Mary Tyler Moore left her iconic role on The Dick Van Dyke Show to pursue a career on the Silver Screen, and she forever regretted the decision.
Moore became America’s sweetheart when she began playing Laura Petrie on the series in 1961. While the show barely scraped by during its first season, her wholesome independent charm helped catapult it from the 80th-ranked series to the 9th on Neilson’s for Season 2. The following two seasons hit three and seven.
The fame earned from The Dick Van Dyke Show gave the cast members a foot in the door. Hollywood agents came knocking on their doors with movie offers, and the temptation pushed them right out of the comfort of their hit series. In 1966, fans said goodbye to the Petrie family.
“Let’s face it. We quit because we all had motion picture offers, and we had to give that a try,” Moore told the Sun-Telegram in 1970, per MeTV.
Prior to the CBS sitcom, Mary Tyler Moore had only starred in three movies, two of which she had uncredited roles. So jumping into the glamorous world of film was a new and exciting move—at first. It took less than a year for the actress to realize her place was on TV.
“I was better in television,” she admitted. “I was a couple of years late going into the movies. They weren’t doing light, sophisticated comedy anymore, and I didn’t have a well-thought-out career buildup.”
Mary Tyler Moore Quickly Landed Her Namesake Series
Mary Tyler Moore’s first movie out of The Dick Van Dyke Show was Thoroughly Modern Millie. She starred as Miss Dorothy Brown alongside Julie Andrews and Carol Channing. The project made her realize she had lost her acting sea legs. And she missed playing familiar long-standing personas.
“Millie was the first time I had to really create a character. Julie was Julie, Carol was Carol,” Moore shared. “But I am not shy and retiring and demure.”
Only two years later, the actress got back to her roots with the Mary Tyler Moore Show. While she did continue to dabble in film, she was able to stick with the staple series for seven years. But she found that making that transition came with its own set of anxieties.
On The Dick Van Dyke Show, Moore enjoyed certain freedoms by being a supporting star, and she had to learn how to carry the responsibilities of headlining a namesake series.
“I was scared,” she later said, according to the publication. “I had to go out and do the warm-up. Dick used to do that. Now I realized there was nobody else but me. So I just went out there, and I told them I hoped they enjoyed themselves and to laugh when they wanted to, but not to force it.”
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