On Sunday night Mary Tyler Moore was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. Her over fifty years of performing as a comedian and actress were celebrated at the ceremony, being presented the award by her first on screen husband - Dick Van Dyke. Their work together on The Dick Van Dyke Show is still so beloved to this day that they both received a standing ovation at the ceremony, prompting Van Dyke to remind the crowd, "I'm just a presenter."
Their chemistry was so strong on screen that when it aired, the general population thought they were actually married in real life.
She single-handedly made Capri pants popular in the 1960s through that role. Van Dyke pointed out that in those conservative days they fit her so well that she was limited to only wearing them in one scene per show.
He noted that when she started on the show with him, "She was 23 and had never done comedy. I never saw somebody pick it up so fast. I still have a crush on her."
Watch a clip from The Dick Van Dyke Show:
Her most beloved role came when she successfully pitched The Mary Tyler Moore Show to CBS. The show was a huge hit, and to this day still sets the bar for women in comedy.
Co-star Betty White previously received the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award two years earlier, and was in attendance to receive her award for Best Female Actor in a Comedy Series, for her role in Hot in Cleveland. Moore made a guest star appearance in the show's second season premiere.
Watch a clip from The Mary Tyler Moore Show:
Outside of television she had success in movies, making her debut in 1961 in the film X-15.
She made her mark in a supporting role in Thoroughly Modern Millie, starring opposite Julie Andrews.
In 1969 she starred opposite Elvis Presley in Change of Habit, playing an incognito nun trying to help Presley (playing Dr John Carpenter) clean up the ghetto he lives in.
The movie was a critical flop that persuaded her to stay away from film for eleven years. When she did return to the big screen it was for her most successful and critically acclaimed role as Beth Jarrett in Robert Redford's Ordinary People. She played a bitter wife and mother grieving the accidental death of her older son, a character very different from all her previous roles. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, and won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture.
As she accepted her Lifetime Achievement Award, she told the story of how she ended up with three names. In 1955 there were already six other Mary Moore's in the Screen Actors Guild and she was told to change her name, so she quickly added in Tyler - which was both her and her father's middle name. "I was Mary Tyler Moore. I spoke it out loud. Mary Tyler Moore. It sounded right so I wrote it down on the form, and it looked right. It was right. SAG was happy, my father was happy, and tonight, after having the privilege of working in this business among the most creative and talented people imaginable, I too am happy, after all," she said.
Sources: SAG, NY Daily News, Wikipedia, IMDB
Photo © Kevin Winter
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