Valerie Harper, best known for her portrayal of Rhoda Morgenstern on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, has passed away at the age of 80.
Cristina Harper, Valerie’s daughter, posted on her Twitter account at the request of her father, Valerie’s husband, Tony, the news that Harper had passed away, today, Friday, August 30 at 10:06 a.m. Harper had fought a six-year battle against cancer.
She became a household name courtesy of her breakout performance as Rhoda on the Mary Tyler Moore show. While Rhoda and Mary began as rivals fighting over the same apartment, the two quickly became friends (and neighbors), sharing laughs and love over the years.
Harper won three Prime Time Emmys for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Rhoda before being spun off into her own sitcom titled (what else?) Rhoda where, in 1975, she won the Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actress in Comedy Series. The episode featuring Rhoda’s wedding to Joe (David Groh) in 1977 was one of television’s highest rated series earning 52 million viewers.
Harper and Moore got together for the TV-movie Mary and Rhoda, reprising their beloved sitcom roles. The pair reunited with Mary Tyler Moore co-stars Betty White (Sue Ann), Cloris Leachman (Phyllis), and Georgia Engle (Georgette) for a 2013 episode of Hot In Cleveland, titled Love Is All Around, a nod to the Mary Tyler Moore show theme song.
Born on August 22, 1939 in Suffren, New York to parents Howard and Ida, Harper’s father was a lighting salesman and her mother was a nurse. She attended Quintano’s School for Young Professionals in Manhattan alongside fellow students Tuesday Weld, Carol Linley, and Sal Mineo.
Harper wrote in her 2013 memoir that she wished Rhoda producers had time to put together a final episode that would give Rhoda a proper end before the show was canceled.
The actress worked regularly after Rhoda’s cancellation. She starred on the sitcom Valerie on NBC, but was fired from her own series. She took NBC and the producers of Valerie (renamed Valerie’s Family and then, The Hogan Family) to court for breach of contract. In 1988, she was awarded $1.4 million in damages and given a share of the show’s profits.
Harper guest-starred on such programs as Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, and Drop Dead Diva. Most recently, she lent her voice to animated TV series American Dad and The Simpsons. In 2013, Harper competed on the reality dance competition series Dancing With the Stars.
Ed Asner, who played Lou Grant on Mary Tyler Moore, posted a loving tribute to Harper on social media: “Her brilliance burst through and shined its light upon all of us. Goodnight beautiful. I’ll see you soon.” Entertainment Hub sends sincere condolences to Harper’s family and loved ones.
My dad has asked me to pass on this message: “My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years has passed away at 10:06am, after years of fighting cancer.
She will never, ever be forgotten. Rest In Peace, mia Valeria. -Anthony.”
— Cris (@cristicacci) August 30, 2019
A beautiful woman, a wonderful actress, a great friend and with balls bigger than mine. Her brilliance burst through and shined its light upon all of us. Goodnight beautiful. I’ll see you soon. pic.twitter.com/FicADkSAzS
— Ed Asner (@TheOnlyEdAsner) August 30, 2019