It's no small irony that Mary Tyler Moore should die a day after the newest Academy Award nominations were announced. She was one of the greatest Oscar Winners Who Never Was – maybe not as great as "Citizen Kane" for Best Picture but in the running.
In 1981, she was nominated for one of the more astonishing performances in that decade of movies, as the hard, unforgiving wife and mother in Robert Redford's "Ordinary People." When Redford won the Oscar that year for Best Director, it was really for his extraordinarily intuitive understanding of just how very good Mary Tyler Moore could be in a role that was the exact opposite of her warm, lovable image.
And yet Moore herself didn't win. The Oscar went to Sissy Spacek for "Coal Miner's Daughter," a juicy, showbizzy role, to be sure, which Spacek did exceptionally well but without leaving behind anything permanent like the chill Mary Tyler Moore left behind in "Ordinary People" – a chill that remains decades later.
She was always great. But how seldom it was in her performing prime that she was given credit for the great actress she might have been.
She went for universal love instead. It was so much easier. It always belonged to her. Who could blame her?