Valerie Harper

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Valerie Harper
Valerie Harper.jpg
Harper at a 2007 SAG Foundation brunch
BornValerie Kathryn Harper
(1939-08-22) August 22, 1939 (age 75)
Suffern, New York, U.S.
Years active1959–present
Spouse(s)Richard Schaal (1964-1978)
Tony Cacciotti (1987-present; 1 child)
Official website
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Valerie Harper
Valerie Harper.jpg
Harper at a 2007 SAG Foundation brunch
BornValerie Kathryn Harper
(1939-08-22) August 22, 1939 (age 75)
Suffern, New York, U.S.
Years active1959–present
Spouse(s)Richard Schaal (1964-1978)
Tony Cacciotti (1987-present; 1 child)
Official website

Valerie Kathryn Harper (born August 22, 1939)[1][2] is an American actress known for her roles as Rhoda Morgenstern in the 1970s television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off, Rhoda, and later as Valerie Hogan in Valerie.

Early life[edit]

Harper was born in Suffern, New York, the middle child of three siblings. She claims her parents were expecting a boy and after her arrival her first and middle names derived from that year's women's doubles tennis champions, Valerie Scott and Kay Stammers.[3] Her father, Howard Donald Harper, was a lighting salesman and her Canadian-born mother, Iva Mildred (née McConnell), was a nurse.[4][5] She is of French, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry.[6] She has an older sister, Leah; a younger brother, Merrill (who later took the name "Don") and a half-sister, Virginia, from her father's second marriage. Harper claims to have based her future character Rhoda Morgenstern on her Italian stepmother, Angela Posillico, and Penny Ann Green (née Joanna Greenberg), with whom she danced in the Broadway musical Wildcat.[7][2] She was raised Catholic,[8] although at an early age she "quit" the church.[9]

The family moved every two years due to her father's work, attending schools in South Orange, New Jersey; Pasadena, California; Monroe, Michigan; Ashland, Oregon; and Jersey City, New Jersey. When her family returned to Oregon, Harper remained in the New York City area to study ballet. She attended Lincoln High School in Jersey City, graduating from the private Young Professionals School on West 56th Street, where classmates included Sal Mineo, Tuesday Weld, and Carol Lynley.[2]


Broadway dancer and improv[edit]

Harper began as a dancer/chorus girl on Broadway in 1959 in the musical Li'l Abner and went on to perform in several Broadway shows, some choreographed by Michael Kidd, including Wildcat (starring Lucille Ball), Take Me Along (starring Jackie Gleason), and Subways Are For Sleeping. In-between she was also cast in Destry Rides Again but was forced to leave rehearsals due to illness. Her roommate, actress Arlene Golonka, introduced her to Second City improvisation theater and to improv performer Dick Schaal, whom Harper later married in 1965. Harper was stepmother to Schaal's daughter, Wendy, an actress. They lived in Greenwich Village.[2] She returned to Broadway in February 2010, playing Tallulah Bankhead in Matthew Lombardo's Looped at the Lyceum Theatre.[10]

Harper appeared in a bit part in the film version of Li'l Abner (1959), playing a Yokumberry Tonic wife. She broke into television on an episode of the soap opera The Doctors ("Zip Guns can Kill"). She was an extra in Love with the Proper Stranger. She toured with Second City with Schaal, Linda Lavin and others, later appearing in sketches on Playboy After Dark. Harper and Schaal moved to Los Angeles in 1968, and co-wrote an episode of Love, American Style.[2]


Harper with Mary Tyler Moore and Cloris Leachman in final episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1977)

While doing theater in Los Angeles in 1970, Harper was spotted by casting agent Ethel Winant, who called her in to audition for the role of Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.[2] She co-starred from 1970–1974 and then starred in the spin-off series, Rhoda (CBS 1974-1978) in which her character returned to New York. She won four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for her work as Rhoda Morgenstern throughout this period. In 2000, Harper reunited with Moore in Mary and Rhoda, a TV movie that brought their iconic characters together again in later life.[11] The first season of Rhoda was released on DVD on April 21, 2009 by Shout! Factory.[12]

