Mary Tyler Moore’s legend was made in television, where an inordinate amount of luck and a whole lot of talent scored her iconic roles in two of the best sitcoms of all time. In The Dick Van Dyke Show, her portrayal of Laura Petrie (wife to Van Dyke’s Rob) made her America’s Sweetheart. And her role as Mary Richards in her self-named The Mary Tyler Moore Show made her a feminist icon. Mary Tyler Moore also made and impact in the world of film as well. Moore died today at the age of 80, after losing a long battle with Type 1 diabetes and various illnesses it brought on.
Early in her career, Moore made her film debut in an uncredited role as a dance hall girl in 1958’s Rowan and Martin western farce, Once Upon a Horse… before moving onto guest appearances on TV shows. She made her credited film debut in 1961’s X-15 , a historical drama about the then-advanced airplane that opened the same year she started on The Dick Van Dyke Show.
When that series ended in 1966, she returned to the world of film under exclusive contract with Universal Studios. She made four films while under contract, most notably 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie and Elvis Presley’s last non-concert film, 1969’s Change of Habit, before returning to television with her self-named show.
It would eleven years before Mary Tyler Moore made another film, but that film would go on to define her film legacy. She was cast against type as Beth, a woman who finds the wrong way to deal with one sons death and another’s suicide attempt in Robert Redford’s 1980 film Ordinary People. The film would garner six Oscar nominations, including one for Moore as Best Actress. She was beat out for the award by Sissy Spacek for Coal Miner’s Daughter.
The Oscar nomination gave her film career a slight boost, as she made the two dramas–Six Weeks and Just Between Friends before going back to work on television in the mid-1980s.
Another role in the 1996 David O. Russell comedy Flirting With Disaster playing Ben Stiller’s adoptive mother led to more film roles in Keys To Tulsa, Labor Pains, and Cheats. Her final film was 2009’s Against the Current.