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Television icon Mary Tyler Moore dead at 80

Mary Tyler Moore, pictured in 2009, was the star of a show named by Time Magazine as one of 17 shows that "changed television"
KAREN BLEIER (AFP/File)
Moore's eponymous 1970s TV show was groundbreaking in portaying a happily single woman excelling at her career

Legendary actress Mary Tyler Moore, who delighted a generation of Americans with her energetic comic performances and broke barriers with her iconic portrayal of a single career woman, died Wednesday after years of ill health. She was 80.

Moore's eponymous sitcom ran for seven seasons in the 1970s and was named by Time Magazine as one of 17 shows that "changed television."

She had been battling diabetes for years and underwent brain surgery in 2011. She died surrounded by loved ones, her spokesman said. Media reports said she died in hospital in Connecticut.

"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was radical in its time -- featuring a single woman, living on her own, and chasing her dream as a television reporter.

It also spawned numerous spin-offs for its popular supporting cast of quirky, slightly neurotic characters, launching Moore's behind-the-scenes career.

As top executives of MTM Enterprises, Moore and then-husband Grant Tinker created and produced "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and its spin-offs, and were also responsible for hit shows including "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere" and "Remington Steele."

US media mogul Oprah Winfrey has said Moore was one of her early inspirations. 

Winfrey said she watched her show every week as a child, and wanted "to be Mary Tyler Moore. I wanted to be Mary, I wanted to live where Mary lived."

 'Effortless piece of cake' 

Moore's first big break came in 1961, when she played spunky stay-at-home wife Laura Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

In the popular sitcom, the TV couple famously slept in separate twin-size beds, and Moore was limited to wearing capri pants in just one scene per episode.

Van Dyke said working with the "beautiful, bright and talented," Moore was "an effortless piece of cake." 

Speaking at the 2012 Screen Actors Guild awards, where he presented Moore with a lifetime achievement award, Van Dyke said he initially had his doubts about the unknown 20-something, wondering, "Can she do comedy?"

It turns out, he said, she could do "everything." She danced, sang, did slapstick, and was such a perfect onscreen match for him, Van Dyke said, that many viewers wondered whether the couple were also married in real life.

On the big screen, Moore starred opposite Elvis Presley in "Change of Habit," and with Julie Andrews in "Thoroughly Modern Millie." 

She earned an Oscar nomination for her role in Robert Redford's searing family drama "Ordinary People."

She also took home numerous Emmy awards for her television work and a Tony Award for a Broadway performance in "Whose Life Is It Anyway."

Behind the scenes, Moore faced a number of personal difficulties, including an addiction to alcohol. Her only child, Richie, born during her first marriage to Richard Meeker, struggled with emotional issues and drug abuse. 

He shot and killed himself in 1980, at age 24, in an incident that was officially deemed an accident.

Moore, who was born in Brooklyn and moved to California as a child, married her third husband, Robert Levine, in 1983. She was an active spokeswoman for animal rights and for diabetes, which she was diagnosed with in her 30s.

"[Diabetes] has taken a toll on her. She's not well at all," Van Dyke told the "Larry King Now" show in October 2015. 

(AFP)

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