She was nominated for a Golden Globe for "New Star of the Year" for her role in Freebie and The Bean (1974).[13] Harper was a guest star on The Muppet Show in 1976, its first season.[14]

Harper at 2010 The Heart Truth

Harper returned to situation comedy in 1986 when she played family matriarch Valerie Hogan on the NBC series Valerie.[15] 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.[15][16][17][18][19] 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.[17][18] The series continued without her with the explanation that her character had died off-screen.[15][16] 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.[15] NBC canceled The Hogan Family in 1990, but it was picked up by CBS for a final season.[20]

Harper appeared in various television movies, including a performance as Maggie in a production of the Michael Cristofer play The Shadow Box, directed by Paul Newman, and in guest roles on such series as Melrose Place (1998) and Sex and the City (1999).

Later career[edit]

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.[21]

In 2005 through 2006, Harper portrayed Golda Meir in a US National tour of the one-woman drama Golda's Balcony.[22][23] A film of this production was released in 2007.[24]

She played Tallulah Bankhead in the world-premiere production of Matthew Lombardo's Looped at the Pasadena Playhouse from June 27 to August 3, 2008,[25] and at Arena Stage[26] in Washington, D.C. in 2009. The play had a brief run on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre, from February 2010 (previews) through April 2010.[10][27] She played Claire Bremmer, aunt of Susan Delfino (Teri Hatcher), on ABC's Desperate Housewives in 2011.[28] On September 4, 2013, ABC's Good Morning America announced Harper had been selected as a contestant on the 17th season of Dancing with the Stars. She was partnered with professional dancer Tristan MacManus.[29] Harper and MacManus were voted off on October 7, 2013.

Personal life[edit]

Harper married actor Richard Schaal in 1964. They divorced in 1978. Harper later married Tony Cacciotti in 1987; the couple has a daughter by adoption.[30]

In the 1970s/80s, Harper was involved in the Women's Liberation Movement and was an advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment.[31] With Dennis Weaver she co-founded L.I.F.E. in 1983, a charity that fed thousands of needy in Los Angeles.[32][33]

In 2009, Harper was diagnosed with lung cancer.[34] 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.[35] Although the disease was reported to be incurable, her doctors said they were treating her with chemotherapy in an effort to slow its progress.[36] As of April 2014, Harper says she is responding well to the treatment.[37]



1956Rock Rock Rock!Dancer at Prom (uncredited)
1959Li'l AbnerLuke's Wife (uncredited)
1963Trash ProgramWife (voice, uncredited)Short film
1969With a Feminine Touch
1973Shape of Things, TheThe Shape of ThingsUnknownTelevision movie
1974Thursday's GameAnn MenzenteTelevision movie
1974Freebie and the BeanBean's WifeNominated—Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress
1977Night DriveCarol TurnerTelevision movie
1979Chapter TwoFaye MedwickNominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1980Last Married Couple in America, TheThe Last Married Couple in AmericaBarbara
1980Fun and GamesCarol HeffermanTelevision movie
1980Shadow Box, TheThe Shadow BoxMaggieTelevision movie
1981The Day the Loving StoppedNorma DannerTelevision movie
1982Farrell for the PeopleElizabeth "Liz" FarrellTelevision movie
1982Don't Go to SleepLauraTelevision movie
1983Invasion of Privacy, AnAn Invasion of PrivacyKate BianchiTelevision movie
1984Blame It on RioKaren Hollis
1985Execution, TheThe ExecutionHannah EpsteinTelevision movie
1987Strange VoicesLynn GloverTelevision movie
1988Drop-Out MotherNora CromwellTelevision movie
1988People Across the Lake, TheThe People Across the LakeRachel YomanTelevision movie
1990Stolen: One HusbandKatherine SladeTelevision movie
1991Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal FashionDyan DraperTelevision movie
1993Poetry Hall of Fame, TheThe Poetry Hall of FameUnknownTelevision movie
1994Friend to Die For, AA Friend to Die ForMrs. DelvecchioTelevision movie
1995Great Mom Swap, TheThe Great Mom SwapGraceTelevision movie
1997Dog's Best FriendChicken (voice)Television movie
2000Mary and RhodaRhoda Morgenstern Gerard RousseauTelevision movie
2002Dancing at the Harvest MoonClaireTelevision movie
2007Golda's BalconyGolda Meir
2011ShiverAudrey Alden
2011My Future BoyfriendBobbi MoreauTelevision movie
2011Fixing PeteMrs. FriedlanderTelevision movie
2014The Town That Came A-Courtin'Charlotte


