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Mary Tyler Moore dead: TV star, feminist icon dies at age 80

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WATCH: Mary Tyler Moore, the star of two of TV's best-loved sitcoms, has died. – Jan 25, 2017

Mary Tyler Moore, best known for starring on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has died at the age of 80.

TMZ first reported Wednesday afternoon that Moore was in grave condition at a Connecticut hospital. The news outlet reported that she was suffering from a number of health problems and that it had recently become critical.

Moore died Wednesday with her husband and friends nearby, her publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said.

“Today beloved icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine,” Buxbaum said. “A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.”

READ MORE: Mary Tyler Moore Gallery

Her former co-star, Betty Whitetold Closer magazine in 2014 that the 80-year-old has been living with diabetes for years, and is “nearly blind” from her battle with the disease.

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In 2011, Moore’s spokesman, Alla Plotkin, told the Daily Mail that Moore had undergone surgery to remove a benign tumour from her brain.

Born in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1936, Moore’s television career began at the age of 17 as “Happy Hotpoint,” a tiny dancing elf on Hotpoint appliances in TV commercials that aired during the 1950s series Ozzie and Harriet. She appeared in 39 Hotpoint commercials in just five days.

WATCH: Actress Mary Tyler Moore has passed away at the age of 80. Flowers were laid at a bronze statue of Moore in Minneapolis while fans also paid respects around her Hollywood Walk of Fame star in Los Angeles.
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Fans pay respects to Mary Tyler Moore after actress passes away at age 80 – Jan 25, 2017

Her first regular TV role was as a mysterious telephone receptionist — whose voice was heard but only her legs were visible — for Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

She is known for her role of Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. The show gave a look into the work and home life of TV husband, Rob Petrie, played by Dick Van Dyke. Viewers were given an “inside look” at how a television show was written and produced.

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With her unerring gift for comedy, Moore seemed perfectly fashioned to the smarter wit of the new, post-Eisenhower age. As Laura, she traded in the housedress of countless sitcom wives and clad her dancer’s legs in Capri pants that were as fashionable as they were suited to a modern American woman.

WATCH: Mary Tyler Moore dies at 80. Mike Armstrong reports.

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Mary Tyler Moore dies at 80 – Jan 25, 2017

Laura was a dream wife and mother, but not perfect. Viewers identified with her flustered moments and her protracted, plaintive cry to her husband: “Ohhhh, Robbbb!”

The series won 15 Emmy Awards and in 2002 it was ranked third on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.

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In January 2016, Van Dyke opened up about his then-TV wife.

“The first time I met Mary Tyler Moore, I thought she was just beautiful, but I thought she was a little young,” Van Dyke said of his co-star, who was just 24 when the show started, and 11 years his junior.

“We had this, like a teenage crush on each other,” the actor admits. “It was fun.”

They also appeared together in several TV specials over the years and in 2003, co-starred in a PBS production of the play The Gin Game.

In 1970, Moore successfully pitched The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The show was a half-hour newsroom sitcom that follows the premise of a single working woman’s life, alternating between work and home. The program was a monumental one for television, with the first never-married, independent career woman as the central character, played by Moore.

Mary Richards was comfortable being single in her 30s, and while she dated, she wasn’t desperate to get married. She sparred affectionately with her gruff boss, Lou Grant, played by Ed Asner and addressed always as “Mr. Grant.” And millions agreed with the show’s theme song that she could “turn the world on with her smile.”

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Mary Richards “certainly was never a character that I had to develop when we were doing the show,” Moore said in a 1995 interview with The Associated Press. “Everything I did was by the seat of the pants. I reacted to every written situation the way I would have in real life.”

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She likened being linked with that role to “growing up with a mother who is a very famous actress. There are all kinds of wonderful perks that go with it, and then there are little resentments, too.

“My life is inextricably intertwined with Mary Richards’, and probably always will be,” she said.

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Obit: Mary Tyler Moore, TV and movie star, dies at 80 – Jan 25, 2017

The series ran seven seasons and won 29 Emmys, a record that stood for a quarter century until “Frasier” broke it in 2002.

In 2007, TIME magazine put the show on its list of “17 Shows That Changed TV,” and stated that the series “liberated TV for adults — of both sexes” by being “a sophisticated show about grownups among other grownups, having grownup conversations.”

Tina Fey explained that Moore’s show helped inspire 30 Rock’s emphasis on office relationships. “Our goal is to try to be like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, where it’s not about doing the news,” said Fey. Entertainment Weekly also noted that the main characters of 30 Rock mirror those of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

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Mary Tyler Moore was the first in a series of acclaimed, award-winning shows she produced with her second husband, Grant Tinker, who died in November 2016, through their MTM Enterprises. (The meowing kitten at the end of the shows was a parody of the MGM lion.) The Bob Newhart Show, Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere and WKRP in Cincinnati are among the MTM series that followed.

Condolences started pouring in on Twitter once news of her passing spread.

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Over the course of her career, Moore was nominated for several awards, including two Golden Globes and an Academy Award. In 1985, she won the Crystal award, which honours outstanding women who, through their endurance and excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry.

She won seven Emmy awards over the years and was nominated for an Oscar for her 1980 portrayal of an affluent mother whose son is accidentally killed in Ordinary People.  The film won the Oscar for best picture and best director for Robert Redford.

In 2012, Moore received the Screen Actors Guild’s lifetime achievement award.

Moore also found time to write two memoirs: After All and Growing Up Again: Life, Loves and Oh Yeah, Diabetes. The two reads addressed Moore’s earlier alcoholism (she was a recovering alcoholic), and focuses on living with Type 1 diabetes.

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Moore endured personal tragedy in real life, too. The same year Ordinary People came out, her only child, Richard, who’d had trouble in school and with drugs, accidentally shot himself at 24. Her younger sister, Elizabeth, died at 21 from a combination of a painkillers and alcohol.

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In 1983, Moore married cardiologist Robert Levine, who survives her. Her marriage to Tinker lasted from 1962 to 1981. Before that, she was married to Dick Meeker from 1955 to 1961.

Moore was the International Chairman of JDRF, formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She used her celebrity status to help raise funds and awareness of diabetes mellitus Type 1. In 2007, the foundation honoured Moore’s dedication by creating “Forever Moore,” a research initiative which will support JDRF’s Academic Research and Development and JDRF’s Clinical Development Program.

Moore also worked with Farm Sanctuary, an American animal protection organization, to raise awareness about the process involved in factory farming and to promote compassionate treatment of farm animals. In 1996, she appeared as herself on an episode of Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom Ellen. The storyline featured Moore honouring DeGeneres for trying to save a 65-year-old lobster from being eaten at a seafood restaurant.

Moore was also co-founder of Broadway Barks, an annual animal adopt-a-thon held in New York City. She worked to make New York City a no-kill city and to encourage adopting animals from shelters.

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In 1992, Moore received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A decade later, a life-size bronze statue went on display in Minneapolis, depicting her tossing her trademark tam into the air as she did in the opening credits of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

With files from The Associated Press

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