Beloved actress Valerie Harper is perhaps best known for her role as Mary Tyler Moore's outgoing upstairs neighbor turned best friend, Rhoda Morgenstern, on the hit comedy series "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," airing on CBS from 1970 to 1977. The series, which earned a nearly record-breaking 29 Emmy® Awards, three Golden Globe® Awards and countless other accolades, produced a spin-off sitcom, "Rhoda," starring Harper in the lead role for five seasons. A series all her own, "Rhoda" won two Golden Globes® and two Emmy® Awards. With this memorable and impactful role on one of the most loved sitcoms of all time, Harper garnered critical acclaim and four Emmy® Awards, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, leading to a successful and long career on stage and screen, and securing her place in television and in the hearts of American viewers.
Born in Suffern, New York, Harper moved around with her family until settling in New York City in 1959, where she studied ballet. Harper began her career as a chorus girl on the Broadway production of Li'l Abner. She went on to perform in several Broadway musicals in the 1960s and beyond, including Take Me Along, Wildcat, Subways are for Sleeping, Something Different, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, Paul Sills' Story Theater and Metamorphoses.
After a move to Los Angeles, Harper was asked to audition for the part of Rhoda and began her long career in television. In addition to "Rhoda," Harper also enjoyed several other roles during her long tenure, including a Golden Globe® nominated performance in "Freebie and The Bean" in 1974 and guest-starring appearances on "Love, American Style," the first season of "The Muppet Show" and "Columbo." In 1979, Harper garnered another Golden Globe® nomination for her supporting role in the Academy Award-nominated film "Chapter Two," alongside Marsha Mason and James Caan. Her other feature films include "The Last Married Couple in America" with Natalie Wood and George Segal, "Blame It On Rio" with Michael Caine, "Certainty" and "Shiver."
In the 1980s, Harper saw success with several TV movies, including "Fun and Games," "The Shadow Box," "The Day the Loving Stopped," "Farrell for the People," "Don't Go to Sleep" and "An Invasion of Privacy." She also had a recurring role on "The Love Boat" series. In 1986, Harper once again found herself in the sitcom spotlight on the NBC series "Valerie," playing title character and family matriarch Valerie Hogan, a mother of three boys, for the first two seasons of the show. She co-starred with Josh Taylor, Jason Bateman, Jeremy Licht and Luis Daniel Ponce.
Harper's other television appearances include guest roles on hits "Sex and the City," "Touched by an Angel," "Melrose Place," "That ‘70s Show," "Drop Dead Diva," "Desperate Housewives" and "The Simpsons." In 2000, Harper starred with Moore in "Mary and Rhoda," a TV movie about the reunion of their iconic characters.
In 2010, Harper returned to the stage to perform in Looped, earning a Tony Award nomination for her portrayal of legendary actress Tallulah Bankhead in the production. She also portrayed Golda Meir in the national tour of the one-woman play Golda's Balcony, the winner of the Best Play 2006 Touring Broadway Award, which was later made into a movie of the same name starring Harper.
Harper is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and has served on the Hollywood Board of Directors of SAG. She has written two books: I Rhoda, a memoir published by Simon & Schuster in January 2013 and Today I Am A Ma'am and Other Musings on Life, Beauty, and Growing Older, a lighthearted, irreverent look at aging.
Despite going public with a terminal brain cancer diagnosis in early 2013, Harper has continued to do what she loves most—perform. Most recently, Harper was seen as a contestant on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." In September, she reunited with several women from the original cast of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," including Moore, Cloris Leachman, Betty White and Georgia Engel, to guest-star on the TV Land series "Hot in Cleveland," bringing them all together on the same set for the first time in 30 years.
Harper resides in Los Angeles with her husband.