“It worked out better than I ever dreamed,” says Mary Tyler Moore, in that clear, confident voice that Andy Warhol said could make her “the biggest thing in politics since Reagan.” She is flashing the spectacular smile that John Leonard described as “a cross between a cannibal and a piano,” and her eyes are shining. She is speaking of her country place in upstate New York, a compound of long roofs sloping up and wide lawns sloping gently down—so bright they, too, seem to be shining—to a pool of ponds spilling one into the other.

Here is a woman determined that no delightful thing will ever be lost on her. “It’s become a way of life for me—what I was always looking for and never really knew it. The chance to entertain in a relaxed way. The chance to do things that I had not trained myself to do—like fiddle with flowers, to finally know the difference between an annual and a perennial. To be able to go into the vegetable garden and fool around a little bit. And the horses, being able to ride them—my mare is pregnant, she’s going to foal soon, she’s going to put her babe on the ground, as they say—to be a part of that.”

Suddenly the endearing earnestness, the winning sincerity, give way to chipper efficiency. “I love doing things wherein the short-term result is visible and rewarding,” she says. As in a weekly series? “No, not necessarily, because all of that is kind of in the abstract—you do it and you don’t see it for about six weeks, and then you see it and it’s gone. And you don’t really get paid money that you hold in your hand, it’s all done through computers. You never really see the fruits of your labor, I think, in the kind of business that I’m in. But having a place like this changes all that—three falls ago I planted three hundred and twenty-five daffodil bulbs, and that spring I saw three hundred and twenty-five of those suckers come up.”

Coming up on Mary’s right are two other residents of the property, their tails bouncing up and down. “This house is really for Dash and Dudley,” she explains. Is Dudley by any chance named after … ? “No. Although I worked with Dudley Moore—we did a picture together, Six Weeks. When I named him Dudley, I didn’t stop to think that his last name would be Moore. If you read this article, Dudley,” she says, looking soulfully at the dog, “please forgive me, but I always thought of Dudley as a kind of goofy name and you have a goofy face. He has that long wirehaired basset kind of face. And Dash is our golden retriever. We used to show him, but he didn’t seem to enjoy the show-business world,” she says. At that, the glossy-coated dog dashes off in the direction of the back door, where, she explains, she has just “put a dog shower in, with hot and cold running water.”

Only now does Mary Tyler Moore confide that she and her husband of seven years, cardiologist Robert Levine, did not set out to buy a country place. “We began by being sensible,” she laughs. “What we were looking for was an apartment in Manhattan with a terrace. And that became an impossible quest, we were just never able to find anything that was right—the right size, the right neighborhood, and that would accept dogs. We did wind up buying a city apartment, but we also began looking at houses. The first towns that realtors showed us things in were too close to the city, too suburban—because now we really wanted to be country. ‘Can we look a little farther north?’ we kept asking, ‘just a little farther north?’ And here we are. There’s not even a movie house in this town—you have to go to Poughkeepsie. Or do what we do on weekends, which is either go to bed early and forget about it or rent a movie,” says the lady who once owned Saturday night in America.

The property consisted of twenty-one acres when Mary and her husband first saw it four years ago and “leapt” to buy it. (Last year they bought an additional eight and a half acres from a neighbor, and today they lease another ten across the road as an extra paddock for their horses.) The house, however—a one-room hunting cabin built in the twenties that had been added onto four or five times since—was disheveled and disorganized-looking, which didn’t sit well with Mary Tyler Moore, who describes herself as “nothing if not organized—always.”

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