Dick Van Dyke remembers the moment that changed Mary Tyler Moore's career

Of all the celebrities mourning the loss of Mary Tyler Moore, perhaps no one knew her better than her former co-star Dick Van Dyke. The two first worked together almost six decades ago—when she was cast on his eponymous sitcom, The Dick Van Dyke Show, as his wife, Laura. In a moving tribute, the actor fondly remembered the venerated actress's impeccable comedic timing—and the moment that changed her career forever.

"Outside of her family, I don't think there was anyone more proud of her than I was," Van Dyke told The Hollywood Reporter. "Just to watch her grow was such a thrill for me. She left an imprint on television comedy."

On The Dick Van Dyke Show, Van Dyke said, they had no shortage of performers with "razor-sharp timing." Still, there was something exceptional about Tyler Moore: "She just grabbed onto the character and literally turned us into an improv group, it was so well-oiled. That show was the best five years of my life."

See photos of the friends together:

Van Dyke and his co-star won their first Emmys in the same year: 1964. In 1966, Van Dyke recalls that the TV Academy had added a comedy category—"and that year we all won. My God, we were excited. We had also been canceled!"

It was after the show had been cancelled, however, that Tyler Moore got an even bigger break.

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"The funny thing was, after the show went off the air, Mary had the reputation of being the wife, the woman who brings the coffee," Van Dyke continued. "So we cooked up this special called Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman, where we showed off everything she could do, and that somehow changed CBS's mind and that's how she got The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It fell into the hands of great writers. It was a milestone, that show. It kicked off an awful lot of enthusiasm in a lot of women. She got it moving!

"Thank God she ended up with Carl Reiner and those writers, who just understood her and what she did," he continued. "The episode when Chuckles the Clown died? She was at the funeral and she was crying and suddenly, as she recalled him, she began to laugh. It was a performance that had me on the floor! It was just masterful comedy."

See photos of Mary Tyler Moore throughout her life:

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