“I used to get some ego thing out of saying I wasn't a star, just an actress. Forget it. I'm a star. I wanted it. I worked for it. I got it.” Valerie Harper
Starting out as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning actress Valerie Harper achieved TV stardom with her portrayal of Rhoda Morgenstern, the spirited neighbor and best friend of Mary Richard, on the landmark CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970-1977), from which she won her first three Emmy Awards for her performance. She went on to recreate the role on the successful spin off show “Rhoda,” which ran from 1974 to 1978. The latter show brought the actress a Golden Globe Award and her fourth Emmy Award. She also picked up a 2004 TV Land Award in the category of Groundbreaking Show for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Following her success on both shows, Harper tried to return to the situation comedy realm with “Valerie” (1986), but she was abruptly fired in the second season, which led to a lawsuit against Lorimar Telepictures in 1987. She won over a million dollars and a portion of the profits of the show, which continued on without her until 1991. Harper appeared in the 1990s in the shows “City” and “The Office.”
Harper has also been active in movies and on stage. She was nominated for Golden Globe Awards for her performances in “Freebie and the Bean” (1974) and “Chapter Two” (1979). Her stage credits include “Death Defying Acts” (1995), “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” (2001), “Golda's Balcony” (2005-2006) and “Looped” (2010).
Harper was handed a Golden Apple for Female Star of the Year in 1974 and picked up a Hasty Pudding Theatricals award for Woman of the Year in 1975. In 1987, she won the Humanitarian Award from the Women in Film Crystal Awards.
Harper is a strong supporter of women's rights. She has been married twice. She was married to her first husband, actor Richard Schaal, from 1966 to 1978. She is now married to Tony Cacciotti, with whom she adopted a daughter named Cristina.
Childhood and Family:
Valerie Harper was born on August 22, 1939, in Suffern, New York, to Howard Harper, a lighting salesman, and Iva McConnell Harper, a nurse. Because of her father's profession, the family moved often during her youth and lived in Pasadena, California, where she attended St. Andrews, Monroe, Michigan, where she enrolled at St. Mary's Academy, Ashland, Oregon, and Jersey City, New Jersey, where she stayed until age 18. When her family returned to Oregon, she stayed in the New York City area to study ballet. She graduated high school from the private Young Professionals School in New York City. She then attended Hunter College and the New School for Social Research in New York City.
Valerie has an older sister named Leah and a younger brother named Don. She has a stepsister named Virginia from his father's marriage to Angela Basilico, whom she would base part of her future character Rhoda Morgenstern on.
In 1966, Valerie married actor Richard Schaal (born on May 5, 1928), but they divorced on January 29, 1978. She was the stepmother of actress Wendy Schaal. Valerie married producer/actor Tony Cacciotti on April 8, 1987. The couple has an adopted daughter named Cristina, who was born in 1983.
Mary Tyler Moore
Valerie Harper kicked off her career as a dancer at Radio City Music Hall when she was a teenager. She next became a chorus girl in various Broadway musicals, including Michael Kidd's “Li'l Abner” (1958), which marked her Broadway debut, “Wildcat” (1960), which starred Lucille Ball, “Subways Are For Sleeping” (1961), which starred Orson Bean, Sydney Chaplin, Carol Lawrence and Gordon Connell, and the Peter Glenville directed “Take Me Along” (1959), opposite Jackie Gleason. Through her roommate Arlene Golonka, Harper was introduced to the Second City Improvisation Theater in Toronto and eventually joined the troupe in the early 1960s. Golonka also introduced her to her first husband, Richard Schaal. She released a comedy album in 1966 called “When You're In Love The Whole World Is Jewish.”
Harper began her screen career as an extra in the 1956 musical “Rock, Rock, Rock,” which was directed by Will Price. She then received an unaccredited part in the Melvin Frank directed film “Li'l Abner” (1959), which was based on Al Capp's comic strip of the same name and the 1956 successful Broadway musical. Ten years later, she appeared in the independent film “With a Feminine Touch” (1969).
Harper was cast with her then-husband Richard Schaal in the Broadway musical “Paul Sills' Story Theatre,” which ran from October 1970 to July 1971. The production was nominated for three Tonys, including Best Play. She would reprise her role on the Canadian TV series adaptation of the play. Harper's big breakthrough arrived when she landed the role of Rhoda Morgenstern in the James L. Brooks/Allan Burns created sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (CBS, 1970-1977). Playing Mary Richards’ (played by Mary Tyler Moore) best friend and upstairs neighbor, she soon emerged as a star on television and won three out of four Emmy nominations for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Comedy for acting. The role also brought her two Golden Globe nominations in the category of Best Supporting Actress - Television.
Harper eventually got her own spin off series titled “Rhoda,” which ran from September 1974 to December 1978. Supported by David Groh, Nancy Walker, Harold Gould, Julie Kavner and Lorenzo Music, the show was a success and received the 1975 Golden Globe Award for Best TV Show - Musical/Comedy. For her acting performance, Harper was handed an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She also received three additional Emmy nominations in the same category and a Golden Globe for Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy. Also in 1974, Harper made her TV movie debut in “Thursday's Game,” which was directed by Robert Moore, written by James L. Brooks and starred Gene Wilder and Bob Newhart. She then landed her first significant film role in “Freebie and the Bean,” an action comedy directed and produced by Richard Rush. Costarring with James Caan, Alan Arkin, Loretta Swit, Jack Kruschen, Mike Kellin, Alex Rocco and Linda Marsh in the latter movie, she received a 1975 Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer - Female. She went on to star as Carol Turner in the NBC TV thriller “Night Terror” (1977, directed by E.W. Swackhamer).
