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Essay
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Carl Reiner
Garry Marshall
Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Becomes Laura

In the Beginning 


I met Dick when I came back to read with him. He walked into the office and my heart just went pitter-pat. Oh my, I thought, Lord, how lucky could we be to have such a handsome leading man -- and so talented, so funny and he can sing and dance. There never was a moment of disappointment in the time we were together.

My job, basically, was to be the straight man for pretty much everybody on the show, especially Dick's straight man. Before you knew it, without any comedy experience, they began to see that I had a sense of humor, and that I could handle the occasional quip. And Carl started writing for me in such a way that I could still feed Dick straight lines but I could also get a laugh on the straight line. So more and more he began writing to that.
 

Interview with Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, Part 2
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Interview with Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, Part 2
 
View Part 1 of the interview in the Dick Van Dyke section.
 


Ahead of Her Time 


Laura was also a stand-up-and-tell-it-like-it-is wife. She would go toe-to-toe with Rob Petrie and argue with him. It wasn't just all fun and sweetness, how was your day dear? She gave him something to really deal with when he came home.

I did consider her ground-breaking for television in a few relatively unimportant ways, but I said for one thing that she had to wear pants, because I knew what housewives were wearing and they were wearing capri pants. And I guess I was the first woman not to be in a floral frock in high heels vacuuming the living room. I said I just don't buy that. That's untruthful. So we were able to make a few gains that way.
 


 

A Great Couple 


There was very definitely a sexual attraction between these two and you never had seen that before on other situation comedies. I mean ongoing and subtle. Not the kind where you have to write a scene about it, but just that it's present, it's there. As you can see it unmistakably present in any relationship. You know when two people love each other and dig each other. And that was now a big part of a situation comedy.
 

Video clip from The Dick Van Dyke Show
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Rob and Laura in the pilot episode, "The Sick Boy and the Sitter"*


Behind the Scenes

The Comedy Team 


Dick was ideal to play Rob Petrie because he's very talented, he's very spontaneous and energetic and a kind man and a funny man, and was able to bring physical humor to this show -- unlike very many actors.

Carl Reiner, to most all of us on that show, was not only a creative force in the writing of the characters, but he was a force in the demeanor on the set. He demanded honesty. There was no pushing anything under the carpet if there was a problem of some sort on the set or disagreement about how a scene should be played. He would just say, Okay let's put it out here on this table, and let's go at it, let's figure it and solve it and be on to something new. He really made us satisfied with only the truth.
 


 


Favorite Episode 


The one where Laura had been opening Rob's mail. He didn't like it and she said, Okay I promise I won't do it. And he didn't trust her, so he sends a big package to the house that's addressed to him. And I can't resist it. I have to open it. And when I do, it's an enormous life raft, and the evidence that I have been dishonest is right there in front of us. That was something that the writing did, it showed people with their foibles and made it alright. That you didn't have to be a bad person just because you did a bad thing.
 

Video clip from The Dick Van Dyke Show
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Clip from Mary Tyler Moore's favorite episode, "The Curious Thing About Women"*
 


Lessons Learned 


In the generosity that Dick showered on me, I felt a duty and responsibility to do for everybody else. It just was the way I was "brought up." I was brought up by Dick Van Dyke on that show, and I made sure that everybody cast in the show was a good person who was livable with, who had no ax to grind and that the writers be top-notch. Because of that, The Mary Tyler Moore Show worked out to be every bit the huge pleasure that The Dick Van Dyke Show was.
 


 

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*Video clip courtesy of The Dick Van Dyke Show DVD (www.dickvandyke.com), © Calvada Productions
 

 

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