Mary Tyler Moore, who first won the hearts of American television audiences as Laura Petrie, a housewife who'd given up her career as a dancer on The Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1960s, and then again in the 70s as Mary Richards, a single local news producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has died. She was 80.

That 70s show "arrived alongside the Women's Movement, making her a role model for generations of women, even though Moore didn't consider herself a feminist," notes Luchina Fisher of ABC News. "The show, which centered on Richards's work as a producer in a fictional Minneapolis newsroom and her life as a single woman, earned 29 Emmy Awards, the most for any scripted series until Frasier won its 30th Emmy."

"Moore played opposite her TV persona and received an Oscar nomination for her performance as an icy mother struggling to connect with her son in Robert Redford’s best-picture winner Ordinary People (1980)," writes Mike Barnes in the Hollywood Reporter. For "his directorial debut, Redford cast Moore as Beth Jarrett, a frighteningly cold suburban mother who can't forgive her teenage son for living after his brother (her favorite son) dies…. Moore had a film contract with Universal early in her career. She appeared in such movies as X-15 (1961), Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), What's So Bad About Feeling Good? (1968), Don’t Just Stand There! (1968), Change of Habit (1969) opposite Elvis Presley, Six Weeks (1982) and Just Between Friends (1986)."


"In the 1996 movie Flirting with Disaster, Ms. Moore played with aplomb the mortifying adoptive mother of Ben Stiller’s character, who at one point lifts her shirt to show her son’s girlfriend how a bra should fit," writes Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times. "The influence of Ms. Moore’s Mary Richards can be seen in the performances of almost all the great female sitcom stars who followed her, from Jennifer Aniston to Debra Messing to Tina Fey, who has said that she developed her acclaimed sitcom 30 Rock and her character, the harried television writer Liz Lemon, by watching episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Many nonactresses also said that Ms. Moore—by playing a working single woman with such compassion and brio—inspired their performances in real life."

Updates, 1/27: "She was 23 years old, gorgeous of course, and had a kind of mid-Atlantic accent," begins Dick Van Dyke. "She sounded a little bit like Katharine Hepburn. My first question was, 'Can this girl do comedy?' After that I said, 'She’s a little young for me.' I got to be on hand and watch her grow into the talent she became. She was just the best."

Also in the Hollywood Reporter, James L. Brooks, who, with his partner Allan Burns, created The Mary Tyler Moore Show: "We’ve just had the women’s march, and you can’t not think of the qualities Mary had. They are the very things that we need so much right now. She had a dancer’s discipline and a dancer’s work ethic, which was extraordinary. I never recall there being a side issue—I really don’t, in seven years. It was always about the work, it was always about the script, it was always about the show…. The spirit of a show is created by its star, and she was generous, charming and graceful. And funny."

At Vulture, Jordan Crucchiola notes that, on The Frame, a podcast from NPR, David O. Russell talks about working with Moore on Flirting with Disaster: "She's an extraordinary woman. She was so hungry and excited about working and talking about this role, that I thought she had no chance of doing, that she became the character in the bar. And we borrowed a cigarette from another patron in the bar, and she just started being the character and put on sunglasses in the bar. And it kind of was amazing to me. And then I couldn't think of anybody else in the role."

Vulture's Devon Ivie recalls what Michelle Obama had to say about Moore last summer, noting that she "fondly recalled the ritual of watching the show with her family over dessert when she was a preteen: 'I was probably 10 or 11 when I saw that, and sort of started thinking, "You know what? Marriage is an option. Having a family is an option. And going to school and getting your education and building your career is another really viable option that can lead to happiness and fulfillment."' Oprah would definitely agree."

And then there's Matt Zoller Seitz at Vulture:

In a medium still dominated by men, covered by a press corps that still seems inclined to look for the next brooding and obsessive male auteur, we shouldn’t forget that Moore was an auteur herself, and one of the most important in TV history. Her acting career blazed new trails for women in the entertainment industry, and her work as a producer helped popularize TV sitcoms and dramas that weren’t plot- or even gag-driven, but built around characters’ emotions and needs. The astonishing evolution of scripted television in the last 20 years was preceded by the work of figures like Moore. When her most famous character, Mary Richards, tossed her hat in the air in the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–77), the medium instantly warmed to her sunbeam smile; over the next decade and beyond, her example liberated television in ways that it has only begun to understand.

"For me," writes Dana Stevens, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show was like a glimpse of what the best of adulthood might be like: to live in your own apartment with a big wooden initial on the wall, with your best friend right upstairs; to have a job in a real office, wear glamorous but practical outfits (I mean, come on) and do interesting work with funny, warm, sometimes crabby but ultimately lovable people. Who could want more than that? It never occurred to me that Mary Richards was lacking a man or living through any sort of temporary phase. Even though her crises of self-confidence, professional, romantic, or otherwise, made for the plot of many an episode, Mary’s self-sufficiency was to me axiomatic and central to what made her represent, to my under-10 self, pretty much the pinnacle of what could be expected from life."

Also at Slate, Willa Paskin: "Without Mary there is no Rachel Green, another irrepressibly lovable sitcom heroine, or Liz Lemon, another working woman managing the madness of a TV show, or Carrie Bradshaw, another woman exploring singledom without letting it swamp her. Without Mary Richards there isn’t Leslie Knope, whose indefatigable positivity and boundless ambition are Mary turned up to 100, or Hannah Horvath and all her willfully irksome ilk, characters conceived both in opposition to the contagiously likable Mary and also in her image, young working women devoted to figuring out exactly who they are. (Even Hannah Horvath sometimes falls asleep watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show.)"

And Slate's got a video tribute as well, to Moore's signature funny cry.


"She was a Mary for our time, a stunning manifestation of twentieth-century divine femininity, with the Mother’s patience, Magdalene’s grit, and a few pratfalls just for fun," writes Lisa Rosman.

Writing about Ordinary People in the Los Angeles Times, Justin Chang notes that "Moore’s performance is powerful in part because it represents such a cruel negation of her comic persona…. Beth Jarrett was a terrifying reversal, a version of Laura Petrie gone mesmerizingly wrong…. Her last film was the little-seen 2009 drama Against the Current, about a grief-stricken young man drifting hopelessly down the Hudson River. The movie was a slog, but at least there was Moore, popping up in a typically lively and enchantingly random cameo. She was a scene-stealer to the end—spirited, glorious, and anything but ordinary."

At RogerEbert.com, Susan Wloszczyna "would recommend the 1984 TV movie Heartsounds, based on a real-life story of a brusque New York City urologist (James Garner) who gets a taste of his own medicine as a heart patient who endures the indignities of the medical care system. Garner and Moore as his dedicated wife avoid sentiment and opt for a sophisticated adult relationship as they both battle to save his life."

"She was a woman of great paradoxes, successes and setbacks." April Wolfe discusses Moore's evolving politics in the LA Weekly.

John Patterson in the Guardian: "In the end, Mary Tyler Moore really did embody that most overused of terms; she was a cultural icon, her influence palpable, profound and widespread not just in the history of television, but as an inspiration and a role model for generations of girls and young women deciding, in an era of ingrained chauvinism and sexism, and in its long aftermath, to live free and independent lives determined by their own choices, not those of the men in their lives, if they deigned to have any. Yes, this one hurts."

More from Nick Schager (Yahoo! Movies), Rob Sheffield (Rolling Stone), David Sims (Atlantic) and John Swansburg (Slate).