As somebody who collects 16mm film, I’m always on the lookout for surviving remnants of past TV glories. Exhibit One for today: this YouTube video featuring a fresh transfer to digital of some 1973 footage shot 50 years ago in Minneapolis.
The producers of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, James L. Brooks and Allan Burns, decided it was time to freshen up the look of the series’ opening title sequence. Moore had shed her long hair look from Seasons One and Two and other fashion changes seemed to dictate a new opener.
These B-Roll outtakes were shot over two rainy days in May in 1973. The stock footage was shot on 16mm by local CBS affiliate WCCO. Brooks was on site for the shoot, as was producer Dave Davis, who had already moved on to produce another show for MTM Productions, The Bob Newhart Show, but nevertheless volunteered to direct the outdoor scenes to be used in Moore’s series’ opening titles.
Others seen in the footage are Moore of course, co-star Valerie Harper who played Rhoda, and Moore’s husband and the MTM Productions boss Grant Tinker.
The scenes will be familiar to anyone who has seen the series. There is the walk by the lake; Moore, in a Minnesota Vikings jersey washing her Mustang; Moore riding up the elevator at the Crystal Court mall.
An actual park ranger is wrangled to point out places of interest in the shot where Mary ducks to avoid getting in camera range while standing with a local crew. Moore is also seen squatting and feeding ducks snapping at her fingers in Loring Park.
Among the takeaways is the relaxed banter between Moore and Harper, seen at one point grabbing lunch between takes with Tinker. The two also walk down a street, past a Burger King (“Home of the Whopper”) seemingly invisible to the locals.
A few locals have suggested in the YouTube comment section that this is a less friendly section of Minneapolis to be out wandering the streets.
Davis told the WCCO crew that the title updating cost $15,000 — a lot of money in 1973, so he and Moore and Harper were reportedly waiving their fees. Among the crew from LA was a hairdresser and makeup expert. About 6,000 ft was shot, all cut down into short snippets used in the 45-second titles seen each week.
The producers had planned to also shoot in front of Moore’s character Mary Richard’s house in Minneapolis but the then-current owner would not cooperate. First she claimed to be annoyed that so many tourists were scouting the place and demanded a fee. Then on the day the shoot was to happen, she placed large “Impeach Nixon” banners on the house. The move drew national publicity — strange coming from somebody who claimed she was fed up with all the gawkers.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show ran from 1970 to 1977 on CBS. You can see more of the original WCCO report on the shooting of the title sequence here.