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December 18, 2014

Mary Tyler Moore Interview for Best of the '70s TV

by Kim Potts, posted Jun 22nd 2009 6:01AM
Mary Tyler MooreShe won an Emmy as capri-pants-sporting '60s housewife Laura Petrie on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and earned an Oscar nod for her dramatic turn as an embittered mother in 'Ordinary People,' but for most fans, Mary Tyler Moore will always be Mary Richards, the WJM-TV employee who could turn the world on with her smile on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.'

As the seminal workplace comedy tops AOL TV's list of the best shows of the 1970s, the 72-year-old Moore, who won four Emmys for her 'MTM Show' performance, tells us which are her favorite episodes, why 'MTM' almost didn't make it to air, the current shows she'd like to guest-star on ... and what inspired her to attack a man with her fists.Mary Tyler MooreShe won an Emmy as capri-pants-sporting '60s housewife Laura Petrie on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' and earned an Oscar nod for her dramatic turn as an embittered mother in 'Ordinary People,' but for most fans, Mary Tyler Moore will always be Mary Richards, the WJM-TV employee who could turn the world on with her smile on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.'

As the seminal workplace comedy tops AOL TV's list of the best shows of the 1970s, the 72-year-old Moore, who won four Emmys for her 'MTM Show' performance, tells us which are her favorite episodes, why 'MTM' almost didn't make it to air, the current shows she'd like to guest-star on ... and what inspired her to attack a man with her fists. -- By Kimberly Potts

Congratulations, 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' topped our countdown of the best TV shows of the '70s! There are so many classic episodes of the series, but can you point to one as your favorite?
Well, thank you, and I can't tell you what a treat it is to know that [AOL TV] found our show good enough to make it your favorite in the '70s ... I think 'Chuckles Bites the Dust' is everybody's favorite, and it's certainly mine too, and the hair bump show. That's a good one, where just everything fell apart for Mary. [Another] of my favorites was when I sat in the living room alone, by myself, thinking about memories of being a ballet dancer. I opened the trunk that served as a coffee table and took out my toe shoes, because that's what I really wanted to be, a ballet dancer. I was fondling them with great admiration and then I actually put them on and gathered all of my strength and got up so that I was now standing en pointe. And then I let out an incredible cry of pain. And you could see that, if Mary had any doubts at all about having made the right choice, not being a ballerina was the right choice, no question.




Is it true that when the show first premiered critics panned it?
No, not true. But there were several critics who were mean enough to say before they had even seen it that they doubted it would be good ... I think it was a lack of confidence in me as an actress. What could I do, what could I bring to this venture as its star? And everybody was thinking, well, she's very pleasant, she's very nice, and she does have a sense of humor, but they didn't want to dive into it any further than that. So they just expected a zero -- and were surprised when they didn't get it ... After they saw it, everybody admitted, even if it was embarrassing to their reputation for picking out the good ones, that it was a very, very fine show.

Were you sold on the series right away when it was presented to you?
Oh yes, absolutely, no question. I had originally ... I don't know if it was my idea ... I think it was probably their idea ... to make it about a woman who strikes out on her own to make it as a newswoman on TV somewhere, or in TV, and we talked to CBS about that. And they said no, it can't be, because if she is on TV and she's not married, people will think she divorced Dick Van Dyke, and we can't have that. So then they came up with the story that I was supporting [a boyfriend] who had been in med school. I was bringing him through that, helping him with money and moral support and all of that. And that's how it happened. In the end, after all of that support that I gave him, he walked out on me, so it was really a sad event for Mary Richards.

Have you been surprised at how much the show became a symbol of and a source of inspiration for single career women?
I'm still surprised at that. Yes, I never dreamed that it would touch so many people, in particular women, in the way that it has. And when I say that, I'm talking about Oprah Winfrey on air, seeing that I was a surprise guest on her show .. she didn't know about it, and she burst into tears and they had to stop production, because she couldn't stop crying. It's truly amazing to me, the level that that show reached, and reaches still.



People associate you so much with Minneapolis, because of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' but you were actually born in Brooklyn?
I was. I was ... my father always reminded, "born in Brooklyn Heights of impoverished nobility." [Laughs] And we do have quite a family lineage. I've got the portraits, there are about eight family portraits, that go back to the early 1700s, when the first Moore arrived from London. He had hidden on a tea ship, and that's how he came to America, with only a couple of dollars in his pocket. And then after much time wisely spent, he became a lawyer and a farmer, which, in that era, in the south, is what most people did.

So he should throw his hat up in the air too, because he made it for the Moore family. How did that famous 'Mary Tyler Moore Show' opening come about, where you toss your hat up in the air?
Well, it was winter [when] we were shooting that, and it was truly freezing cold, and they wanted a shot of, I don't know what the shot was supposed to be, but something like being in the middle of traffic and just enjoying where you are. And so somebody said, "She's going to freeze if you don't get her out of this weather!" And someone was carrying my suitcase with all the stuff that I brought -- jackets, hats, boots and things -- and someone said to put this hat on, that'll help. And then I went out into this traffic, which had seemed to slow down, and I thought that was good, and I was feeling warmer, so I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I threw my hat in the air, in exhilaration and pride?" And so I took it off and threw it up in the air. And that's how it happened. It was just like so many things on that show, in that it was born of spontaneity, born of, "let's try this, let's try that," and we did all right.

