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Following her brilliant co-starring performance in 'The Dick Van Dyke Show',
Mary Tyler Moore's career went nowhere. She starred in a couple of flop
movies. Her big Broadway break (as Holly Golightly in a musical version of
'Breakfast at Tiffany's' ) was so bad, it closed before it opened. When
Moore was reunited with her former tv husband for the 1969 musical special
'Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman', it was clear to everyone that Van Dyke
was the star attraction. Ms Moore's participation was treated as a 'Whatever
happened to...?' reappearance by someone who had briefly been popular, once.
In the event, Mary Tyler Moore (and her producer husband, Grant Tinker) came
out of this one-off special looking so good that she soon got her own sitcom
on the same network.
'Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman' was aired twice on CBS-TV in America. I saw it in Britain, when BBC1 transmitted it on 4th Sept 1969. This special is great! Dick Van Dyke's talents as a song-and-dance man have always been underrated. He opens the show with an athletic number, 'On the Other Hand', in which he interacts with several different life-sized photo cutouts of Mary Tyler Moore, each depicting her as a different type of woman (kittenish, sophisticated, etc). Throughout the song's lyrics, Van Dyke keeps identifying Moore as a 'girl': I guess this word is easier to lyricise than 'woman'. The last cutout turns out to be Mary Tyler Moore herself. This leads into a dumb bit which purports to be documentary footage of Van Dyke and Moore meeting on a soundstage for the first time since their sitcom was cancelled. They run towards each other in slow motion. Van Dyke collides with a rack of costumes and emerges wearing a long floppy frock. (Another of Dick Van Dyke's underrated talents is his rare ability to cross-dress for a casual joke, without turning it into an elaborate drag routine.) Van Dyke and Moore then dismiss rumours that they were a married couple in real life, and Moore mentions that her real husband (at that time) is a tv producer named Grant Tinker: he was quite obscure in 1969, but he would soon become well-known.
Mary Tyler Moore's feminist credentials were firmly established at this early date. She leads a dance number as a suffragette, performing 'It Was Good Enough for Grandma' with a chorus of women in Gay Nineties costumes. (The choreography for this is rather poor: the women strut across the stage with their buttocks thrust upwards to emphasise their bustles!) During the intro to this number, Mary quotes Abigail Adams and insults our intelligence by telling us who Abigail Adams was. (When I saw this show in 1969, I had never been to America yet, but even *I* knew who Abigail Adams was.) Next, Mary performs 'Rosie the Riveter' with the same she-chorus crawling across the stage clutching jackhammers.
Dick and Mary do a sketch about 'persons, places and the ever-popular things'. This is quite good until we get to the old, old, OLD joke about the typical American family with 2.5 children ... so Dick and Mary appear with an onscreen 'son' who is (via trick photography) a living fraction.
In the midst of all this, we see an outtake from a 'Dick Van Dyke Show' episode that never made the air. The closing number finds Dick and Mary in a ski lodge, singing a medley of songs with lyrics about food and drink. One of these songs is the Andrews Sisters' hit 'Rum and Coca-Cola': I was disappointed that nobody mentioned that the lyric for this song was written by Morey Amsterdam, who performed so memorably as Van Dyke's sidekick on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show'.
Following her own sitcom success, Mary Tyler Moore made her official Broadway debut in a serious play, 'Whose Life Is It Anyway?', in a role originally written for a male. Her brief run was not distinguished, and she soon returned to Hollywood. At that time, I was working for the Broadway showman Alexander Cohen, who produced the annual Tony Awards on CBS-TV. Recognising that Moore's presence would bring in tv viewers, Mr Cohen wanted Mary Tyler Moore to return to New York to serve as a presenter during the 1980 Tony Awards ... but she was reluctant to appear in a context that would only draw attention to her own recent failure on Broadway. Alex Cohen pulled a few strings and, hey presto!, suddenly it was announced that Mary Tyler Moore would receive a 'special' Tony Award for some unspecified reason. She showed up at the 1980 Tonys to receive her award, and Alex Cohen's televised special got the high rating he'd wanted. For the next several weeks, I got lots of attention in the Broadway community by asking people this riddle: 'What's Mary Tyler Moore's favourite pasta? Rig a Tony!'
'Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman' is a delightfully entertaining show, which I'll rate 10 out of 10. Why isn't this show available on video?
After her smashing success on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW as Laura Petrie, a role that did win her two Emmys, Mary Tyler Moore attempted to carve out a movie career. She had a significant role in the 1967 Julie Andrews musical THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE and a couple of other more forgettable films before it became apparent that her dreams of being a movie star were not to be. At the same time, Dick Van Dyke's career had stalled as well and he was also having difficulties when he would go out in public with his real life wife because his association with Mary Tyler Moore was so strong, that the public actually believed that he and Moore were married in real life. These seemingly separate events became the genesis of Van Dyke's idea for a television variety special that would reunite him with Moore and make it clear that they were not really a couple. This CBS special, DICK VAN DYKE AND THE OTHER WOMAN was one of the highest rated specials of 1969, which featured Van Dyke and Moore joking about how they can't go out in public with their real spouses as well as showcasing their musical talents in several musical numbers including a cute opening number called "Life is Like a Situation Comedy." Van Dyke basically takes a backseat to Moore in this special, giving her the majority of the spotlight, allowing her to showcase her often overlooked talents as a singer and, especially, a dancer. The special was such a ratings smash that it actually led CBS to offering Moore her own sitcom where she created a character we all came to love named Mary Richards. I don't know if this special is available on DVD, but if it is, snatch it up because it's a rare chance to see a pair of TV legends at the top of their game doing what they do best.
October 3, 2011 will be the 50th Anniversary of the first airing of The
Dick Van Dyke show and I'm producing a number of events in celebration
of this milestone. I am hopeful that we will be able to release "Dick
Van Dyke And the Other Woman" on DVD as part of this event.
It's a wonderful special and its success was the main reason that CBS decided to give Mary Tyler Moore her own series.
Oh, and to the woman who says that "Dick and Mary appear with an on screen 'son' who is (via trick photography) a living fraction.", i beg to differ. I played that 'onscreen son' and was certainly not there by trick photography! My dad, Sam Denoff, co-wrote and co-produced the special with his partner Bill Persky (as well as the last 3 seasons of the series), and so I was lucky enough to be on the set for the entire production - i can still sing all of the numbers by heart and, yes, Life IS A Situation Comedy!
I would also like to see this on DVD. I saw it today at the Museum of
Television and Radio in NYC. What a treat! I won't repeat what was
written previously, but will just add to it.
The scene about "people, places and things" was for a song called "Life is Just a Situation Comedy," which interspersed stereotypically sitcom scenes between a couple of verses of song.
The Fiddler on the Roof song "Do You Love Me?" was sung by Dick and Mary as bride and groom figures on top of a wedding cake who bicker and make up, having lived 25 years on the freezer so, "For 25 years I've lived with you, fought with you, starved with you," actually works.
Another amusing bit was about a dozen injured skiers (dancers) all with large casts on their right legs and crutches performing synchronized dance steps, with an overhead Busby Berkeley-style use of the colored crutches and casts.
The DVD show outtake was from the show where Rob is hired and then fired as a poor actor, but still has to punch up the script. Dick wanted to play his firing with tears, showing his sadness to Laura, in a quasi-comical way, rather than stoically as aired. We got to see the crying version.
We also got to see the home and office sets from the DVD show in color, but they really didn't look just like the originals.
The food medley was really quite enjoyable. I hope to have a chance to see this again without having to go to NYC or LA to do so.
A truly wonderful program that I would like to see again. Perhaps TV Land would consider showing it as a special program. This program did so well in the ratings, that CBS granted Mary Tyler Moore her own Program, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It was a treat to see the Dick Van Dyke "set" in color.
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