Classic Video Showplace

Mary Tyler Moore

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For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.

Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.


Later this month on HBO Max, a documentary will air on one of the most iconic women in television history – Mary Tyler Moore.  


Mary Tyler Moore born on December 26, 1936, to Irish-Catholic parents in the Brooklyn Heights district of Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood and was the oldest of three children.

At the age of eight, Moore’s family moved to California to give Mary greater access to working in television.

At 17, she auditioned and was the producers’ choice for the role of Danny Thomas’s daughter in the hit sitcom Make Room For Danny, but was later turned down for the role by Thomas himself who didn’t believe anyone with a nose that small would be a believable daughter of his (Thomas later regretted that decision).

At 19 she landed her first on-camera job as “Happy Hotpoint,” a tiny dancing elf on the Hotpoint commercials that aired on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet television show.  For shooting 39 different commercials she received $6,000 but was fired when she became pregnant and could no longer fit into the elf costume.

Instead, Moore got the role of the secretary on the radio hit-turned-TV show Richard Diamond, Private Detective.  During her pregnancy she was often shot behind a desk or not seen on camera at all, to cover her condition.  She also guest-starred in a number of popular television shows throughout the rest of the 1950s.

While with child, she married Richard Meeker in 1955 but the family was soon hit with tragedy when Mary’s only sister was found dead from a combination of alcohol and painkillers.

In 1960, Danny Thomas’s production company was looking to recast following a failed pilot for a Carl Reiner television show based on his own experiences while working as a television comedic writer on Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows.  For the part of the star’s wife, Thomas remembered a talented young actress who had auditioned for his show, but only remembered that she had “three first names.”  After a search, they extended an invitation to Moore to be teamed with Dick Van Dyke as Laura and Robert Petrie on the program that would become The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Despite an 11-year gap in ages, the pairing of Moore and Van Dyke worked so well that Reiner abandoned his original idea to have most of the show focus on Rob’s “work life,” and instead wrote more lines for Moore and centered more stories around the couple’s home life.

During the show’s run, Moore married the man who would become her agent, Grant TInker, who would later play a huge role in another popular television show led by his wife.

Mary’s “Laura” character struck a chord with audiences and critics alike, earning her several Emmy nominations (winning twice) and became a cultural icon, emulating styles similar to Jackie Kennedy in the early 1960s.

The show was a ratings hit for all five years it was on, but both creator Reiner and star Van Dyke said they wanted to end the show “while on top” and pursue other projects.

For Moore, she took roles in several Broadway plays, including one as the lead in a story based loosely on the hit film Breakfast At Tiffany’s.  The production, however,  received such horrible reviews in Boston and Philadelphia theaters that the production closed before it ever reached New York.

Mary’s publicist claimed her singing performance had been hampered by a bout with bronchial pneumonia.  However, acting opportunities for Moore in the later 1960s were fewer and far between (save three movies in which she starred with Julie Andrews, Robert Wagner and Elvis Presley).

For Moore, both tragedies and even greater success in the entertainment industry awaited her.  We’ll look at the second half of Mary Tyler Moore’s legacy as an actress, an activist and a humanitarian, next week here at “The Showplace.”

In the meantime, you can see Mary Tyler Moore in her first iconic role as “Laura Petrie” on The Dick Van Dyke Show, as part of a steady rotation of classic television shows on ATVN’s Classic TV Showcase.  Tune in or set your DVRs for it each week at 9 am on Tuesdays mornings on the Astound TV Network. 

To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here on our website.

To watch the upcoming documentary on Moore’s career, call 1-800-Astound to add HBO Max to your video service package.


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.