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As Mary Richards she was a groundbreaking TV character: a never-married,single career woman, relocated to the big city not searching for a man to support her, but determined to "make it on her own." Mary was several years older than her Laura Petrie character of the 1960s, but she was just as beautiful and lovable.

TV Guide named Mary Richards as No. 21 of the 50 Greatest Characters in TV History, and called her "the one character in TV history that absolutely everybody wanted to hug...Mary got us to love her as Laura Petrie, but when she re-emerged as Mary Richards, we simply fell all over ourselves adoring her."

WJM producer Lou Grant (Ed Asner) best described why we loved her:
Mary had spunk.
It didn't hurt that she anchored a fabulous TV program. “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” distinguished itself from the usual plot-driven shows as a character-driven program with its complex group of people who changed and developed during the seven years it aired. USA Today called it “one of the best shows to ever air on TV,”  and the series won 29 Emmys, including for Outstanding Comedy Series  three straight years (1975-77), a record until “Frasier” captured a 30th Emmy in 2002.

Mary the actress wasn't certain that her character would be accepted because Laura Petrie had been universally loved by TV audiences. She felt challenged to separate Mary Richards from Laura, so during the first season Mary wore a long, brown, luminous wig, a different look from Laura's short flip hairdo.

She told the Archive of American Television during the early episodes, “I didn't feel comfortable turning my head at all because of this wig...I was never able to relax.”
Mary Richards was originally written as a divorcee but the CBS suits wouldn't stand for it, so her character was changed to a single woman who was recovering from a broken engagement after supporting her aspiring doctor boyfriend through medical school.

“CBS had done research to prove that audiences didn't like three things: people from New York, people with mustaches, and people who were divorced,” said co-creater Allan Burns in a 1973 interview with TV Guide. “'Can't we give her some kind of a past?' we asked. 'After all, she's supposed to be 30 years old and she wasn't a nun.'”

“CBS hit the ceiling,” Mary told the AAT. “'You can't have Mary divorced from somebody even if she has a different last name.' [CBS thought] People would think she divorced Dick Van Dyke.”

Burns said that in hindsight casting Mary as a single woman was a smart move. “As it turns out, a career woman of 30 who's never been married is a more radical, more liberated concept than a divorcee.”
Mary Tyler Moore Mary Richards "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Laura Petrie "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
Mary Tyler Moore Mary Richards "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Laura Petrie "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
Mary Tyler Moore Mary Richards "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Laura Petrie "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
The character joined the WJM newsroom as a meek, docile young lady who'd just moved from smalltown Roseburg, Minn. to big-city Minneapolis and was looking for a secretary's job.

Mr. Grant hired her as WJM's associate producer and she found her “family” among her co-workers and neighbors. And Mary developed into a confident woman.

Producer Ed. Weinberger explained Mary's transformation to TV Guide in a 1973 interview:  "Instead of just reacting shyly to everyone else, she now yells at people and fights back. Instead of every-hair-in-place Mary of two years ago, she sometimes even is made to look lousy -- which all women do occasionally. In one segment, everything was going wrong for Mary that week. She had a red nose from a cold, her hair was askew, her dress didn't fit her. That's almost unheard of in television."

The show produced many historic TV moments, including the theme song and opening credits. Mary told the AAT the iconic hat toss was a “spur of the moment idea. We were out there in the middle of February in Minneapolis freezing. It was so cold I couldn't even speak.".

"They just wanted shots of me in action,” she said. “I was standing in front of a department store and they said, 'Run out to that intersection and throw your hat up in the air as though this is the happiest moment of your life.'”

Entertainment Weekly ranked Mary's hat toss as television's second greatest moment, and the city of Minneapolis honored the character in 2002 by erecting a bronze statue of Mary's tam toss where the scene was filmed.
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” had a seven-year run (1970-77), finishing as a top 11 series four of those seasons but never rated higher than No. 7.

A native of Brooklyn, Mary said her grandfather observed her acting and showing off as a three year-old and remarked, “This child will either end up on stage or in jail.” Her family moved to LA when she was 8 and she started her career as a dancer.

Mary played a dancing elf for an appliance company in TV commercials on the 1950s series “Ozzie and Harriett.” After modeling for several years, Mary landed the role as Sam the secretary in the TV series “Richard Diamond, Private Detective.” Mary's soft voice was heard and her beautiful dancer's legs were shown, but viewers never got a glimpse of her face.
Mary Tyler Moore Mary Richards "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" Laura Petrie "The Dick Van Dyke Show"
Mary proved that although she was a beautiful woman she could master comedic acting and didn't mind looking silly. One memorable episode was based on Laura getting her toe stuck in a bathtub faucet.

Van Dyke told the LA Times that he initially had doubts about the ability of his co-star.

“I was concerned that Mary wasn't much of a comedienne. But her timing improved during rehearsals. “The first time I stood across from her and heard her say, 'Oh, Rob!' I thought, That's it, we're home.”

Van Dyke also told PBS, “(Mary) did a lot of 'Yes dear' -ing the first season until Carl began to see what a great knack she had, and what wonderful timing. So he began to write some scripts built around Mary and what happened at home...She did some of the best episodes we ever did,”
Classic TV Beauties

No. 5
Classic TV Beauties 1970s Countdown
MARY TYLER MOORE as Mary Richards in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"
Mary told the AAT that her “Sam” character “peaked the curiosity of men all over the world because they could imagine anybody they wanted, whatever their fantasy was in a woman. But it was an anonymous role for me because the producers asked me to keep my identity secret, they wanted to keep the mystery going.”

Mary got her big break when she landed the role of Laura in “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” After series creator Carl Reiner auditioned 60 actresses, producer Danny Thomas recommended Mary for the job.

He recalled her as “the girl with three names” whom he had previous auditioned for the role as his daughter in “The Danny Thomas Show.” Thomas told Mary at the time that she was a fine actress but “with a [cute little] nose like yours, nobody would believe you're my daughter.”
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