Hosted by Valerie Harper, written by Susan F Walker and directed by Andrew Solt, this doco is interesting in comparison to the Intimate Portrait on Carol Burnett. Both ladies are associated with comedy, yet here Mary reveals a sensitivity and produces tears, exposing herself more than Burnett does.
Born in Brooklyn Heights in New York in 1936, Mary's parents were both, like Burnett's, alcoholics though Mary's father George was also unaffectionate, the persona which she based Beth in her 1980 feature film Ordinary People on. Moving to Hollywood because of work offers from her agent uncle Harold, Mary studied dance and landed her first job as an elf for Hotpoint television commercials before she had to quit because she was pregnant with her son, Richie. (Mary had married Richie's father, Dick Meeker, the year before). Mary is funny when talking of herself as an obsessive/compulsive housewife.
Back at work, she was cast in The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961 after having been partially seen as the answering service for Richard Diamond's Private Detective, and her capri pants caused a network sensation. When the series finished in 1966, Mary tried feature films, including Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Broadway with Breakfast at Tiffany's which closed after 4 previews, (Cat in that may have been the inspiration for her MTM signature kitten), but it was television that brought her back. The success of a showcase TV special with Dick Van Dyke had CBS offer her own series, and with new husband advertising executive Grant Tinker, they formed MTM Productions, with The Mary Tyler Moore Show running from 1970-1977. It was just before Mary began work on her series that she discovered she was a diabetic.
Mary tells us that Robert Redford had offered her Ordinary People with concerns about her TV image, which seems odd as she had done the TVM First, You Cry in 1978, but what is more disturbing is the association the role of Beth had with Mary's own situation with Richie. As a working mother, Mary admits that Richie was neglected, and he had been hurt by her divorce from Dick, evening moving to Fresno to live with his father, which is where he became involved in drugs. However, Richie's death from a loaded gun he was playing with, is regarded as an accident and not suicide. Mary's Broadway run in Whose Life is it Anyway? in 1980 also had a real life association with her attendance at the euthenasia of her brother, John who had kidney cancer.
Later Mary married for a third time in 1983 to cardiologist Robert Levine and settled in an upper state New York house where she raises horses. She had a stay at the Betty Ford Center for a drinking problem, made a memorable appearance as a Jewish mother in the 1996 feature Flirting with Disaster where she demonstrated the benefits of a support bra, released an exercise video, her autobiography After All, and was given a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. Mary has also made some attempts at a return to the television series format, but to date, without success, and won an Emmy for the TVM Stolen Babies in 1993.
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