1970–1977Mary Tyler Moore Show, TheThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowRhoda Morgenstern92 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (1971–73)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1973–74)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
1971Story TheatreUnknownUnknown episodes
1971Love, American StyleBarbara WatkinsEpisode: "Love and the Housekeeper"
1972ColumboEve BabcockEpisode: "The Most Crucial Game"
1974–1978RhodaRhoda Morgenstern Gerard110 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (1976–78)
1976The Muppet ShowHerselfEpisode: "Valerie Harper"
1986Love Boat, TheThe Love BoatLaurel Peters2 episodes
1986–1987ValerieValerie Hogan32 episodes
1990CityLiz Gianni13 episodes
1994Missing PersonsEllen Hartig3 episodes
1995Office, TheThe OfficeRita Stone6 episodes
1996–1999Touched by an AngelKate Prescott2 episodes
1996Promised LandMolly ArnoldEpisode: "The Magic Gate"
1998Generator GawlVariousUnknown episodes
1998Melrose PlaceMia Mancini2 episodes
1998Sorcerous Stabber OrphenTownspeople (voice)Episode: "The Sword of Baltanders"
1999Sex and the CityWallis WyselEpisode: "Shortcomings"
2000Beggars and ChoosersUnknownEpisode: "Be Careful What You Wish For"
2000As Told by GingerMaryellen (voice)Episode: "The Wedding Frame"
2001That '70s ShowPaulaEpisode: "Eric's Naughty No-no"
2001Family LawJuliaEpisode: "Clemency"
2001Three SistersMerle Keats2 episodes
2003Less Than PerfectJudithEpisode: "Claude's Alternative Thanksgiving"
2004Less Than PerfectJudithEpisode: "Mom's the Word"
2005CommittedLily SolomonEpisode: "The Mother Episode"
2009'Til DeathBarbaraEpisode: "The Courtship of Eddie's Parents"
2011Desperate HousewivesClaire BremmerEpisode: "Where Do I Belong?"
2011–2012Drop Dead DivaJudge Leslie Singer2 episodes
2013The SimpsonsTest ProctorEpisode: "A Test Before Trying"
2013Hot in ClevelandAngieEpisode: "Love Is All Around"
2013Dancing with the StarsHerself (Contestant)Season 17, eliminated week 4
2014American Dad!IHOP DinerEpisode: "Cock of the Sleepwalk"
2014Signed, Sealed, Delivered[38]Theresa CapodiamonteGuest star; 2 episodes


1959–1960Take Me AlongLady Entertainer, Townswoman
1961–1962Subways Are for SleepingDancer
1967–1968Something DifferentBeth NemerovReplacement
1970–1971Paul Sills' Story TheatreVarious
1971Ovid's MetamorphosesEnsemble
1995Death Defying Acts
1998–1999All Under Heaven
2001–2002Tale of the Allergist's Wife, TheThe Tale of the Allergist's WifeMarjorieReplacement
2008–2010LoopedTallulah Bankhead

Awards and nominations[edit]

Harper is a one-time Tony nominee, eight-time Emmy nominee (four wins) and a six-time Golden Globe nominee (one win).[39]

1971Primetime EmmyOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy SeriesThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowWon
1972Primetime EmmyOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy SeriesThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowWon
1972Golden GlobeBest Supporting Actress – TelevisionThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowNominated
1973Primetime EmmyOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy SeriesThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowWon
1973Golden GlobeBest Supporting Actress - TelevisionThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowNominated
1974Primetime EmmyOutstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy SeriesThe Mary Tyler Moore ShowNominated
1974Golden GlobeNew Female Star of the YearFreebie and the BeanNominated
1974Golden GlobeBest Actress in a TV Comedy SeriesRhodaWon
1975Primetime EmmyOutstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy SeriesRhodaWon
1975Golden GlobeBest Actress in a TV Comedy SeriesRhodaNominated
1976Primetime EmmyOutstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy SeriesRhodaNominated
1977Primetime EmmyOutstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy SeriesRhodaNominated
1978Primetime EmmyOutstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy SeriesRhodaNominated
1979Golden GlobeBest Supporting Actress – Motion PictureChapter TwoNominated
2010Tony AwardsBest Actress in a PlayLoopedNominated


