not being paid as much as a male counterpart.