Mary Tyler Moore is, without a doubt, one of my favorite people. As a huge fan of both The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she’s at the top of my list of favorite classic television actresses.
I tend to have very good luck at library book sales. In fact, with the exception of maybe ten books, my entire collection of entertainment-related books has come from library sales, including my first edition copy of Lauren Bacall’s autobiography.
After All by Mary Tyler Moore was another lucky find, not only because I love MTM but because it’s a fantastic read. This autobiography was published in 1995 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York.
Written candidly and with thorough detail, After All covers every aspect of Moore’s personal and professional lives. She shares anecdotes from throughout her career, including her impressions of her co-stars* and criticisms of the entertainment business. Even for those unfamiliar with Mary’s work, I can see this book being of great interest, as she delves into the ins and outs of television production in the 1960s.
*She writes that Dick Van Dyke, though very talented and a joy to work with, always seemed to have a wall up on set.
As a fan of Moore’s work, I was excited to read all about her experiences as an actress and producer. What surprised me about this book was how openly she writes of her personal struggles, including her fractured relationship with her son and his eventual death.
“Just as my particular addiction was different from my mother’s, so too was my son’s different from my own. But the bizarre lesson was the same: if it hurts, don’t look for the source; deaden the pain.”
I could relate so much to the tendency toward self-doubt and perfectionism that plagued her throughout her career — things I had no clue she struggled with until reading this book. Moore writes:
“Perhaps the biggest pretense of all was that I was having fun. As much as I loved what I was doing, the doing of it terrified me. I was excelling at something that fed my self-doubts rather than eased them.”
Moore writes with surprising and admirable self-awareness, seemingly unafraid to share her mistakes and flaws with the reader:
“In case there’s any doubt about the acute state of my alcoholism, and the insanity it produced, I can recall with sickening clarity that on more than one occasion I played Russian roulette with my car, and what’s more, some unwary, innocent people played with me.”
Mary Tyler Moore’s life has not been an easy one, and as a result After All can be a very emotional and intense read. However, there are much lighter moments included as well — like the time that Mary met (and almost flashed) Cary Grant:
“I guess I don’t handle meeting celebrities very well, at least not at the beach. One day while dozing facedown on a towel in front of my house, I was jolted awake by the unmistakable voice, directly above me, of Cary Grant. It sounded like he was saying, ‘I admire your work.’ I whipped around too quickly to remember that I had unhooked the top of my bikini. I tried to say thank you while at the same time diving back down on the towel to preserve my modesty. Balanced on my stomach, while vainly trying to connect the clasp in back, I craned my head around and tried to speak. I never got more than half words out (certainly no vowels) as he backed away apologetically for having disturbed me.”
As far as star autobiographies go, this one now tops my list of favorites, falling behind only By Myself and Then Some. I highly recommend this read for any fan of classic television or Mary Tyler Moore.