Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on as comedy icon

Mary Tyler Moore dies at 80
Mary Tyler Moore dies at 80

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    Mary Tyler Moore dies at 80

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Mary Tyler Moore dies at 80 03:33

(CNN)When Mary Tyler Moore auditioned for the role of Laura on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," series creator Carl Reiner famously put his hand on her head, walked her down to producer Sheldon Leonard's office and said, "I found her, here she is."

That might have been television viewers' introduction to Moore, but audiences would continue finding her for years to come, in a Hall of Fame career that included two of the best sitcoms of all time: "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Moore was an inordinately gifted comedienne, from her trademark bouts of crying to her stammering delivery when flustered. Yet her career went well beyond that, from her brilliant performance in the movie "Ordinary People" to her influence as a co-founder of MTM with then-husband Grant Tinker, a TV production powerhouse that produced not only "Mary Tyler Moore" but many signature programs, including "St. Elsewhere," "Hill Street Blues" and multiple spinoffs from her program, such as "Lou Grant" and "Rhoda."
Tinker, the former NBC chairman, died in November, and the loss of both of them in such short order almost feels like the end of a TV era.
    Having started as a dancer -- and been featured solely for her legs as the secretary whose face was never seen in the 1950s show "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" -- Moore had to overcome skepticism at the time that a beautiful actress (someone who could famously "turn the world on with her smile," as the song went) could also be funny. Her series, moreover, marked a breakthrough in terms of depicting a working woman, one who was single, dated but devoted to her career.
    "She did everything so naturally and so gracefully," Reiner said of Moore in a 2015 PBS special, calling her "the Grace Kelly of comedians."
    Moore's career actually hit a fallow period after "The Dick Van Dyke Show," before Van Dyke featured her in a variety special that helped trigger interest in her among network executives.
    "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" followed in 1970, quickly becoming one of the most popular series on television. While Moore was surrounded by a one-for-the-ages cast, she more than held her own, including what many consider one of the greatest sitcom episodes ever, where Moore's character -- after admonishing her co-workers for joking about it -- breaks into uncontrollable laughter during a funeral for Chuckles the Clown.
    Moore continued to work regularly -- in television and on stage -- after those shows, while earning plaudits for her work as an advocate for various causes, including diabetes research.
    The memories that linger, though, will for most stem from the glow she brought to the screen in the 1960s and '70s. And thanks to those shows, that hat she tossed skyward during the credits of her eponymous series will never come down.