BELOVED television icon Mary Tyler Moore has died aged 80 after facing health battles in recent years.
The actress starred in two of the best-loved TV shows of all time, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The six-time Emmy Award winner was earlier reported to be in a grave condition at a Connecticut hospital Tuesday as loved ones have rushed to her side.
The actress had been battling diabetes for years and family members had feared she would not make it, TMZ reported overnight. Her representative Mara Buxbaum confirmed news of her death to The Hollywood Reporter.
A 1964 Emmy win alongside Dick Van Dyke. AP Photo, File
A 1964 Emmy win alongside Dick Van Dyke. AP Photo, FileSource:AP
“Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine,” Buxbaum said in a statement.
“A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.”
Moore first shot to fame as perky suburban housewife Laura in The Dick Van Dyke Show, which ran for five seasons from 1961, but it was her role in her own eponymous sitcom during the 1970s for which she’s best remembered.
Playing a single, female news producer in a TV newsroom, Tyler Moore became a feminist icon: The show was the first to feature a never-married, independent career woman as its central character.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the first major sitcom to portray a single, independent working woman as a lead.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the first major sitcom to portray a single, independent working woman as a lead.Source:News Corp Australia
She also successfully transitioned to film, receiving a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her work in the 1980 drama Ordinary People, in which she played a grieving mother unable to cope with the death of her son. That same year, Tyler Moore’s only child, son Richard, died of an accidental gunshot wound to the head while handling a shotgun.
On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she was an inspiration to young girls everywhere - including Oprah.
On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she was an inspiration to young girls everywhere - including Oprah.Source:News Corp Australia
But it was her iconic 1970s role as a TV news producer that influenced a generation of viewers. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was truly groundbreaking, introducing issues such as equal pay for women, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality into a standard sitcom format.
It was also, at its heart, extremely funny. Just watch this scene, ‘Chuckles the clown’s funeral’, in which Tyler Moore’s character struggles to contain her laughter at the very serious funeral of a very funny man:
Tyler Moore’s influence on a generation of young women cannot be overstated. Twenty years after the final episode of the groundbreaking sitcom aired, Tyler Moore was able to elicit this reaction from Queen of TV herself Oprah Winfrey when she surprised her on air:
Tyler Moore’s health problems were well-documented: she battled alcoholism and was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes early in the run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, becoming a tireless diabetes advocate. In 2011, she underwent elective brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma and in recent years retreated from the spotlight as her condition reportedly deteriorated.
In 2014 friends reported that she has heart and kidney problems and was almost blind. Speaking to Larry King in 2015, her former co-star Dick Van Dyke said “[Diabetes] has taken a toll on her; she’s not well at all.”
Tyler Moore is survived by her third husband, Robert Levine, who she wed in 1983. Her Hollywood friends - and those who were influenced by her - today pay tribute to the TV icon:
As the heroic good guy on the CBS action series, he was among the highest-paid TV actors in the early 1970s. He played basketball for John Wooden at UCLA.
Mike Connors, who took a punch as well as anyone while playing the good-guy private detective on the long-running Saturday night action series Mannix for CBS, has died. He was 91.
A former basketball player for legendary coach John Wooden at UCLA, Connors died Thursday, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed. No other details were immediately available.
Mannix, the last series from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s famed TV company Desilu Productions to air, ran for eight seasons from September 1967 until April 1975. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link and developed by executive producer Bruce Geller (Mission: Impossible), the hit show featured an electric theme from jazz great Lalo Schifrin and starred Connors as a noble Korean War veteran.
The first season of the series had Mannix employed at Intertect, a large Los Angeles detective agency run by Lew Wickersham (Joseph Campanella). But he wasn't the corporate type, and starting with the second season, Mannix was on his own, working out of his home office at 17 Paseo Verde.
Mannix drove several hot automobiles during the series’ run (some souped up by George Barris), including a 1969 Dodge Dart, a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda convertible and a 1974 Dodge Challenger. He was often seen bailing out of these cars when the brakes were tampered with — that is, when he wasn’t getting beaten up or shot at by the bad guys. (By one count, Mannix was shot 17 times and knocked unconscious 55 times on the show.) His athleticism and striking dark looks were perfect for the role.
