Valerie Harper, TV’s Rhoda Morgenstern, Dies at 80

Valerie Harper, tenacious sitcom star with nine seasons in it The 1970s as Rhoda . straight shooter player Morgenstern making her one of the most beloved television actresses of her time, having passed away after a brave battle with cancer. She was 80.

Harper, who has earned four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of the ferocious New Yorker on The Mary Tyler Moore show and then her own spinoff series Rhodapassed away on Friday morning, her family told KABC-TV entertainment reporter George Pennacchio.

Cristina Cacciotti, daughter of Harper, Written On Twitter her father, Tony, asked to share this quote: “My beautiful caring wife of nearly 40 years passed away at 10:06 a.m. after a long battle with cancer. She will never, never be forgotten. Rest in peace, mia Valeria. “

In January 2013, the actress was informed by doctors that she had leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, an incurable condition in which cancer cells metastasize into the membrane surrounding the brain. She had only three months to live, but eight months later she revealed that her cancer was close to remission.

Harper allowed NBC News to film her for a documentary and accepted an invitation to appear on ABC’s Dancing with the stars. “The doctor wants me to exercise!” former ballet dancer said.

She appeared in a variety show Doctors in March 2013 to discuss her illness. “I am a talkative person. … I really want Americans and all of us to be less afraid of death, knowing that it’s a path,” she said. “But don’t go to the funeral before the day of the funeral. While you are living, live”.

In 2009, doctors removed a tumor in her right lung. The actress never smoked. “I have already passed my expiration date. … I ran fine. What more could I ask for? ” she speaks.

Harper returned to work on a short film in 2017, My mother and the girlplay the role of a mother with Alzheimer’s disease and the voice worked The Simpsons and American Father!

Years earlier, Harper appeared as a dancer opposite Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason on Broadway and starred in two seasons of the series. Valerie before being fired amid a public salary dispute with NBC and Lorimar Television.

In 2010, she received a Tony Award nomination for her role as an idiot 1940s actress Tallulah Banking manager in comedy Repeat.

While working on a play in a cozy theater on Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, Harper was discovered by famed casting director and CBS vice president Ethel Winant and asked to audition for Mary Tyler Moore’s new show, scheduled to premiere on CBS in 1970.

“It was the easiest, most enjoyable audition process I’ve ever been through, and it’s got phenomenal results like this,” Harper told the Archive of American Television in a 2009 interview. a smooth wind in my entire career.”

Harper’s self-deprecating Rhoda worked as a window repairman in a Minneapolis department store and rented a loft apartment in the same house Mary had just rented. With Rhoda a good-looking, bandana-wearing Jewish girl from The Bronx, and Mary, a well-dressed, perfect Presbyterian from the Midwest, the two are at first mismatched opposites. together.

However, the single women quickly became best friends, and in 2000, Time The magazine called their relationship “one of the most famous friendships on TV.” (Moore, who passed away in January 2017, said she was “devastated” when Harper called to tell her she had incurable cancer.)

After appearing in 92 of 168 episodes of Mary Tyler Moore ShowHarper was assigned a series of her own to begin the 1974-75 television season by MTM Enterprises, the independent production company owned by Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker.

In the spin-off, Rhoda returns to New York, reunited with his parents (Nancy Walker and Harold Gould) and sister Brenda (Julie Kavner) and eventually, she finds love when she meets divorced construction executive Joe Gerard (David Groh).

Rhoda premiered on September 9, 1974, and was a huge hit as soon as it was released, becoming the first series to reach #1 in the Nielsen ratings. In its eighth week, her wedding to Joe drew 52 million viewers, the second time in history only after I love Lucy episode in January 1953, in which baby Ricky was born.

In a nifty example of cross-promotion, MTM characters talk about going to weddings on their show and Moore, Ed AsnerGavin MacLeod, Cloris Leachman and Georgia Engel attended the big event, held at Rhoda’s parents’ apartment.

In one ABC Monday Night Football broadcast broadcast opposite lasting for hours wedding episode, broadcaster Howard Cosell joked that he wasn’t invited to the ceremony and before pausing the ad said, “Hurry up to Rhoda’s wedding. Chicken liver is becoming more and more rancid.”

Harper accepted the Emmy Award for Best Comedy Actress for her work that season in what she called “true Rhoda fashion, wearing a cape made of an embroidered shawl piano,” she wrote in I, RhodaHer memoir was published in 2013.

But by the third season, the producers felt the show needed a different direction.

