01/29/2012 AT 9:25 PM ET
Before she was a household name, Mary Tyler Moore was just another 18-year-old actress trying to make a name for herself in the industry – which meant finding a name that wasn’t already registered with the Screen Actors Guild.
It was 1955 – long before she won the world over with her comedic chops and charm – not to mention her knack for wearing capri pants; before she made an impression as Dick Van Dyke’s wife; before she made TV history as original single lady, Mary Richards.
Now more than 50 years after she made the leap from “Mary Moore” to “Mary Tyler Moore,” the veteran entertainer, 75, was presented with the annual Life Achievement Award by her costar of 50 years ago, Van Dyke, at Sunday night’s Screen Actors Guild Awards.
“I spoke it out loud. It sounded right,” Moore, who recovered from head surgery to remove a benign tumor last summer, recalled of her name-change as she accepted the honors at L.A.’s Shrine Exposition Center. “I wrote it out on the form, and it looked right. And it was right.”
Van Dyke remembered when Moore, a Brooklyn native, “started turning the world on with her smiles.” With a smile of his own, he remembered when he asked the now-famous question, ‘You think she can do comedy?’”
“I love that woman,” he said prior to presenting her the honor. “I know everyone loves her, but I mean, I’m serious about it. I saw her first.”
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