If you were a teenager during the 1970s, you’ll remember most of these TV shows: All in the Family, The Carol Burnett Show, Bob Newhart, Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, Marcus Welby, MD, M*A*S*H, Happy Days, The Rockford Files, The Brady Bunch, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Columbo, Hawaii Five-O, and Starsky and Hutch.
It has been said that the 1970s was the “Golden Age of Television.” Unlike most of today’s TV shows, the television shows of the 1970s were family oriented. They were well written, and provided wholesome entertainment. Unfortunately, today, most TV shows promote and glorify premarital sex, homosexuality, adultery, violence, and/or single-parent households.
One of the most popular TV shows of the 1970s was a show that was named after the popular actress, Mary Tyler Moore. At the time that the show was launched, Mary Tyler Moore was already a well-known TV actress who had played a housewife in The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was a popular weekly series from 1961 to 1966.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered in 1970 and lasted seven years. In the show, Moore’s character was Mary Richards, a single woman who worked in a man’s world and was determined to make it on her own. The show was groundbreaking because at that time, career women were rarely seen on television, and they were never featured as a show’s lead character.
My memories of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and all the other popular shows of the 1970s came flooding back to me last week when I learned that Moore had died at the age of 80.
Ironically, one of the most popular parts of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the opening theme song and footage that showed Moore in her role as a single working woman in a major-metropolitan city. The theme song began with these lyrics:
Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can never tell, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all.
The songwriter who wrote the words of the theme song did a masterful job of capturing Moore’s personality. She had a beautiful smile that could light up a room and put everyone at ease. She also had a unique ability to make people laugh and forget about their problems.
Moore was different than most of the female celebrities that we see today. She had class and did not act like a man or try to hide her femininity.
The way that she behaved and treated others was, in part, due to the era that she grew up in. She was born in 1936, a time when women took pride in their femininity. She was also raised Catholic and attended Saint Rose de Lima Parochial School in Brooklyn, Saint Ambrose School in Los Angeles, and Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz, California.
Even though she was honored by feminists for her groundbreaking portrayal of a single working woman who was able to balance her life between work and home, Moore refused to become an active participant in the feminist movement of the 1970s.
In an interview that she did for the 2013 PBS series, Pioneers of Television, Moore said that Gloria Steinem, one of the leaders of the feminist movement, tried to persuade her to become actively involved in the women’s rights movement. She refused to cooperate with Steinem because she did not want to be a part of a movement that encouraged women to choose career over family. It was her strong belief that women had an important role in raising children.
Although I was a fan of The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I did not pay any attention to Moore’s personal life until I was in law school (early 1980s), when I read an article that stated that she was a lapsed Catholic. In the article, Moore commented that as a young woman, she had trouble with the Catholic Church’s position that passionate (French) kissing was a mortal sin. She indicated that one of the primary reasons she left the Church was because of its position on that issue.
Over the years, I’ve found that when asked about why they left the Church, most lapsed Catholics do not provide the real reason they left the Church. They give a shallow reason that hides and diverts attention away from the real reason. I have found that the real reason that most adults leave the church is because they’re not willing to follow the Church’s rules concerning divorce, sex outside of marriage, and/or the use of contraceptives.
In 1996, Moore published her first book, After All. In her book, she revealed that she became an “acute alcoholic” during the 1970s and that her drinking problem dated all the way back to the early 1960s, when she was in The Dick Van Dyke Show. She was not able to control her alcoholism until she was treated at the Betty Ford Clinic in 1984.
In her book, Moore was very critical of the Catholic Church. She described her three marriages and revealed that during her second marriage, she had an affair with another man. After discussing the affair, she wrote, “The Catholic in me was convinced that I was committing a mortal sin. On the other side of the ledger was the undeniable affirmation that I was an appealing woman. I had forgotten.”
Moore also revealed that she and her third husband, Robert Levine, helped her 47-year-old brother John Moore attempt to commit suicide. She said that she took a large quantity of painkillers and mashed them up into ice cream and spoon-fed her brother while her husband operated a morphine pump. Her brother survived the attempted suicide and died three months later from natural causes.
The most tragic event in Moore’s life was the death in 1980 of her only child Richie, who died at the age of 24 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. She had previously lost her 21-year-old sister from an overdose of alcohol and drugs.
Moore struggled with diabetes for most of her adult life. In 2014, it was reported that she was almost blind and was struggling with heart and kidney problems. Prior to her death, she was hospitalized with pneumonia. She subsequently died from a heart attack.
The woman who had the ability to turn the world on with her smile lived a life of tragedy and misfortune. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if she had chosen to make the sacrifices that were necessary to remain in the faith. I expect that her life would have been much different.
Instead of helping her brother try to kill himself, she would have asked a Catholic priest to give him the Sacrament of the Sick. She would have also stormed heaven with her prayers and attempted to convince her brother to make a good confession so he could make peace with God before his death.
If she had chosen not to reject the teachings of the church, she may have married the right man in the beginning, or she may have been able to obtain an annulment after a failed marriage, after which she would have had another opportunity (and the grace) to choose the right man. She may have also had more children who would have prayed for her and been at her side to comfort her during the challenges that she faced later in life.
We have no way of knowing what the state of Moore’s soul was at the time of her death. We can only hope that she reconciled with her Creator before she died.
May Mary Tyler Moore rest in peace.