Though Mannix was criticized for being excessively violent when it aired, Connors said in a 1997 interview with the Los Angeles Times that the series was tame by modern-day standards.
“We did have car chases and fights,” he recalled, “but when you compare them to shows that are on now, we were very, very low-keyed.”
For all the physical abuse, the broad-shouldered Connors became one of the highest-paid stars on television, earning $40,000 an episode at the height of the show’s ratings run. (He sued CBS and Paramount in May 2011, claiming he was never paid royalties on the show and was owed millions of dollars.)
'Mannix' Star Mike Connors Sues CBS, Paramount for Unpaid Profits (Exclusive)
Connors received four Emmy nominations from 1970-73 and six Golden Globe noms from 1970-75 but won just once, picking up a trophy from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in 1970. The only Emmy the show ever received was given that year to Gail Fisher, who played Peggy Fair, Mannix’s prim and steady secretary (she was widow of a cop killed in the line of duty). Fisher was one of the first African-American actresses to have a regular series role on TV.
"I loved the show, I loved doing it, and it had no negatives as far as I was concerned," Connors said during a 2014 interview.
"The show itself started a whole new era of detective shows, because this wasn’t the usual cynical private eye a la Humphrey Bogart. It was more a show about an all-around normal human being. The character of Joe Mannix could be taken advantage of by a pretty face, he could shed a tear on an emotional level, he was very close to his father and his family, so he was more a normal personality with normal behavior. I think that’s a part of why the show was so successful."
Two other producers on the show, Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, were veteran movie screenwriters whose work included White Heat (1949), starring James Cagney.
The Armenian-American actor also was recognizable for three other series: Tightrope (1959-60), in which he starred as an undercover agent infiltrating organized crime; Today’s FBI (1981-82), in which he played an FBI supervisor; and the syndicated series Crimes of the Century (1989), which he hosted. He played Robert Mitchum’s wartime comrade in the 1988-89 miniseries War and Remembrance.
Born Krekor Ohanian in Fresno, Calif., on Aug. 15, 1925, Connors served in the Army Air Force during World War II, then came to Westwood on a basketball scholarship. While aiming for law school, he developed a passion for acting and appeared in several plays. He was encouraged by Oscar-winning writer-director William Wellman (A Star Is Born), who spotted him while he played for the Bruins.
At one point, he was represented by future James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli.
Connors got his professional start in 1952 in an RKO release, Sudden Fear, as Touch Connors (Touch had been his nickname at UCLA). He continued in small roles for a number of years, with turns in Island in the Sky (1953), starring John Wayne, and as a herder in The Ten Commandments (1956) with Charlton Heston.
He made his TV debut in 1954 with a role on Ford Theatre and continued with numerous small roles while gaining recognition as a heavy in such Westerns as Gunsmoke, Maverick, Wagon Train and Cimarron City.
He changed his name to Mike Connors in 1958 and appeared in such movies as Live Fast, Die Young (1958) and Situation Hopeless … But Not Serious (1965), which starred Alec Guinness. He landed one of his best early movie roles in the 1966 remake of Stagecoach, playing the cardsharp.
Throughout his career, which spanned nearly 50 years, Connors made numerous guest-star appearances on such shows as The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, The Millionaire, The Untouchables, The Fall Guy, The Love Boat, Walker, Texas Ranger, Murder, She Wrote, Burke’s Law, The Commish, Diagnosis Murder (where he returned as Joe Mannix) and, in 2007, Two and a Half Men.
He voiced the character Chipacles in Disney’s animated series Hercules.
Other film credits included Sudden Fear (1952) opposite Joan Crawford; Too Scared to Scream (1985), which he also produced; Avalanche Express (1979); James Dean: Race With Destiny (1997), as studio head Jack Warner; and Gideon (1999).
Connors, who was married for more than 65 years to the former Mary Lou Willey, was active in charitable organizations, including Operation Missing Persons, an educational program to promote awareness of the neurological disorder dystonia. He also served as a spokesperson for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
May the Force be with you.
Never saw Mannix but Mystery Theater 3000 made a shout out to it every time a car went off the road in whatever cheesy movie they were watching.