An interview with the TV icon as she reminisces about the biggest night on the small screen.
Written ByLESLEY M.M. BLUME
— Mary Tyler Moore receives the adoration of her Dick Van Dyke Show colleagues (from left, Richard Deacon, Carl Reiner, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jerry Paris) at the Emmy Awards, 1964, NBC / Getty Images
VIOLET GREY contributor, Lesley
M. M. Blume,
celebrates Hollywood’s most stylish moments captured in a single image for A
MOMENT IN TIME.
It would be hard to overstate the influence of Mary Tyler Moore when she emerged as a superstar in the mid-1960s. Back in the days of The Dick Van Dyke Show and, later, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, everyone either wanted to be her, be her friend, be her boyfriend, or even sit next to her at a salon. Basically, you wanted Mary Tyler Moore in your life in any capacity. After all, who could resist her? Whether playing a spirited housewife or a career woman, Ms. Moore mastered pitch-perfection and fine-line-walking: She was beautiful but unthreatening, self-deprecating but dignified, adored by both sexes.
Naturally, Ms. Moore comes to mind during Emmy season. She collected them the way others acquire rare coins: seven in total (The Mary Tyler Moore Show earned 29 Emmys during its seven-year run). VIOLET GREY unearthed a poignant photo of Ms. Moore after her first best actress win — in 1964 for The Dick Van Dyke Show — and asked her to share her memories. “I was surprised and thrilled,” she recalled — but not unprepared. She had written a speech, just in case. “At first, tears welled up, and I worried that I wouldn’t remember what to say.” She said in a recent television interview that “it’s no wonder that [when] people … get this symbol of achievement, of success, that they weep … It’s not only a recognition of what you’ve achieved, but it’s hope for the future, too.” The evening was made “even more special,” she says, because “we won in five major categories: best show, writing, directing, Dick, and me.” Their giddiness is apparent from the photo: “It was like walking on air.”
The award was a sign that she had not only arrived but that her career was “zooming,” she recalled. Launching a new television series is notoriously hard work, but there were lighter moments, too: “Dick used to like to nap during lunch on set. My cast mates and I used to tiptoe around him. When he woke up we made sure he would see all of our faces in front of him.”
— Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore on the set of The Dick Van Dyke show in 1962, CBS / Getty Images
Her rule for looking polished at ceremonies and in front of the camera: “Keep it simple.” “I remember wearing a silk Jax gown to the  ceremony, which was a real departure at the time,” she says of the unexpected, modern look. “The clothes were fresh and sexy, in an understated way.” “Fresh” was a priority for Ms. Moore, who helped shape the iconic looks of her characters, particularly Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. “Flowered frocks” were the enemy. Capri pants were in. “I was a young housewife, and I wore capri pants, so I wanted Laura to wear capri pants.”
Her breezy style, on set and off, made her a national role model, but Ms. Moore admits that she “never felt beautiful,” adding: “The closest I came was feeling pretty.” VIOLET GREY respectfully disagreed (with the photographic evidence to prove it) and asked: What makes a woman beautiful? “The belief that you are beautiful,” she answered.
On that we quite agree.
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