“The audience may not be bored yet – but we realized that at some point in the future, it was inevitable, the way we would go,” said producer Charlotte Brown. TV User Manual in 1976. “Things were going well for our Rhoda in her happy married life. She has no flaws; She is no longer weak. We keep ending up with poor Brenda’s funny insecurity plots. “

Rhoda and Joe started arguing, they separated and then divorced in season four. Viewers skip the series and Rhoda was canceled midway through the fifth season, in December 1978, with four episodes in cans.

“My biggest regret is that we didn’t get the chance to write the final volume of Rhoda,” she wrote in her book. “Mary Tyler Moore Show ended with a perfect, bittersweet finale that I’m glad I was able to show up. I wish that Rhoda was given the same opportunity. “

Harper was born on August 22, 1939, in Suffern, New York, was raised Catholic by her parents, Howard and Ida. Her father was a lighting salesman (his company put light bulbs inside the Dutch Tunnel) and her mother was a nurse. Because of her father’s job, the family moved often and lived in towns such as South Orange, New Jersey; Pasadena; Monroe, Michigan; Ashland. Oregon; and Jersey City, New Jersey.

“I guess you would call me a Jersey girl,” she said.

Harper studied ballet at a workplace outside of Carnegie Hall and attended Quintano’s School for Young Professionals in Manhattan with future actors Sal MineoCarol Linley and Weld Tuesday.

At the age of 16, she took a job as a member of the Corps de Ballet dance troupe performing four or five times a day between movie screenings at Radio City Music Hall. Other entertainment includes magicians and dog shows.

Harper made her Broadway debut in 1956 as a dancer in the musical comedy Li’l Abner, became a favorite of director-producer-choreographer Michael Kidd. He hired her in the choir for Destroy Drive again, starring Andy Griffith, Take me with you with Gleason, Ball-topline Wild cat and Subway is for sleeping, starring Orson Bean.

Her roommate, actress Arlene Golonka, Harper offered to try acting and audition for the Second City version, which had just moved from Chicago to New York. She joins the cast, which includes actor Dick . Schaaland they married a few months later in 1964 (they divorced in 1978).

“He was my mentor,” Harper said People in 1975. “He completely took me into acting. He’s been reading my lines for years and has nothing but support. He completely built the character of Rhoda with me.”

The couple worked on a daytime talk show with the band Skitch Henderson, then moved from their Greenwich Village apartment above a laundromat to Los Angeles in 1968.

She and Schaal wrote to Love, American Styleand she got jobs on shows like Doctors, Glen Campbell’s Goodtime Time, Columbo and Playboy After Dark.

“But once I got in Mary Tyler Moore Showeverything transforms,” she said.

Harper returned to television series in 1986 with Valerieplays a suburban Chicago mother who works and raises three sons (the oldest is 17-year-old Jason Bateman) while her husband, a pilot (Josh Taylor), is often away from home.

In the second season, an episode that Bateman and his ex-girlfriend consider to be sex highlights the first use of the word “condom”. NBC has issued an advisory warning to parents and recommends that adults watch the show with their children.

With Valerie Gaining momentum in ratings, Harper and Tony Cacciotti, her personal trainer and second husband, sought a raise and more cuts in future distribution revenue but were turned down. They refused to come to work.

Lorimar later fired Harper and said she was a pain to work with. The actress took NBC and the producers to court for breach of contract and filed a libel suit, and in 1988 a jury awarded Harper $1.4 million in punitive damages from Lorimar as well as part of the program’s profits.

“If I were a new actress, my career would be over, but I’m 18 years old,” she said in the TV Archive interview. “Many writers have said, ‘Valerie? Difficult? What?’ We went to court, they lost, big time. And you keep going. “

Harper’s character was killed in a car crash, and Sandy Duncan came on board as the children’s surrogate aunt and mother.

Between Rhoda and ValerieHarper appeared in the movie 1980 Fun and gamesA serious look at workplace sexual harassment and directed by Paul Newman Shadow Box.

Her movie credits include Li’l Abner (1959), Freebie and the Bean (1974), The last couple to get married in America (1980) and Blame Rio (In 1984). She reunites with Moore for ABC telefilm Mary and Rhoda (2000) and worked on Desperate Housewives. More recently, she appeared as a guest on 2 Broke girls, Melissa and Joey and Hot in Cleveland.

Off-screen, Harper fought alongside feminists Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. She ran for president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2002 but lost to Melissa Gilbert.

In an interview on TV Archive, Harper recalled as a child going to an ice show and realizing what she wanted to do for a living.

“It was a moment,” she said. “Amazing lighting, audience, stage experience… I just know it. I said to myself, ‘No matter what, I’ll still be in the show business’. “

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