Dick Van Dyke paid a heartfelt tribute to his former on-screen wife Mary Tyler Moore.
The titular star of The Dick Van Dyke Show remembered Moore, who died Wednesday at 80 years old, with an as-told-to article with The Hollywood Reporter. The 91-year-old Van Dyke recalled the day he first met Moore, who was only 23, and praised her comedy chops.
“I got to be on hand and watch her grow into the talent she became. She was just the best,” Dyke said. “I don’t know what made her comic timing so great. On Dick Van Dyke, we had Morey Amsterdam and Rose Marie, both of whom were old hams and had razor-sharp timing, and mine wasn’t bad either. But Mary just picked it up so fast. She had us all laughing after a couple of episodes. She just grabbed onto the character and literally turned us into an improv group, it was so well-oiled. That show was the best five years of my life.”
Van Dyke recalls Moore’s early reputation was only for playing “the wife, the woman who brings the coffee”; thus, they worked on Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman, which led to The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
“[Mary Tyler Moore] fell into the hands of great writers. It was a milestone, that show,” Van Dyke said. “It kicked off an awful lot of enthusiasm in a lot of women. She got it moving! Thank God she ended up with Carl Reiner and those writers, who just understood her and what she did.”
As Moore became sicker with diabetes, Van Dyke says they rarely saw each other. He presented Moore with the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 — a seminal moment in Van Dyke’s long career and life.
“For me, it was a payoff moment,” he recalled. “A culmination. Outside of her family, I don’t think there was anyone more proud of her than I was. Just to watch her grow was such a thrill for me. She left an imprint on television comedy.”
Van Dyke also tweeted a simple but sweet note about Moore: “There are no words. She was THE BEST! We always said that we changed each other’s lives for the better.”
Read Dyke’s full tribute to Moore at THR.