Valerie Harper: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Valerie Harper

At the Screen Actors Guild Foundation brunch,
January 7, 2007
Born August 22, 1939 (1939-08-22) (age 70)
Suffern, New York, United States
Occupation Actress
Years active 1956–present
Spouse(s) Richard Schaal (1964-1978)
Tony Cacciotti (1987-present)
Official website

Valerie Harper (born August 22, 1939)[1] is an American actress, best known for her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on the 1970s television show The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and for her starring roles on the sitcoms Rhoda (a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show) and Valerie.



Early life and career

Harper was born in Suffern, New York at Good Samaritan Hospital in Rockland County, New York, to a mixed Catholic/Lutheran family.[citation needed] Her mother, Iva (née McConnell), was a nurse, and her father, Howard Donald Harper, was a lighting salesman who kept getting promoted and so the family would move every two years: South Orange, New Jersey, New JerseySt. Andrews in Pasadena, California (where Harper attended the school St. Andrews); Monroe, Michigan, at age 10, where she attended St. Mary's Academy; then Ashland, Oregon "at [age] 11 to 13"; and then Jersey City, New Jersey from eighth grade through age 18.[1] When her family returned to Oregon, Harper remained in the New York City area to study ballet. She has an older sister, Leah; a younger brother, Don (originally Merrill); and a stepsister, Virginia, from his father's second marriage.[1] Harper based her future character Rhoda Morgenstern both on her Italian stepmother, Angela Basilico, and Penny Ann Green (nee Joanna Greenberg from Brooklyn), with whom she danced in the Broadway musical Wildcat.[1]

Early TV-comedy influences included Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, Joan Davis, Your Show of Shows, and, later, Mary Tyler Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show.[1] She attended at Lincoln High School in Jersey City, and finished high school at the private Young Professionals School on West 56th Street, where classmates included Sal Mineo, Barbara Dana, Tuesday Weld, and Carol Lynley.[1] She has been married to Tony Cacciotti since 1987.[citation needed]

Broadway dancer and improv

Harper began as a dancer/chorus girl on Broadway in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She began with the musical Li'l Abner and went on to perform in several Broadway shows for Michael Kidd.[1] Her Broadway included Wildcat, in which she performed with Lucille Ball; Take Me Along with Jackie Gleason; and Subways Are For Sleeping.[1] In-between she was cast in Destry Rides Again but got sick and had to leave during rehearsals.[1] Her roommate Arlene Golonka introduced her to Second City improvisation theater and to improv performer Dick Schaal, who Harper later married in 1965.[1] Harper was stepmother to Schaal's daughter, actress Wendy Schaal. They lived in Greenwich Village at the corner of Perry Street and Bleecker Street.[1]

She can be seen as an extra in rock-and-roll promo films that featured such artists as Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers.[citation needed] In 2001, she starred in the Broadway production of Charles Busch's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.[citation needed] Harper returned to Broadway in February 2010 starring as Tallulah Bankhead in Matthew Lombardo's Looped at the Lyceum Theatre.[2]

She also appeared in bit parts in several films[citation needed] beginning with Li'l Abner (1959), when she was a teenager, playing one of the Yokumberry Tonic wives.[1] She broke into television with an episode of the soap opera The Doctors, "Zip Guns can Kill", and was an extra in Love with the Proper Stranger.[1] She toured with Second City with Schall, Linda Lavin, and others, and with Schall and Skitch Henderson did a New York City talk show.[1] She appeared in Carl Reiner's play Something Different in 1968,[citation needed] and the two did sketches on Playboy After Dark.[1] Harper and Schall moved to Los Angeles, California in 1968, and co-wrote an episode of Love, American Style.[1]

Television stardom

Harper was doing theater in a small theater on Vermont Street in Los Angeles, where casting agent Ethel Winant spotted her and in 1970 called her in to audition for the role of the wise-cracking Jewish New Yorker Rhoda Morgenstern on the landmark CBS TV sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show.[1] She co-starred from 1970-1974, then starred in the spin-off series, Rhoda, (CBS 1974-1978). She won four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for her work as Rhoda Morgenstern throughout this period. In 2000, Harper reunited with Mary Tyler Moore in Mary and Rhoda, a TV movie that brought their iconic characters back together again in later life.[citation needed] The first season of Rhoda was released on DVD on April 21, 2009 by Shout! Factory.[citation needed]

She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for "New Star of the Year" for her role in 1974's Freebie and The Bean.[3] Harper was one of the first guest stars on The Muppet Show in its first season.[citation needed]

Some years later, Harper returned to situation comedy when she played family matriarch Valerie Hogan on the 1986 series Valerie.[4] However, following a salary dispute with the production company Lorimar in 1987, Harper was fired from the series at the end of its second season.[5][4][6][7][8] She then successfully sued Lorimar for breach of contract,[6][7] though the series continued without her with the explanation that her character had died off-screen.[5][4] 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.[4] The series ended in 1991.

Harper has worked almost exclusively in theater and television, but did have key supporting roles in Neil Simon's Chapter Two in 1979 and Stanley Donen's Blame It on Rio (1984) opposite Michael Caine. She has had roles in TV movies and guest spots on a number of series, including Melrose Place in 1998 and Sex and the City in 1999. Also in the 1990s, she advocated hormone replacement therapy for Eli Lilly and Company.

In the 1970s and 1980s Harper was involved in the Women's Liberation Movement and was an advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment.[citation needed]

Later career

Harper is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and ran for president in the 2001 election, losing to Melissa Gilbert. As of the late 2000s, she serves on the national board of directors of SAG.[9]

In 2007, Harper portrayed Golda Meir in a national tour of the one-woman Broadway drama Golda's Balcony.[citation needed] She also released a film version of the show.[citation needed]

She played Tallulah Bankhead in the world-premiere production of Matthew Lombardo's Looped at the Pasadena Playhouse in California in a June 27 to August 3, 2008 run,[10] and at Arena Stage[11] in Washington, DC, in 2009. The play opened in preview on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre on February 19, 2010, and opened officially on March 14, 2010.[2]





Emmy Awards


  • 1978 Outstanding Lead Actress — Comedy Series - Rhoda
  • 1977 Outstanding Lead Actress — Comedy Series - Rhoda
  • 1976 Outstanding Lead Actress — Comedy Series - Rhoda
  • 1974 Outstanding Supporting Actress — Comedy Series - The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Golden Globe Awards
  • 1974 - Winner — Actress In A Leading Role — Musical Or Comedy Series - Rhoda



External links

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address