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Valerie Harper: Through the Years

'Rhoda' made her famous, but her career has been long and varied

  • Valerie Harper, Take Me Along (Photofest)

    Broadway Baby

    Born in Suffern, N.Y., in 1939, Valerie Harper made her Broadway debut in the chorus of 1959's Take Me Along. (She's the smiling woman behind star Walter Pidgeon.) Among her other early parts was a chorus stint in Wildcat, the musical that featured Lucille Ball’s only lead role on Broadway.

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  • Valerie Harper, Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS/Photofest)

    'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'

    Harper (far left) became a star playing Rhoda Morgenstern — Mary Richards’ single, sassy, smart-talking, New York–bred neighbor. Over five years on the seminal ’70s sitcom, Harper won three Emmys for outstanding supporting actress.

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  • Valerie Harper, Freebie And The Bean (Warner Brothers/Getty Images)
    Getty Images

    'Freebie and the Bean'

    Harper is best known for TV, but she has dabbled in film, including a role in this 1974 buddy-cop comedy starring James Caan and Alan Arkin. Playing Arkin’s wife, Harper earned a Golden Globe nomination as New Star of the Year-Actress.

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  • Rhoda wedding, Valerie Harper (CBS via Getty Images)
    CBS via Getty Images


    In her 1974 MTM spinoff, famously single Rhoda moves back to New York City, settles down and marries Joe Gerard (David Groh). Rhoda was a smash, instantly topping the ratings. Its wedding episode drew more than 50 million TV viewers.

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  • Valerie Harpe, Mary Tyler Moore (CBS via Getty Images)
    CBS via Getty Images

    Woman of the Year

    The plaudits kept coming: In 1975, Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Theatricals named Harper its Woman of the Year. But Rhoda’s post-wedding ratings fell and the show was canceled in 1978 — a year after the MTM finale reunited the two best friends (with Cloris Leachman, far left) one last time.

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  • Valerie Harper, Chapter Two (Columbia Pictures/Photofest)
    Columbia Pictures/Photofest

    Chapter Two

    Harper earned her sixth Golden Globe nomination, as best supporting actress, in the 1979 movie adaptation of Neil Simon’s play about a man's attempts to navigate the dating scene after his wife’s death.

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  • Valerie Harper, bed (NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
    NBC/NBCU Photo Bank


    Harper’s 1986 return to TV, as mother to a young Jason Bateman (near left), soured quickly. She fought bitterly with producers over her salary, then left the show after Season 2, replaced by Sandy Duncan. The renamed Hogan Family ran for four more seasons.

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  • Valerie Harper, Tony Cacciotti (Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage/Getty Images)
    Ron Galella Ltd./WireImage/Getty Images

    Valerie and Tony

    Even as the Valerie dispute roiled her professional life, Harper’s home front was blossoming. In 1987 she married fitness trainer and longtime boyfriend Tony Cacciotti. The couple adopted a daughter, Cristina, that same year.

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  • Valerie Harper, Looped (Amy Sussman/WireImage/Getty Images)
    Amy Sussman/WireImage


    2010 found Harper back where it all began: On Broadway, where she starred as Tallulah Bankhead in Looped. Harper's portrayal of the boozy legend of screen and stage earned her a Tony nomination for best actress in a play.

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  • Valerie Harper partners with Tristan Macmanus on Dancing with the Stars (Craig Sjodin/ABC)
    Craig Sjodin/ABC

    'Dancing With the Stars'

    In March 2013, Harper revealed she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Early treatment has been so promising she agreed to compete on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Judge Bruno Tonioli’s take on her debut dance with Tristan MacManus (pictured): “You are an inspiration.”

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