  1. ^ "Valerie Harper Biography". The Biography Channel (A&E Networks). Retrieved 2014-04-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Harper in Valerie Harper Interview Part 1 of 3. Archive of American Television. February 26, 2009. Event occurs at 00:36. Retrieved 2014-04-16. "It's 'well-known' that I was born in 1940, I read it everywhere, but it was actually 1939." 
  3. ^ Harper, Valerie. I Rhoda: A Memoir © 2013. Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster, Inc.); ISBN 978-1-4516-9946-3/ISBN 978-1-4516-9948-7 (ebok), pg. 8
  4. ^ "Good as Golda; Yes, that is veteran actress Valerie Harper playing Israel's 1970s prime minister in a play coming soon to Toronto. Turns out Rhoda Morgenstern has Canadian roots". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  5. ^ Bawden 1987.
  6. ^ "Ask Them Yourself". Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 1973-07-28. 
  7. ^ Jacobs 2008, p. 1.
  8. ^ Lacher 2008.
  9. ^ Gregory 2002, p. 35.
  10. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  11. ^ "'Mary and Rhoda' TV Movie listing", accessed January 26, 2011
  12. ^ "Rhoda - Formal Press Release from Shout! Factory for Rhoda's 1st Season DVDs", accessed January 26, 2011
  13. ^ "Valerie Harper profile". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  14. ^ "'The Muppet Show', Air Date November 22, 1976, Valerie Harper", accessed January 26, 2011
  15. ^ a b c d Weinman 2008.
  16. ^ a b Hutchings 1987.
  17. ^ a b Brennan 1988.
  18. ^ a b Farber 1988.
  19. ^ Lacayo & Seufert 1988.
  20. ^ "'Hogan Family Jump to CBS Called an Exception", Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1990
  21. ^ Hollywood Board of Directors, 2010-11[dead link]
  22. ^ US Tour, Golda Balcony, retrieved April 5, 2010
  23. ^ Olson, John."Review: 'Golda's Balcony', LaSalle Bank Theatre" at, June 2, 2006
  24. ^ Golda's Balcony IMDb listing, retrieved April 5, 2010
  25. ^ Pasadena Playhouse: Looped. archive.
  26. ^ Arena Stage: Looped[dead link]
  27. ^ Jones, Kenneth."'Looped' Will Play Its Final Fadeout April 11", April 5, 2010
  28. ^ "Keck's Exclusives: Rhoda Comes to Desperate Housewives". Retrieved December 1, 2010. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Valerie Harper profile". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  31. ^ "Valerie Harper She Doesn't Mince Words; She's Here For Equality". 1980-09-20. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  32. ^ ANTONIO OLIVO (October 6, 1994). "Info re L.I.F.E. (charity)". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  33. ^ "Album`s Proceeds To Go To Charity". Sun Sentinel. 1992-10-23. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  34. ^ Lloyd, Janice (March 6, 2013). "Harper's brain cancer likely related to previous cancer". USA Today.
  35. ^ Tauber, Michelle; Dodd, Johnny (March 6, 2013). "Valerie Harper Has Terminal Brain Cancer". People. Retrieved March 6, 2013. 
  36. ^ Dodd, Johnny; Tauber, Michelle (March 6, 2013). "Valerie Harper's Rare Cancer Explained". People. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  37. ^ Valerie Harper Reveals: "I Am Absolutely Cancer-Free!". Closer Weekly. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  38. ^ Valerie Harper Will Guest Star in First Two Episodes of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," the Highly Anticipated Hallmark Channel Original
  39. ^
Reference bibliography

External links[edit]