Valerie Harper (Actress) - The Mary Tyler Moore Show
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Updated: 5/15/19

Name: Valerie Harper

Birth Name: Valerie Kathryn Harper

Born: August 22, 1939 in Suffern, New York, USA

Nickname: Rhoda

Claim To Fame: Valerie Harper is an American actress best remembered for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and its spin-off 'Rhoda' in the 1970s.

Family Life: Harper married actor Richard Schaal in 1964. They divorced in 1978. Harper later married Tony Cacciotti in 1987; the couple adopted a daughter.

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Info: Studied ballet.

Graduated from the private Young Professionals School on West 56th Street, where classmates included Sal Mineo, Tuesday Weld, and Carol Lynley.

Harper began as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway, and went on to perform in several Broadway shows, some choreographed by Michael Kidd.

Member of Second City.

While doing theater in Los Angeles in 1970, Harper was spotted by casting agent Ethel Winant, and then auditioned for the role of Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Graduate of the Erhard Seminars Training (better known as EST).

Harper returned to situation comedy in 1986 when she played family matriarch Valerie Hogan on the NBC series Valerie. Following a salary dispute with NBC and production company Lorimar in 1987, Harper was fired from the series at the end of its second season. Harper sued NBC and Lorimar for breach of contract. Her claims against NBC were dismissed, but the jury found that Lorimar had wrongfully fired her and awarded her $1.4 million plus 12.5 percent of the show's profits. The series continued without her with the explanation that her character had died off-screen. In 1987, it was initially renamed Valerie's Family and then The Hogan Family, as Harper was replaced by actress Sandy Duncan, who played her sister-in-law Sandy Hogan. NBC canceled The Hogan Family in 1990, but CBS picked up the series for a final season.

In the 70s/80s, Harper was involved in the Women's Liberation Movement and was an advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment. With Dennis Weaver she co-founded L.I.F.E. in 1983, a charity that fed thousands of needy in Los Angeles.

In 2009, Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer.

She announced on March 6, 2013, that tests from a January hospital stay revealed she has leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition in which cancer cells spread into the meninges, the membranes surrounding the brain. She said her doctors had given her as little as three months life expectancy.

In September 2017, she made this comment: "People are saying, 'She's on her way to death and quickly'. Now it's five years instead of three months ... I'm going to fight this. I'm going to see a way."

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Trivia: First met Mary Tyler Moore on set of The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961), where her then-husband, Richard Schaal, was guest-starring.

She won four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for her work as Rhoda Morgenstern.

She and her then-husband Richard Schaal were also a writing team and wrote a script for the series Love, American Style (1969) called "Love and the Visitor", Love, American Style: Love and the Elopement/Love and the Visitor (1970), back in the early 1970s.

Her most notable film appearances include roles in Freebie and the Bean (1974) and Chapter Two (1979), both of which garnered her Golden Globe Award nominations.

Harper is a member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and ran for president in the 2001 election, losing to Melissa Gilbert. She served on the Hollywood Board of Directors of SAG.

Harper was announced as a contestant for the 17th season of Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with professional dancer Tristan MacManus. Harper and MacManus were voted off the show on October 7, 2013.

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Where Are They Now: Due to Harper's cancer battle her health is her number one priority. She's living life to the fullest and has recently done voicework on The Simpsons and American Dad!.


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