Dick Van Dyke paid tribute to Mary Tyler Moore, who died this week at age 80, in an interview on Wednesday with The Hollywood Reporter. "I got to be on hand and watch her grow into the talent she became," the 91-year-old actor recalled. "She was just the best."
Van Dyke remembered Moore as a quick study and a natural comedian. Moore was cast as Laura Petrie, the wife of Van Dyke's character Rob on The Dick Van Dyke Show, when she was just 23 years old. "I don’t know what made her comic timing so great," he told THR. "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." He summed up his time acting opposite Moore as "the best five years of my life."
Van Dyke also applauded his co-star's work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which debuted on CBS in 1970, singling out the famous 1975 episode titled "Chuckles Bites the Dust" for special praise. "It was a performance that had me on the floor!" he recalled. "It was just masterful comedy."
Van Dyke suggested Moore's acting had larger cultural ramifications outside of the world of TV as well. He hailed The Mary Tyler Moore Show as "a milestone." "It kicked off an awful lot of enthusiasm in a lot of women," he continued. "She got it moving! … She left an imprint on television comedy."