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ET: Mary Tyler Moore Was Blind & Not Communicative before Her Death - Inside Her Final Months

Busayo Ogunjimi
Nov 07, 2021
05:00 A.M.
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American movie icon Mary Tyler battled chronic health issues which left her blind and motionless during her last days. But before her declining health, she delivered amazing flicks which shot her to stardom.

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Mary Tyler Moore was an American actress and producer who gained recognition in the '60s. She was famous for her role on the hit TV sitcom "The Dick Van Dyke Show," which got her three Emmy Awards.

She is also well-known for her starring roles on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show'' which earned her three more Emmys. Moore's acting mastery on TV series made her one of the most prominent television actresses in history.

MOORE'S EARLY LIFE AND CAREER

On December 29, 1936, Moore was born in Brooklyn, New York. She was the oldest of George Tyler and Marjorie Hackett's three children. The actress, who would later face serious difficulties in her life, started pursuing her passion for acting and dancing in high school.

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The Emmy Awards recipient started her career as a dancer in commercials. She played Happy Hotpoint, a dancing elf to promote home appliances in the 1950s, and after a few years as a dancer, she landed a role as Sam in "Richard Diamond, Private Detective."

Other TV dramas Moore made appearances in include "Johnny Staccato," "Bachelor Father," and "The Tab Hunter Show." She also appeared on "77 Sunset Strip" before becoming one of television's favorite wives with her character Laura Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

Close-up of smiling actress Mary Tyler Moore who stars in the television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, circa 1975 | Photo: Getty Images

Close-up of smiling actress Mary Tyler Moore who stars in the television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, circa 1975 | Photo: Getty Images

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When the hit TV sitcom ended in 1966, she explored her interest in musicals. Moore took parts in musical comedy as "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and "Change of Habit" in 1970, where she starred as a nun who fell in love with a doctor.

The icon's success in showing business is no secret, but the same couldn't be said about her personal life. While Moore's acting prowess heated Hollywood, she was constantly in and out of relationships and battled with a series of illnesses that would later be the cause of her death.

The couple's friends confirmed their domestic disputes were an oddity caused by the medication Moore took.

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American actress Mary Tyler Moore, circa 1970 | Photo: Getty Images

American actress Mary Tyler Moore, circa 1970 | Photo: Getty Images

MOORE'S RELATIONSHIPS AND DETERIORATING HEALTH

Moore was married three times, and she had one child. She walked down the aisle for the first time with Richard Meeker in 1955, and they welcomed a son, Richard Jr., the following year.

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After her divorce from Meeker, she moved on with Grant Tinker. Moore was left devastated when her only child, Richard Jr., died from unprompted gunfire and her second marriage also went down the drain, leading to a split in 1981.

 Mary Tyler Moore in a scene from 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show', Los Angeles, California, 1970 | Photo: Getty Images

Mary Tyler Moore in a scene from 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show', Los Angeles, California, 1970 | Photo: Getty Images

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She soon got over the distress of losing her son and was ready to walk down the aisle again with Robert Levine, a doctor who had treated her mother. However, the actress struggled with health complications and alcoholism amidst her marital issues.

When Moore was in her early thirties, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She later became a spokesperson and international advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The actress also checked into the Betty Ford Clinic for her alcoholism treatment shortly after tying the knot a third time.

Dr. Levine was the only relative Moore had when she died.

Mary Tyler Moore, presenter during 4th Annual TV Land Awards - Show at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, United States | Photo: Getty Images

Mary Tyler Moore, presenter during 4th Annual TV Land Awards - Show at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, United States | Photo: Getty Images

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MOORE'S TROUBLING LAST DAYS

The star's death certificate states that she died on January 25, 2017, at 80, of a heart attack brought on by pneumonia. According to reports, her husband of 33 years, Dr. Levine, and other loved ones were by her side when she passed.

Following the actress's death, her friend and former colleague Carl Reiner discussed her depressing last days in an interview. Reiner, who later passed away at 98 in 2020, revealed that he had visited Moore before her death and told her husband:

"She may not hear you, but whisper in her ear that it's OK to go. You can go."

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Mary Tyler Moore accepts the Life Achievement Award on January 29, 2012, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images.

Mary Tyler Moore accepts the Life Achievement Award on January 29, 2012, in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images.

Reiner explained that she looked healthy the last time he saw Moore at an event, but he could tell that her health was declining. The actor recalled walking down to where she was, and she just stared at him like she didn't recognize who he was, but Reiner later realized she was blind.

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Speaking on her last days, Reiner noted that people close to the actress knew that her chances of survival were slim. The late actress's colleague also revealed that Moore spent her last days at home surrounded by hospice care, and she couldn't speak.

Her [Moore's] siblings also had tragic deaths at a relatively young age.

Mary Tyler Moore poses backstage at the 2006 TV Land Awards at the Barker Hangar | Photo: Getty Images

Mary Tyler Moore poses backstage at the 2006 TV Land Awards at the Barker Hangar | Photo: Getty Images

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Reiner knew that Moore might not survive, but her death came as a shock nonetheless, especially after he heard about the news of her passing on television. Losing Moore, who he called "the greatest," pained him, as their friendship had a lasting impact on his life.

News reports made it known that the late actress had surgery to remove a brain tumor in May of 2011. And in addition to her health complications, she and Levine also had lots of disagreements making the police regular visitors to their home.

The couple's friends confirmed that Moore's medication oddly caused their domestic disputes after her brain surgery. According to sources close to the couple, her condition led to hallucinations and confusion, and Levine was devoted to his wife.

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Actress Mary Tyler Moore poses with her Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild backstage at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

Actress Mary Tyler Moore poses with her Life Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild backstage at the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

As the actress's loved ones continue to mourn their loss, a friend and neighbors described Moore as a talented and successful actress who sadly had no immediate family except her husband during her last days. The friend went on to say:

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"And then, when she took her final breath, she didn't even have the comfort of a child or sibling's reassuring hand gently holding hers as she slipped away to the other side."

Sadly, Dr. Levine was the only relative Moore had when she died. Her son Richard Jr. passed away years before her death, and her ex-husbands are both deceased. Her siblings also had tragic deaths at a relatively young age.

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