Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke’s reunion in ‘The Gin Game’ went beyond simple nostalgia

Actress Mary Tyler Moore died Jan. 25, 2017. She was 80. In 2002, Moore and Dick Van Dyke, her costar in the acclaimed sitcom that carried his name, reunited for a television adaptation of “The Gin Game.” The two met with The Times’ Susan King to discuss their new project as well as the legacy of their most famous collaboration. 

Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore could have played it safe. But they didn’t.

Thirty-six years after they did their last scenes together as the irrepressible Rob and Laura Petrie on the classic 1961-66 sitcom “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” the two award-winning performers have reunited. But instead of picking a nostalgic, charming project that would have their legions of fans letting out a collective sign of joy, Van Dyke and Moore decided to go dramatic as two unsympathetic residents of a nursing home in “The Gin Game.”

“It was just a labor of love,” says Van Dyke with a twinkle of his blue eyes. “We wanted to do it together.”

Van Dyke recalls the first time he saw Moore arrive on the set of his series back in 1961. “I said, ‘She’s so beautiful,’ ” he recalls warmly. ” ‘And she’s young.’ But, boy, I tell you, within a couple of weeks we found out what a comedian we had. She didn’t know it. She had never done any comedy and she just had the timing. We just lucked out with everybody on that show. What a romp.”

The two return to the set to start rehearsing a scene in which Weller and Fonsia get into a heated, almost violent argument. The scene concludes with Weller shouting a cruel expletive at Fonsia and storming off the porch.

Moore quickly breaks the tension of the scene: “You’ve been wanting to call me that for 40 years,” she says to Van Dyke. The entire crew breaks into laughter.

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