MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY
Herbie J Pilato
Paperback: 458 pages
Publisher: Jacobs Brown Press (January 25, 2019)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
Mary isn't the first show biz bio I've read from Herbie J Pilato, a founder of the Classic TV Preservation Society. I first learned about the depth of Herbie's TV expertise when I read his 2007 The Bionic Book: The Six Million Dollar man and the Bionic Woman Reconstructed. After that, he produced several adoring books about Bewitched star, Elizabeth Montgomery.
Now, Pilato has presented us with a in-depth, exhaustive bio of a star he clearly also adores, a star most of us out here in TV-Watcher land love as well. Mary Tyler Moore, and her more iconic roles like Laura Petrie and Mary Richards, certainly did turn the world on with her smile. If that number includes you, then this is a book for you.
To greater and lesser degrees, most of us know quite a bit about the biography of Mary Tyler Moore, her career, her private life, her struggles, her successes and failures. There's so much in the public record, including the autobiographies Moore wrote.
What Herbie J. Palato has given us is a one-stop tome that covers everything one could ask for about Moore herself, her colleagues, her relationships, her misfires and triumphs, her self-consciousness and lack of self-esteem in terms of her looks, not to mention her causes like diabetes research and animal rights.
When an author devotes this much attention to a beloved subject, there can be some excesses in the text. In this case, there's a lot of repetition, notably the countless references to the importance of Ordinary People in Moore's career. There are numerous paragraphs summarizing the careers and roles of those Moore worked with at one time or another. Of course, this makes Mary an easy book to skim. But keep your eyes open to catch the streams of nuggets Pilato gives us. We get a portrait of a woman in 3-D, including her shortcomings, talents, work ethic, parental skills (or lack of them) and her insights an perspectives regarding her important and influential career. And surprises--I didn't know her animal rights activism extended to protecting lobsters. Books like these are also good for reviewing lesser known projects like talk show appearances, guest-starring and cameos on TV series, and public speaking. For the first time, I got the story to what happened to the short-lived1985 Mary series co-starring John Astin from Addams Family fame. I got the insider stories behind the sad attempts to reunite the Dick Van Dyke cast and especially the dreary Mary and Rhoda TV movie.
Naturally, you got to have some real interest in the biography of Mary Tyler Moore to want to dive into this very detailed and balanced tribute. Someone needed to write this book, and who better than Herbie J. Pilato. He knows how to do it.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Feb. 5, 2019: