Less Was Moore
The secret of his success? Moore, to tell the truth, was puzzled. His role on his variety show—a genial grab bag of gab, songs and skits that introduced Burnett, Jonathan Winters and Don Knotts—was, he insisted, simply to serve as a "pointer," shepherding one act after another before the camera. "A dog could do the same thing," he said, "if you smeared meat on the actors."
Such humble pie was belied by Moore's stratospheric salary in the early '60s—at one point he was earning $2.2 million a year—which made him the highest-paid performer on TV. Born Thomas Garrison Morfit in Baltimore, Moore had started out as a writer in radio. He eventually discovered that he had more fun doing patter and jokes on the air and found national fame when he was partnered Jimmy Durante on The Durante-Moore Show in 1943. The Garry-Moore Show, where he was first teamed with sidekick Durward Kirby, debuted on CBS radio in 1949, then switched to TV the following year. He quit in 1964, refreshed himself with a sail around the world and returned in '66. This time, losing to NBC's Bonanza, he was canceled at midseason.
Moore—survived by his second wife, Betsy, and two sons, Garry and John Mason Morfit, from his first marriage to Eleanor Little, who died in 1974—kept his personal life far from cameras and headlines. Yet despite failing health in recent years, he maintained a robust, if typically self-deprecating, sense of humor. As son Garry recalls, "When people would come up to him and say, "Aren't you Garry Moore?' he would say, I used to be.' "