“You’re gonna make it after all!” Those six words — and the accompanying carefree beret toss — helped make the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show one of the most memorable sequences in TV history. Filmed in downtown Minneapolis, the sequence and signature hat toss were the vision of 39-year-old director Reza Badiyi. This excerpt from Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s bestseller Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted takes us behind the scenes of that chilly February day, when TV history was made.
Moore and the crew experienced Minneapolis at its most brutally cold on the February day when they shot the credits. Luckily Moore didn’t have to speak for the footage, as most of the time her lips couldn’t move enough to form coherent words. But Badiyi had a vision, and most of it involved outdoor shooting. He hoped the final scene of the sequence would become the pièce de résistance: Mary would stop in the middle of an intersection, Nicollet Mall and Seventh Street, and toss the hat she had with her (a knitted black and turquoise beret Moore’s aunt had given her) in the air. The beret would serve as the perfect headwear for this, given its association with rebels (see: beatniks, Black Panthers) as well as girlish dreams of European sophistication. The act, Badiyi reasoned, would symbolize Mary’s graduation into her new, single, adult life in the city.
As they wrapped up filming at Nicollet Mall, Badiyi told the shivering star, “Run out into the middle of that intersection and throw your hat up in the air as if this is the happiest moment of your life.” As always, Moore did as she was told, even though she wasn’t sure what Badiyi was envisioning. The hat flew up in the air, and then plopped down onto the pavement. That was the shot. They wrapped.
Once they returned to Los Angeles and Badiyi showed Brooks and Burns the raw footage on the editing machine, the producers were puzzled. But they had other worries, so they had to trust Badiyi to do something worthwhile. If they hadn’t been desperately trying to write a good script, they might have meddled more.
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They were happy they didn’t. They couldn’t believe just how good it looked once it was edited together, freeze-framed at the end with the hat in the air and a scowling older woman who happened to be walking by disapproving of Mary’s independence for eternity. “You son of a bitch,” Burns said to Badiyi. “You made this work.”
From MARY AND LOU AND RHODA AND TED by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Armstrong. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.