I would like to know who at the Hallmark Channel decided to pull the plug on the Mary Tyler Moore Show after just two glorious weeks? And right when I was in the middle of an important study of Mary Richards’ dish towels. I’m sorry that this is going to have to go forward with only a minimal amount of photographic support, but go forward it must.
We only get brief glimpses of Mary’s kitchen as her at-home dialog moves the plot line forward. I record the episodes overnight and then watch them in the early morning, just me and my coffee cup. After I watch them through, I fast forward looking for something that supports my latest research focus. The pattern of 90% of the episodes is this: office-home-office. Occasionally, we see and all-office episode or an all-home episode, but most times you can count on the OHO formula. That’s how I knew it would be easy to locate and study the dish towels hanging in the kitchen.
I ran across an interesting article that describes the design philosophy behind Mary’s apartment layout and design. Read the whole article - it’s quite interesting and complete with shopping links to recreate the look - but the gist is this: the apartment had to look like it was a reasonable rent and decor for a low-level office girl of the times, and the furniture and accessories evolved according to Mary’s taste as she became more confident and prosperous.
Now Mary Richards was a French Provincial girl at heart. As the years went on, more and more FP-influenced design could be found in her decor choices – the off-white chairs on the upper landing in front of that famous window, the shift in the wall art to French Impressionists and finally the abandonment of the funky country-style dining set in favor of an mid/upper level cherry FP dining suite in her later high rise apartment.
But who knew that the dish towels held the key to the style future of MTM?
I noticed in the early episodes (the few that I studied) that the dish towels were plain and utilitarian. Plain white flour sack with a yellow or green sets of off-center stipes. Soon, the simple graphics of the times made an appearance.
This shot of the kitchen is rare for two reasons -1. it’s shot from inside the kitchen instead of outside in the dining area looking in and 2. even more rare is the orange and yellow shakers (candles?) set on the counter instead of up on the towel rack.
By the time the famous Veal Prince Orloff episode rolled around, Mary was rocking some misguided CAT DISH TOWELS of a vibrant hue.
[Can you name the dessert that followed the Veal Prince Orloff without looking on Google? I know it by heart.]
This piece started out as a study of Mary’s evloution in terms of wall art. I was heartbroken when she removed the original print by a famous Lithuanian-American artist that shared a wall with the famous M and replaced it with a Lautrec but I suppose it was in keeping with Mary’s evolution towards FP. Then in one taped episode, I noticed a fleeting glimpse of something almost familiar handing on that towel rack.
This/these towels appear in most epsidoes of this season – 2 side by side , or one janutnily slung over the rod. At first, I thought it might be a louche dangling purple shoe, but when an unobstructed shot of both side by side was filmed, well….
It’s one of the the Lautrec posters called Jane Avril. I wondered if such a glorious thing as a French Impressionist dish towel was still available. Nothing came up until I searched for “tea towel”. Of course. Mary Richards would be in possession of a tea towel. Say hello to my little friend:
And there we have it – a limited but still revealing look at the dish towels of the Mary Tyler Moore show.