Friday, February 3, 2017

Turning the world on...

I was saddened to hear of the passing of Mary Tyler Moore at the age of 80 and surprised as well.
Normally,you hear about a celebrity not doing well and I hadn't heard any of that type of news,so it hit me as a shock.

I was a fan of Mary Tyler Moore,mainly because of the 1970's show that carried her name.
I liked the Dick Van Dyke Show where she was married to the namesake from the syndicated episodes,but it was her show that I remembered most from childhood.
CBS owned Saturday night television in the days when Saturday night was more important in the ratings,so with no school the next day,I could watch all the shows that comprised that powerhouse block which included All in the Family,Bob Newhart and the Carol Burnett show from beginning to end without the dreaded "time for bed" call for school the following day.

The show was trendsetting for the obvious reasons (Check my podcast with Jennifer Keishin Armstrong out,she wrote a terrific book on the MTM show),but I'll stay off the show,so I can talk about my memories on the career of Mary Tyler Moore.
For my money,Mary Tyler Moore in the first season of that show ranks with the most beautiful women not only of her age or era,but anytime and she was witty with the ability to play the straight person for the funny lines from the other performers as well.
The show was funny for many reasons,just not MTM,but she clearly was the glue that held the various pieces together.
Many people always go to the Chuckles the Clown episode as their go to memory,but I have two memories that make me smile.
The first is the neat set of the first apartment on the show.
It was such a nice little place that you could very easily see yourself living in and even though the inside was made for TV (the exterior shot was of a real home in Minneapolis),as a child,I could just imagine what it was like on your own.
The other was the classic theme song by Sonny Curtis,who had hits with the theme twice,with the the opening and then later with a slowed down country version.
I'm not sure if you are over 45,you couldn't sing at least some of that song....

Mary Tyler Moore also has some other memories for me.
Her Oscar winning role in Ordinary People was an outstanding performance and she was a very deserving winner in her role as a very cold mother in a family split apart by the death of their son.
That was an excellent film and one that I recommend if you haven't seen it.
Another memory is the awful "Mary" variety show from the late 70's.
Michael Keaton's skills would seem to be somewhat of a fit for that type of show,but it didn't turn out that way and this was my introduction to Keaton (other than his guest appearances on Mister Rogers Neighborhood,that is) and as bad as Keaton was in this show-Imagine this being your first time seeing David Letterman and it's in that format!
It wasn't my first time seeing Letterman (I had seen him plenty of him on the Tonight Show),but words cannot convey seeing his rampant squirming with being uncomfortable on about anything that he did on this show-So..I'll show you below,but I cannot imagine anyone thinking David Letterman would be a great selection for a variety show cast position!

However,of all these (except for the MTM show),my best memory always was a guaranteed laugh.
You see after the Dick Van Dyke show and before the MTM show,Mary Tyler Moore had struggled with some lackluster films and was looking for a hit to revive her career a bit.
Her selection was an Elvis Presley film of course,because what could be better in bringing your career back to the forefront than an Elvis Presley vehicle!
Well,this one got even better than the usual Elvis romp because they tried to play it straight in "Change of Habit" in which Elvis plays a doctor and Moore played an undercover nun (seriously)
attempting to see what the secular world was like.
Change of Habit is one of those films that is so bad,that I find hilarious in just how bad this film is...

Two memories of this film;One is this-Not long after we got married and Cherie and I like most new couples with very little money,saw me walking through the now defunct Ames department stores (Ames and its local predecessor Zayre's never did much for me) and there was Change of Habit on VHS for $4.99.
4.99 doesn't seem like much,but at that time,an excellent argument could be made for about 10,000 things that could have been a larger need than a VHS copy of Change of Habit,but we left Ames with this wonderful films and nearly 30 years later,I still hear about that day!
The other was this-back in the "olden days" of pre-cable television,if you stayed up late,there wasn't much on television other than old movies and I had scoped out the TV guide to see what was showing on a late Saturday night at 1 or 2 AM.
I knew about this film and being a good big brother (Snicker) I hyped it to Shane constantly about what a great movie this was,it had Elvis and Mary Tyler Moore in it,you have to stay up to watch etc.
So,I figure you see where this was headed and upon watching this,during every commercial break,Shane would climb down from his upper bunk and pummel me with a pillow as he told me what a jerk I was (I'm sure the words were worse than jerk) for talking him into this....

Those are a few of my memories of Mary Tyler Moore and her career.
I'm sure this is a cliche' used by many in writing of her passing-but she did turn the world on with her smile....

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