Mary Tyler Moore: SAG Life Achievement Award Recipient

Mary Tyler Moore
Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore has been named the recipient of the 2012 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, given annually to an actor who fosters the “finest ideals of the acting profession.” The star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Best Actress Academy Award nominee for Ordinary People will be presented the SAG Life Achievement Award at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, which premieres live on TNT and TBS on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

Previous SAG Life Achievement Award winners include Stan Laurel, Pearl Bailey, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Martha Raye, Danny Kaye, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Burt Lancaster, Audrey Hepburn, Ricardo Montalban, James Garner, Elizabeth Taylor, Angela Lansbury, Eddie Cantor, Julie Andrews, Shirley Temple, and last year's recipient Ernest Borgnine. Additionally, two Mary Tyler Moore Show alumni have already taken home the award: Edward Asner in 2001 and Betty White in 2009.

The Mary Tyler Moore mini-biography below – and continued in the next two posts – is from the SAG Awards' press release:

Holder of seven Emmys®, a Tony® and an Academy Award® nomination, among numerous industry and philanthropic accolades, Mary Tyler Moore first rose to prominence when she was cast at 23 as Dick Van Dyke's wife in his eponymous sitcom, based loosely on the experiences of comedy writer Carl Reiner. Smart, feisty and down-to-earth in capri pants and fashionable tops, Moore's Laura Petrie was a new kind of television wife and mother. The audiences loved her and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded her two Emmys and a nomination during the show's five-year run.

Following The Dick Van Dyke Show's successful run, Moore combined her acting, singing and dancing talents in 1967 as Julie Andrews' co-star in the 1920's film musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was Elvis Presley's final leading lady in 1969's Change of Habit and the same year made her television movie debut in the drama Run a Crooked Mile.

When CBS beckoned with the offer to develop her own television series, Moore formed a production company, MTM, with her then husband Grant Tinker. Their groundbreaking comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on September 19, 1970.

While other comedies had been set in the workplace, Moore's chronicled the career, friendships and dating life of a single, thirtyish, spunky, independent, career woman, in the unseen world of local TV news. With a brilliant cast, the character-driven series redefined the meaning of ensemble comedy and of family. In its seven-year run garnered 29 Emmys, including four for its star. Nearly 25 years later Moore was present as TV Land dedicated a statue in downtown Minneapolis depicting the iconic moment in the show's opening credit's when a hopeful Mary Richards tosses her hat in the air.

Moore and Tinker's MTM Enterprises continued to produce an impressive list of landmark comedies and dramas including The Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, WKRP in Cincinnati, Hill Street Blues The White Shadow (starring current SAG president Ken Howard) and St. Elsewhere. Characters from The Mary Tyler Moore Show became the focus for several successful spin-offs in the 1970s: Rhoda, starring Valerie Harper; Phyllis, starring Cloris Leachman; and Lou Grant, starring Ed Asner (SAG's 38th Life Achievement recipient), which significantly took Asner's gruff but soft-hearted journalist from TV newsroom comedy into a hard-hitting newspaper-set drama.

Mary Tyler Moore photo: SAG Awards.

Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, The Gin GameMoore showcased her dramatic talent in her Emmy-nominated depiction of TV correspondent Betty Rollins' battle with breast cancer in the 1978 CBS telefilm First You Cry. [Photo: Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke in the television movie The Gin Game.]

In 1980 Moore was nominated for an Oscar® for her riveting portrayal of Beth Jarrett, a bitter mother coping with the death of one son and the attempted suicide of another in the Robert Redford-directed drama Ordinary People. The same year she continued to explore painful subject matter onstage in the hit Broadway play Whose Life Is It, Anyway? which earned her a Tony for playing a quadriplegic sculptor fighting to determine her own destiny, a role originated by Tom Conti and rewritten for its female star in her Broadway debut.

Other feature films include: Six Weeks, opposite Dudley Moore; David O. Russell's Flirting with Disaster; and Peter Calahan's dark comedy Against the Current, opposite Joseph Fiennes and Justin Kirk, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Moore's success in telefilms has continued across decades: In 1984, she delivered an Emmy-nominated performance in the ABC television movie Heartsounds opposite James Garner (SAG's 41st Life Achievement recipient); received a Cable Ace nomination for HBO's Finnegan Begin Again opposite Robert Preston and Sam Waterston; delivered a stunning portrayal of disturbed first lady Mary Todd Lincoln in the 1988 NBC miniseries Gore Vidal's Lincoln; and won her seventh Emmy in 1993 for her performance as a spinster trafficking in illegal adoption in Lifetime's Stolen Babies.

