Mary Tyler Moore: ''I was never as happy as I was on the Van Dyke show''

"I was better in television," said Moore of her movie career.

Mary Tyler Moore had such a full, contagious laugh. There was something so human in the way her head tilted back with her mouth wide open. She was a beautiful person who allowed herself to lose composure in rapturous laughter. This was one of her many, many gifts that made her such an endearing performer. Mary Tyler Moore recognized that this was her greatest asset — she had a remarkable talent in reacting to things in a funny way.

From 1961 to 1966, Moore starred on The Dick Van Dyke Show as Laura Petrie. She beat out more than 60 other actresses for the part, and her chemistry with leading man Dick Van Dyke is charming. However, despite the show's success, its principal actors sought to capitalize further by leaving television for the movies. "Let's face it," Moore told the Sun-Telegram in 1970, "we quit because we all had motion picture offers and we had to give that a try."

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The movies, for all their glitz and glamour, weren't suited, at that time, for Mary Tyler Moore's sensibilities. "I was better in television. I was a couple of years late going into the movies. They weren't doing light, sophisticated comedy anymore and I didn't have a well-thought-out career buildup."

Despite giving it her all, Moore was left feeling cold by these moviemaking efforts. "I was never as happy as I was on the Van Dyke show." This interview came on the tail of Mary Tyler Moore's appearance in Thoroughly Modern Millie, in which she starred alongside Julie Andrews and Carol Channing. 

"Millie was the first time I had to really create a character. Julie was Julie, Carol was Carol, but I am not shy and retiring and demure."

Luckily, Moore was able to return home to television when she starred in her own Mary Tyler Moore Show. In it, she played a single, 30-something career woman who she partly based on herself. "The character is going to be essentially me. Laura Petrie before she got married maybe."

Headlining her own show, though, was a radical departure from her days as a supporting character on The Dick Van Dyke Show. With her name in the title and at the top of the call sheet, it was all up to Mary.

"I was scared. I had to go out and do the warm-up. Dick used to do that. Now I realized there was nobody else but me. So I just went out there and I told them I hoped they enjoyed themselves and to laugh when they wanted to, but not to force it."

Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Close

33 Comments

FloridaTopCat 8 months ago
My Curiosity: When Dick Van Dyke did "Diagnosis Murder" for 8 years - 1993 to 2001 - he had guest stars from every part of Hollywood - Everyone from Star Trek Veterans, Other Police Shows including Andy Griffith (as Matlock), And Betty White in year 1. One Star who never made the list, and there are several HUNDRED guest stars during the time of the show - was Mary Tyler Moore! He even did an episode goofing on the "Ottoman Joke" from 30 years earlier. But MTM never appeared! Always thought that was odd.
lbwilmoth 8 months ago
I cannot stand the Dick Van Dyke show.
To each his own. I thought it was an excellent entertaining show.
Every show was the same thing. There is always some huge misunderstanding that they have to straighten out. It gets tired.
I did like the Mary Tyler Moore show very much. Fantastic cast.
Echaney54 lbwilmoth 7 months ago
Your actually describing Three's Company.
MadMadMadWorld lbwilmoth 3 months ago
Then why are you here commenting about it?
Sooner 8 months ago
She was really good on DVD show, but I never cared for her other shows.

I think she was superb in Ordinary People. I was amazed at how good she was when I saw that.
gmail 8 months ago
Something about Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, etc., there talents really shine, they display there crafts and for us it's a gift in reruns forever!
Steve2021 8 months ago
Mary is gorgeous , I always come home for dinner.
BorisK 8 months ago
Mary was MOST hot when she was on Dick Van Dyke.
MadMadMadWorld BorisK 3 months ago
Definitely, but she also shined as a highly-skilled comic foil for Dick and the others1
LalaLucy 8 months ago
Nice article. She was a great talent. She provided some of my favorite TV moments, way too many to list, but off the top of my head, I think of her gnawing on that package with the inflatable raft inside on DVD, any time she cried, and both the Chuckles funeral and the "hair bump" (as my mom always calls it) episodes of MTM. She really wowed me in Ordinary People, too, though. Excellent dramatic turn.
MadMadMadWorld LalaLucy 3 months ago
The episode, "It May Look Like a Walnut" has at least two favorite moments for me: one when she slid out of the closet on-top of a mountain of walnuts, and when she turned away from Rob showing him the back of her head (with her two back eyes, making four total), "I SEE You!" The episode you cite on her can't leave a package alone, "The Curious Thing About Women" with her opening the inflatable raft, tearing the string with her teeth, was one of the funniest moments and gags ever seen on any sitcom! https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0559819 (Jan. 10, 1962; Season 1, Ep. 16)
LalaLucy MadMadMadWorld 3 months ago
Yes, those are all moments that are definitely tops with me, too. 🙂
Indianagirl1963 8 months ago
She also looked her very best when she was on the Dick Van Dyke show.
AgingDisgracefully 8 months ago
And versatile enough to bring Arctic coldness to the role of Beth Jarrett in Ordinary People.
Arctic AND Ordinary.
That was one of my all-time favorites. Loved "Ordinary People (and now I have the DVD of it).