Would you ever consider doing another series at this point?
I don't think so. I don't think another series unless I was a secondary character. I am sitting down these days with Bill Persky, who was one of the top writers on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' and we're talking about doing a one-woman show that would, in part, be my recollections of ['The Dick Van Dyke Show' and 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'] and what was going on in my own personal life, but also some songs and some special material. But we haven't gotten very far yet. We're just up to the knowledge that it would be a lot of work.


Mary Tyler Moore Photos

    WASHINGTON - MAY 208: Actress Mary Tyler Moore, international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation speaks at a National Press Club Luncheon to discuss a cure for diabetes at the National Press Club on May 28, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

    Getty Images

    Actress/author Mary Tyler Moore poses for pictures before signing copies of "Mary Tyler Moore: Growing Up Again" at Barnes & Noble Union Square on April 7, 2009 in New York City. Mary Tyler Moore Signs Copies Of "Mary Tyler Moore: Growing Up Again" - April 7, 2009 Barnes & Noble Union Square New York, NY United States April 7, 2009 Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage.com To license this image (57152366), contact WireImage.com

    Gary Gershoff/WireImage.com

    Actress/author Mary Tyler Moore poses for pictures before signing copies of "Mary Tyler Moore: Growing Up Again" at Barnes & Noble Union Square on April 7, 2009 in New York City. Mary Tyler Moore Signs Copies Of "Mary Tyler Moore: Growing Up Again" - April 7, 2009 Barnes & Noble Union Square New York, NY United States April 7, 2009 Photo by Gary Gershoff/WireImage.com To license this image (57152304), contact WireImage.com

    Gary Gershoff/WireImage.com

    NEW YORK - APRIL 07: Mary Tyler Moore attends a book signing of "Growing Up Again" by Mary Tyler Moore at Barnes & Noble, Union Square on April 7, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mary Tyler Moore

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - APRIL 01: (NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from ABC News, Mary Tyler Moore is interviewed on "Good Morining America" April 01, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mary Tyler Moore

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - APRIL 01: (NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from ABC News, Mary Tyler Moore (L) is interviewed by Diane Sawyer on "Good Morining America" April 01, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Diane Sawyer;Mary Tyler Moore

    Getty Images

    NEW YORK - APRIL 01: (NO SALES; NO ARCHIVE) In this handout from ABC News, Mary Tyler Moore (L) is interviewed by Diane Sawyer on "Good Morining America" April 01, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Diane Sawyer;Mary Tyler Moore

    Getty Images

    Mary Tyler Moore sighting on March 24, 2009 in New York City. Celebrity Sightings In New York - March 24, 2009 New York, NY United States March 24, 2009 Photo by Christopher Peterson/FilmMagic.com To license this image (57037409), contact FilmMagic.com

    Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic.com

    Mary Tyler Moore sighting on March 24, 2009 in New York City. Celebrity Sightings In New York - March 24, 2009 New York, NY United States March 24, 2009 Photo by Christopher Peterson/FilmMagic.com To license this image (57037408), contact FilmMagic.com

    Christopher Peterson/BuzzFoto/FilmMagic.com

    Actress Mary Tyler Moore arrives at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theater on September 21, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

    Steve Granitz/WireImage.com



What would it take to get you back on TV, what would tempt you? Would it be drama or comedy? And are there any current shows you like, that you would want to guest on?
Well, I'd rather it be a comedy, but it could be either one, really. I'm very comfortable with drama, but I think I would choose comedy, because in comedy you find drama, too. You know, it's there, it has to be there, for me to be happy with it, anyway. I just prefer that kind of comedy. And oh sure, I like 'The Office,' 'Two and a Half Men,' '30 Rock.' Any of those shows, I'd be very happy with.

You've been such a big advocate and fundraiser for diabetes research, and it's such a hot topic with the rise in the number of people who have the disease, like you do. Do you feel optimistic about the future of diabetes treatment? Do you think researchers will find a cure?
Oh yes, I do. I think there's no question. For me, the only question is, will it happen in my lifetime, so that I'm able to reap the benefits. [But the treatment,] it's something you get used to by being smart. By reminding yourself of all the things that can go wrong with all the people on earth, including you, and [realizing] this isn't really so horrible, if you keep it under control. And you have to guard against getting sick and tired of it, you know, because it is with you all the time. It never leaves you, and you get to feeling sorry for yourself easily, until you remember that there are kids who are dealing with it.

Mary Tyler MooreYou've also been a long-time activist for animal rights. What sparked your involvement with that?
A love of animals. My first recollection of the depth of the fierceness of that love was when I was 9 years old, and I was walking home from school. I was on the sidewalk, and I crossed the alleyway where I saw a man beating a dog with a stick. And I yelled at him, "Stop! Stop!" and he didn't. He just kept going at this dog, holding it by the collar, and I dropped my books, and I ran to him and I jumped him. And I beat him with my fist on his face, and head, and neck, and the dog just kind of trotted off. I think he turned around and looked at me once and then disappeared. But my anger, my rage, was such that I knew I was never going to be far from the defense of animals should they need it. Bernadette Peters and I have our annual Broadway Barks event coming up on July 11th, and that's usually attended by a couple of thousand people who come to take a look at the dogs that are brought to us by the shelters of New York.


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