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Marjorie MullenSeptember 29, 2017 ~ September 13, 2017
Marge Mullen, a Brevard retiree who was the script supervisor and later camera director on nearly every episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Murphy Brown, died Wednesday, Sept. 13 in North Carolina. She was 89. Mullen was also one of television’s first woman directors. In 1996, after filming the ninth season of Murphy Brown, she moved from California and bought a home in the Connestee Falls development outside Brevard. She lived there until 2014 and was a resident of The Lodge at Mills River at the time of her death. From the early 1960’s through the mid-1990’s, she had an enviable Hollywood career, working on three of the finest situation comedies of her era. In his acceptance speech for the 1965 Emmy for the best show on television (the Van Dyke show) creator Carl Reiner rattled off 12 names without comment, including those of the stars, and writers Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall. He then ended his speech with this: “And this one, it’s with all my heart, a girl who we on the show feel is one of the most tremendous talents on the show, she is the script girl and I mean this sincerely, Marge Mullen.” With allowances for the parlance of the day, she was actually 38. 2 It’s as unlikely that a script supervisor would be singled out for awards praise today, as it is that she’d be referred to as a “girl.” But Reiner’s praise spoke of the behind the scenes contribution Mullen made throughout her career. She was an essential contributor during the sitcom week as scripts were written, thrown out, rewritten and finally taped before live audiences. Speaking with interviewer Mark Maron about creating The Mary Tyler Moore Show, James L. Brooks said the run-through for the first episode bombed. The problem was the audience didn’t laugh at Valerie Harper’s character, Rhoda, Mary’s abrasive neighbor. Between the run-though and the taping, Brooks says, Mullen suggested having one of the characters, possibly a girl, who also lived in the building, be fond of Rhoda. That would make it safe for the audience to like her too. The scenes were quickly rewritten, the show was filmed the same night, and the taping audience loved it. “We went from Z to A,” Brooks said. The show ran for seven seasons, won three Emmys for Outstanding Comedy and led to three successful spinoffs. Marjorie I. Mullen was born in Brooklyn in 1927 and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. Her first job in show business was as a production assistant on The Home Show, starring Arlene Francis. She later worked on Your Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca. She moved to L.A. in the early 1960’s and soon found work on Dick Van Dyke. She told friends and family back East that she “got to go to work and laugh for a living.” Indeed, her easy, 3 infectious laugh and her ability to know humor from pretense were qualities creators, stars and showrunners found invaluable. During the 1970’s, she was part of one of the first initiatives to promote women as television directors. She was one of the original 19 women admitted to the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Directing Workshop for Women in 1974. Maya Angelou, Ellen Burstyn, Julia Phillips, Lee Grant and Lily Tomlin were among her classmates. Mullen went on to direct four episodes of Mary Tyler Moore from 1975 – 77. At length, she preferred supporting artists behind the scenes and chose not to pursue directing. One of her nephews is married to Karyn McCarthy, executive producer on HBO’s Ballers; McCarthy’s daughter, Natalie Lindeman, Mullen’s great-niece, is the show’s script coordinator. She is survived by one sister, Helen Fink of Brevard, NC. Also, two nieces and six nephews, including: Kathleen Mullen of St. Thomas, USVI; Christopher and Cynthia O’Connor Mullen of Bloomfield, MI; Liam and Theresa Mullen of Dearborn, MI; Profs. Kieran Mullen and Theresa Vaughn of Norman, OK; Leslie Lindeman and Karyn McCarthy of Altadena, CA; Dr. Paul and Susan Lindeman of Miami, FL; Janet Lindeman of River Forest, IL; and Hayden Fink of Hendersonville, NC. She is also survived by 14 great-nieces and nephews.