I was living in the Chicago suburb of Glenwood, Illinois and a senior in high school in late 1979 when "Ordinary People" was filming in the Chicago area. I remember one article about the filming in the Chicago Tribune was headlined "Mary Tyler Moore in Highland Park."
tootsieg 8 months ago
I enjoyed MTM in Throughly Modern Millie. A fun movie.
The DVD show was wonderful and the actors really liked one another. I read that after a day’s work, no one wanted to go home. They all hung out and played cards.
CoreyC 8 months ago
When a show is named after you there is additional stress put upon yourself. But luckily for Mary, Dick and Carol Burnett their success was because they were great ensemble shows.
cperrynaples 8 months ago
MTM had it tough in the 4 years between sitcoms! Fun Fact: She played Holly Golightly in an ill-fated musical version of Breakfast At Tiffany's!
BrittReid 8 months ago
She was terrific on DVD.
MadMadMadWorld BrittReid 3 months ago
I have the DVDs on The DVDS.
Peter_Falk_Fan 8 months ago
"They weren't doing light, sophisticated comedy anymore and I didn't have a well-thought-out career buildup." But, at least she showed some spunk.
LoveMETV22 Peter_Falk_Fan 8 months ago
Love that scene: " Lou Grant job interview w/ Mary Richards "You've got spunk. I hate spunk!"
The comedic timing was brilliant.
Moverfan LoveMETV22 8 months ago
My favorite scene was in the episode where Ted agrees to speak at Murray' daughter's school (for Career Day, I think), but only on the condition that Murray not insult him until after his appearance--so of course, hegoes out of his way to torment the poor man until...

Ted (waving papers): Mary, look! I'm learning my address!

Mary (who's had it): That's nice, Ted, maybe next week we'll work on your phone number.
Runeshaper 8 months ago
Happy to hear that she enjoyed her time on the DVD show! (-:
LoveMETV22 8 months ago
Mary Tyler Moore was such an enjoyable actress. Enjoy watching her on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and
" The Mary Tyler Moore Show as well.

Seeing both those programs are featured on "Catchy Comedy", the same could be done on MeTV as well and not in the wee hours. There are several time slots that could use a little refresh on the
MeTV side. JMO.
tmac1951 LoveMETV22 8 months ago
More than several, I would love to know the reason that they have the same shows on day after day week after week year after year. Some of them have been broadcast since the beginning in 2005. Remember when the summer of METV meant something?????
timothys71 LoveMETV22 8 months ago
I agree. The Mary Tyler Moore Show aired in prime time on MeTV a decade or so ago. I would love to see it return, even if it's just one night a week, since Catchy Comedy (f/k/a Decades) is not available over the air in my area. I think the evening comedy block on MeTV needs an overhaul--nothing against the current shows; just that (with the exception of the Beverly Hillbillies) they've been running the same shows in the same time slots for so long now. And don't get me wrong; I like MASH, but I think 2 hours of it for 5 evenings a week, plus another hour on Sundays, is just plain overkill.
LoveMETV22 timothys71 8 months ago
Yes. They have a pretty good library of shows. MeTV without counting seems to have the most total wise, Catchy Comedy and H&I share some of those shows with their own additions.
Start TV is very genre specific. so the sharing seems to go from MeTV----> to CC and H&I, so it should be just as easy the other way as well. For a while there was some activity last year when programs were added/removed ( Columbo, Perry Mason the Movies, The A-Team, The Summer of Me Blocks, Etc...., well I'm sure everyone sees the same picture. It's time for some changes on MeTV's schedule.

Also Weigel for some reason is very quiet (program additions,changes,etc) when it comes to their various networks in comparison to others. But all in all it's time for a few changes.
Echaney54 LoveMETV22 7 months ago
Tubi, is the way to go, I've pretty much been watching the Dick Van Dyke Show, non stop since April 2020. I try to take a break from it, but it never lasts very long.

Love love love that show.

Buddy Sorrell is the best gag man in television history.

And apparently that "longevity serum" Rob Petrie was working on in the 'Plots Thicken' episode is working.
MadMadMadWorld Echaney54 3 months ago
DIck "I'm working on it" celebrated his 98th birthday this past Dec. 13 (1925). Maybe he can live for 2 more years to make 100. Something his 'boss' (Carl Reiner, aka Alan Brady) couldn't do when he died at 98 in June 2020.
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?