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A Complicated Nostalgia by Mary Tyler Moore

The documentary frames Ms. Moore’s life in the context of the women’s movement, intercutting footage of feminist rallies, news about Roe v. Wade and clips of Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan. But while Ms. Moore’s television self seemed totally in tune with feminism, her personal life was more complicated. “She didn’t think feminism was that fanciful,” says Ms. Moore’s close friend, actress Beverly Sanders. She “she identified with it, to a certain extent.”

Unlike the daringly single Mary Richards, Mrs. Moore had been married for virtually her entire adult life. She was first married at age 18 and had her only child, a son named Richard; divorced; and soon after she married producer Grant Tinker, who directed her career and with whom she founded MTM Enterprises, her highly successful production company. Not particularly independent at the time, Ms Moore admitted that she relied heavily on Mr Tinker’s judgement: “I was a person who liked to be directed and directed.”

Significant challenges beset his years with Mr. Tinker. She suffered a miscarriage and then, at age 34, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (the complications of which plagued her for the rest of her life). He also battled alcoholism.

In 1978, her younger sister, Elizabeth, committed suicide. And perhaps most painful was her estranged relationship with her son, with whom she struggled to connect. It is often noted by friends of hers in the film that, off-screen, Ms. Moore could appear aloof and aloof, unlike her optimistic on-screen self.

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended in 1976, and Ms. Moore embarked on a new Mary Richards-esque chapter in her personal life, divorcing Mr. Tinker and moving to New York City on her own. However, professionally, she left Mary Richards far behind and turned her attention to stage and film, proving to be especially gifted for serious drama.

In 1980, Ms. Moore won a Special Tony for her portrayal of a quadriplegic hospital patient in “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” And she was nominated for an Oscar for her subtle performance in Robert Redford’s 1980 directorial debut, “Ordinary People.”,” as Beth, an emotionally closed mother grieving the death of one child and dealing with another’s attempted suicide.

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