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Mary Tyler Moore, who died Wednesday at age 80, turned Hollywood on with her smile in a rare and memorable public appearance in 2012, when she accepted her Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award.
Following a career in the spotlight over five decades on screens big and small, Moore was honored with the industry guild’s highest honor, which has gone to Hollywood icons like Betty White, Julie Andrews, Rita Moreno, Sidney Poitier, and the late Debbie Reynolds.
Packed with famous faces from end-to-end, the crowd at Los Angeles’ Shrine Exposition Center on Jan. 29, 2012 offered a sustained standing ovation as Moore, who’d undergone brain surgery the previous year, approached the stage after a spirited introduction from Dick Van Dyke.
Moore thanked her peers in a heartfelt speech that recalled her early years as a struggling actress trying to make it in a cutthroat business.
“In 1955, I was 18 years old, determined to make my father proud, and prove to the sisters as Immaculate Heart High School that I would indeed amount to something. So, I sought out the Screen Actors Guild in hopes of becoming a member, but there was a small problem; it seems there were six other Mary Moores on the SAG pages,” she said. “Word came back: ‘Wanna work in the business? Change your name, sweetheart.’ Change my name? Come on, no. I’m Mary. Mary Moore. Everybody is going to know my name. I can’t change my name. Besides, what would my father say? I mean, it’s his name, too.”
She not only retained her moniker in several films and television shows throughout the 1950s and 60s, but also made a name for herself in the field as a renowned performer as part of The Dick Van Dyke Show and, later, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
“I was Mary Tyler Moore. I spoke it out loud. ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ sounded right, so I wrote it down on the form, and it looked right. It was right,” she continued. “SAG was happy, my father was happy, and, tonight, after having the privilege of working in this business among the most creative and talented people imaginable, I, too, am happy after all. Thank you.”
Watch Moore’s full acceptance speech above.