Remembering Mary Tyler Moore, Whose Sunny Smile Masked Steel Many women in the news business cited Mary Richards, the role Mary Tyler Moore played on her eponymous show, as an inspiration. NPR's Scott Simon notes she inspired men, too, and showed a lot of grit.
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Remembering Mary Tyler Moore, Whose Sunny Smile Masked Steel

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Remembering Mary Tyler Moore, Whose Sunny Smile Masked Steel

Remembering Mary Tyler Moore, Whose Sunny Smile Masked Steel

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

I am surrounded by Mary Tyler Moores - smart, strong, independent women who have enriched the news business and, for that matter, our world. When Mary Tyler Moore died this week at the age of 80, a lot of women in the news business, and women who are lawyers, teachers, accountants and software engineers, cited Mary Richards, the role she played on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" from 1970 to 1977, as an inspiration. But I think a lot of young men in the news business, myself included, were also motivated by Mary Tyler Moore. Her show made news look like a nice way to spend your life - interesting and rewarding work in the company of kind, funny people who share jokes, sorrows, worries and celebrations.

The show was created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns. By 1973, 25 of the show's 75 writers were women. Looking back, I think the balance of women and men in the writers room helped make women characters more compelling and complete. Mary and her friends, Rhoda, Phyllis and Sue Ann, all made their own way in life. But I think it deepened the portrayal of men, too. Gruff Lou Grant got heartsick to tears when his wife walked out of their long marriage. You could see in Ted Baxter's silver-haired bluster the bombast of a man who was scared he couldn't measure up to his own 8-by-10 glossy image. "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" was a sitcom that showed women who were on their own and happy and men who could tell them how being on your own didn't always make you as happy as you'd hoped.

Mary Tyler Moore's famous sunniness could mask a lot of steel. She said without telling too many stories about it that she'd had a childhood that made her sing and dance for approval. She struggled to live with diabetes. She had a son who died in his 20s, lost a sister to drugs and a brother to cancer. Mary Tyler Moore suffered from a drinking problem for 10 or more years, worked hard to overcome it and was strong enough to talk about it.

In later years, she was drawn to serious, often searing roles - the mother who's lost a child in the 1980 film "Ordinary People" and the paralyzed sculptor in the Broadway production of "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" And she was outstanding. But a lot of us will always think of Mary Tyler Moore with that smile that could melt a Minnesota winter, captured in freeze-frame on a snowy street as she flung her knit cap into the air. I like to think Mary's cap will never come down.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE IS ALL AROUND")

JOAN JETT AND THE BLACKHEARTS: (Singing) 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 fake it. You can have the town, why don't you take it? You're gonna make it after all. How will you make it on your own?

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