She could turn the world on with her smile, but personal joy and inner happiness was something that seemed to elude the late Mary Tyler Moore. This despite the laughter she brought her fans in the 1960s and 1970s (and forever after in reruns) through her portrayals of Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Richards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The actress is the subject of Herbie J Pilato’s MARY: The Mary Tyler Moore Story, a new biography being published next month by the Jacobs Brown Media Group. It’s essentially the second installment of the author’s personal mission to discover, explore, and illuminate the people behind some of the biggest female TV icons of the 1960s. He began with extensive writings on Bewitched and that show’s star, Elizabeth Montgomery (Bewitched Forever, Twitch Upon a Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery), and he’s continuing with MARY. Along the way, he’s been discovering the challenge of doing so.
“When I wrote Twitch Upon a Star,” he explains, “I was immersed in Elizabeth’s life. I mean, she was a friend. Her children and her ex-husband, William Asher, were friends. Honestly, I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for Elizabeth, so when she died and I finally decided to write this book, I thought, ‘How am I going to do this as a journalist and as a friend? How am I going to tell the truth and not hurt anybody’s feelings?’ And it was the same thing with Mary — even though she was not a friend, she is a beloved actress. Yet like Elizabeth, she was a very complicated person. She had her flaws and I had to figure out how I was going to approach her as a journalist.”
Part of his dilemma stems from the fact that he is also the founder of the Classic TV Preservation Society, a non-profit organization devoted to the positive social influence of Classic TV shows. As such, he feels he has certain responsibilities which prevent him from being overly negative towards someone who has brought joy to the world through television. “At the same time,” Herbie reflects, “you have to tell the truth.”
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