Just one month into the New Year, Hollywood has lost two of its most groundbreaking artists. American actress-comedienne Mary Tyler Moore, 80, and prominent English actor Sir John Hurt, 77, both passed away on Jan. 25.
More than just a talented actress, Moore is known for her characters who defied gender norms and broke the mold of female stereotypes. It was her role in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” that first rocketed her to stardom. For five years, Moore played Laura Petrie, wife to Dick Van Dyke’s Rob Petrie—but Moore played no typical TV housewife.
“I want to do what I do in real life, what my friends do, and that’s to be a realistic wife who wears pants and doesn’t care how she looks,” Moore said on her breakout role.
And that’s exactly what she did. As the charmingly relatable Laura Petrie, Moore—and her capri pants—grew insanely popular.
That worldwide fame was kept alive when Moore became the star of her own sitcom, appropriately titled, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Here, Moore’s feminist efforts were more pronounced than ever before. Starring as Mary Richards, a television news producer, Moore’s new show premiered just as the second wave of the feminist movement was taking hold.
Unlike most sitcoms, the show was centered on Richards’ career and friends—not her family and home life. The comedy quickly became a household staple of the 1970s, winning an astounding 29 Emmys.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, English actor John Hurt was making waves as well. Known for playing wild and tormented characters—as well as having the ability to play a large variety of roles—Hurt quickly became one of England’s best-known actors. With a knack for sci-fi and fantasy roles, Hurt played everything from a homosexual writer, to the titular role in 1980’s The Elephant Man, to wand-maker Mr. Ollivander from the Harry Potter films. His final scene in 1979’s Alien, in which a creature burst through his chest, has been called “one of the most memorable [moments] in cinematic history.” Hurt has died on screen at least 43 times, according to IMDb.
Hurt’s convincing and sympathetic acting chops—accentuated by his trademark craggy face and “honey and acid” dripping voice—was so impressive that it gained him the title of Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2004, joining the ranks of Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart and Dame Maggie Smith.
Both Moore and Hurt were honored at the 2017 Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday Jan. 29, where they acted as poignant reminders of how excellent film and television can be a tremendous tool in helping to bring about positive social and political change.