After “Rhoda” came to an end in 1978, Harper returned to the big screen to support James Caan and Marsha Mason in the comedy “Chapter Two” (1979), which was written for the screen by Neil Simon and based on his play. Under the direction of Robert Moore, she earned a 1980 Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role for her role of Faye Medwic. She next landed the supporting role of Barbara in the Gilbert Cates directed comedy “The Last Married Couple in America” (1980), which starred George Segal and Natalie Wood, and worked with Michael Caine and Joseph Bologna in director Stanley Donen's “Blame It on Rio” (1984). Harper appeared in a number of TV films during the 1980s, including “Fun and Games” (1980), the Paul Newman directed, Golden Globe Award winning drama “The Shadow Box” (1980, with Joanne Woodward and Christopher Plummer), “The Day the Loving Stopped” (1981, directed by Daniel Mann), “Farrell for the People” (1982, starred as Elizabeth 'Liz' Farrell), “An Invasion of Privacy” (1983), “The Execution” (1985), “Strange Voices” (1987), “Drop-out Mother” (1988, starred as Nora Cromwell) and “The People Across the Lake” (1988, played the wife of Gerald McRaney).
Harper returned to series TV in early 1986 to play Laurel Peters in two episodes of the long running, but now defunct, ABC series “The Love Boat.” She, however, did not return as a headliner until she was cast as Valerie Hogan in the comedy series “Valerie,” which debuted on NBC on March 1, 1986. Playing a mother attempting to juggle her career and her three sons, she left the show after the second season due to a disagreement with producers and was replaced by Sandy Duncan, who was brought in as the children's aunt, Sandy Hogan. Upon her departure, the show was renamed “Valerie's Family: The Hogans” and then “The Hogan Family” and went on to run until 1991. Harper filed suit against Lorimar Telepictures in 1987 and was granted money plus 12.5% of the profits of the show in the fall of 1988.
In January 1990, Harper starred as Liz Gianni in the CBS situation comedy “City,” which was created by Paul Haggis and executive produced by her husband Tony Cacciotti. The show also featured Todd Susman, Stephen Lee, Tyra Ferrell, Liz Torres, Sam Lloyd and James Lorinz, but was canceled on June 8, 1990. In February 1990, she portrayed Elliott Gould's angry wife, Katherine Slade, in the CBS TV film “Stolen: One Husband.” Next up for Harper, she had a supporting role in the NBC drama “Perry Mason: The Case of the Fatal Fashion” (1991), which starred Raymond Burr as Perry Mason, played the recurring role of Ellen Hartig in three episodes of the short lived ABC drama series “Missing Persons” (1994) and was cast as Mrs. Delvecchio in the NBC “A Friend to Die for” (1994), which starred Kellie Martin and Tori Spelling. She then returned to series TV as a regular in the CBS comedy “The Office” (1995). The show, however, was axed after two months.
After the cancellation of “The Office,” Harper played Grace, the mother of Terri Venessi (played by Mary Kate Schellhardt) in the TV film “The Great Mom Swap” (1995), which was directed by Jonathan Prince. She then provided the voice of a chicken in the TV movie fantasy “Dog's Best Friend” (1997), helmed by Allan A. Goldstein. She also had episode roles in “Melrose Place” (1998, as Mia Mancini) and “Touched by an Angel” (1996 and 1999, as Kate Prescott) and appeared in episodes of “Promised Land” (1996) and “Sex and the City” (1999). She returned to the New York stage in “Death Defying Acts” (1995). In September 1997, she starred in a one woman play called “The Dragon and the Pearl.”
Entering the new millennium, Harper was reunited with Mary Taylor Moore in “Mary and Rhoda” (2000), a TV movie spin off of the classic show “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” She also appeared in episodes of “Beggars and Choosers” (2000), “That's 70s Show” (2001, as Paula), “Family Law” (2001, as Julia) and “Committed” (2005, as Lily Solomon) and had recurring roles in “Three Sisters” (2001, as Merle Keats) and “Less Than Perfect” (2003-2004, as Judith). She also portrayed Claire in the TV film “Dancing at the Harvest Moon” (2002). On stage, Harper acted in the Broadway production of “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” (2001), a play by Charles Busch.
From 2005 to 2006, Harper starred in the North American touring production of the William Gibson play “Golda's Balcony.” The play was adapted into a film in 2007 with Harper reprising her role of Golda Meir, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. During 2008 and 2009, she portrayed Barbara in two episodes of “'Til Death” called “Sob Story” and “The Courtship of Eddie's Parents.”
Recently, Harper revisited Broadway in Matthew Lombardo's “Looped,” which opened on March 14, 2010. She starred as Tallulah Bankhead in the play. The cast also include Brian Hutchison and Michael Mulheren.
TV Land: Groundbreaking Show, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 2004
Women in Film Crystal: Humanitarian Award, 1987
Hasty Pudding Theatricals: Woman of the Year, 1975
Golden Globe: Best TV Actress - Musical/Comedy, “Rhoda,” 1975
Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, “Rhoda,” 1975
Golden Apple: Female Star of the Year, 1974
Emmy: Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Comedy, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 1973
Emmy: Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Comedy, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 1972
Emmy: Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Comedy, “Mary Tyler Moore,” 1971