Other telefilm credits include TNT's Miss Lettie and Me and the CBS television films Like Mother, Like Son: The Strange Story of Sante and Kenny Kimes; Snow Wonder; and Blessings, based on the Anna Quindlen novel. She and Dick Van Dyke showcased their old spark in a PBS version of D. L. Coburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning nursing home-set stage play The Gin Game, then reunited with a large number of their former cast mates in TV Land's nostalgic The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.

Moore's television guest roles include: a recurring run as Tea Leoni's mother The Naked Truth, an appearance as Ellen DeGeneres' Aunt Mary in a Christmas episode of Ellen, a recurring stint as a high-strung TV host on That '70s Show and a multi-episode arc in NBC's Lipstick Jungle. This year, on the season premiere of Hot in Cleveland, Moore reunited onscreen with Betty White for the first time since The Mary Tyler Moore Show, sharing a jail cell with White's character, Elka, who was arrested in the season one cliffhanger.

Moore returned to the stage in 1987 to star opposite Lynn Redgrave in A. R. Gurney Jr.'s Sweet Sue and has performed numerous benefit readings of Gurney's two-person Love Letters, starring opposite James Earl Jones to benefit, the Poughkeepsie Day School, Patrick Stewart to benefit the Ethical Culture School and Gene Wilder for the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center Association, as well as opposite Gurney himself.

The Mary Tyler Moore ShowMoore's first autobiography, After All, published in 1995, was a frank exploration of her childhood, personal challenges and career. Her second book, Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes is a candid, humorous and illuminating detailing of her battles with the disease since she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (then called “juvenile diabetes” for its prevalence among children) in 1970 at age 33. The book includes conversations with remarkable people who live with the disease and those who work on the frontiers of medical research. Moore donated all her profits from Growing Up Again to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the world's leading funder and advocate for Type 1 diabetes science.

Moore has been JDRF's International Chairman since 1984. She has also chaired JDRF's biennial Children's Congress since its inception in 1999, leading up to 200 children with Type 1 diabetes to Washington, D.C. to meet face-to-face with congressional representatives. Moore has been at the vanguard of JDRF's visit on Capitol Hill, testifying before the House and Senate on behalf of increased National Institute of Health (NIH) funding for Type 1 diabetes, which affects as many as 3 million children and adults. Moore and her husband, Dr. S. Robert Levine, have been generous supporters of JDRF's research programs and in 2003 established JDRF's Excellence in Clinical Research Award in recognition of outstanding diabetes researchers. She herself was honored by JDRF in 2007 with its Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Among many other accolades, Moore received the 1984 Women in Film Crystal Award, was immortalized in 1992 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was presented with the American Screenwriters Association first David Angell Humanitarian Award in 2002, and in 2009 was honored with the National Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Service Award.

Moore co-founded Broadway Barks with Bernadette Peters in 1999. The annual event held in Broadway's Shubert Alley promotes the adoption of shelter animals, seeks to end euthanasia of dogs and cats in New York City and fosters a spirit of community among the number shelters and rescue groups working throughout the city. New York Major Michael Bloomberg proclaimed this year's July 9, 2011, event as “Broadway Barks Day.”

The Brooklyn-born daughter of George Tyler Moore and Marjorie Hackett Moore, Moore had moved with her family to California at 8 and aspired to be a dancer. After graduating Immaculate Heart High School, she broke into commercials, then gained acting credentials in television, first as the only partially-glimpsed switchboard operator on Richard Diamond, Private Eye and in guest roles in more than a dozen popular series, such as Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, and Wanted: Dead or Alive.

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  1. Catherine Caruso says:

    What a wonderful lady, may the good Lord rest her soul in His eternal joy and peace. You will be sorely missed sweet Mary. God bless you and thank you for all of your hard work for JDRF, for animals and their welfare, and for your incredible talent, which you shared with the world. You truly will always be America's Sweetheart! You are irreplaceable…love you.