Valerie Harper Biography

Friday, 31 July 2015

Valerie Kathryn Harper
Valerie Kathryn Harper

Valerie Kathryn Harper (born August 22, 1939) is an American actress.

She is best known for her roles as Rhoda Morgenstern in the 1970s television series The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off, Rhoda, and later as Valerie Hogan in Valerie. She is a four-time Primetime Emmy Award winner. Her notable film roles include Freebie and the Bean (1974), and Chapter Two (1979), both of which garnered her Golden Globe Award nominations.

Harper is also known for her stage work, having appeared in several Broadway productions. She started her career as a dancer on Broadway, making her debut in the musical Take Me Along in 1959. In 2010, she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Talullah Bankhead in the play Looped.

Early life

Harper was born in Suffern, New York, the daughter of Iva Mildred (née McConnell 1910-1988)[3] and Howard Donald Harper. Her father was a lighting salesman, and her mother was born in Canada and trained as a nurse. She is the middle child of three siblings. She has an older sister, Leah; a younger brother, Merrill (who later took the name "Don") and a half-sister, Virginia, from her father's second marriage.

She claims her parents were expecting a boy and after her arrival, her first and middle names derived from that year's women's doubles tennis champions, Valerie Scott and Kay Stammers. She is of French, English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry. Harper claims to have based her future character Rhoda Morgenstern on her Italian stepmother, Angela Posillico, and Penny Ann Green (née Joanna Greenberg), with whom she danced in the Broadway musical Wildcat. She was raised Catholic, although at an early age she "quit" the church.

The family moved every two years due to her father's work, attending schools in South Orange, New Jersey; Pasadena, California; Monroe, Michigan; Ashland, Oregon; and Jersey City, New Jersey. When her family returned to Oregon, Harper remained in the New York City area to study ballet. She attended Lincoln High School in Jersey City, graduating from the private Young Professionals School on West 56th Street, where classmates included Sal Mineo, Tuesday Weld, and Carol Lynley.


Broadway dancer and improv
Harper began as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway, and went on to perform in several Broadway shows, some choreographed by Michael Kidd, including Wildcat (starring Lucille Ball), Take Me Along (starring Jackie Gleason), and Subways Are For Sleeping. In-between she was also cast in Destry Rides Again but was forced to leave rehearsals due to illness. Her roommate, actress Arlene Golonka, introduced her to Second City improvisation theater and to improv performer Dick Schaal, whom Harper later married in 1965. Harper was stepmother to Schaal's daughter, Wendy, an actress. They lived in Greenwich Village. She returned to Broadway in February 2010, playing Tallulah Bankhead in Matthew Lombardo's Looped at the Lyceum Theatre.

Harper appeared in a bit part in the film version of Li'l Abner (1959), playing a Yokumberry Tonic wife. She broke into television on an episode of the soap opera The Doctors ("Zip Guns can Kill"). She was an extra in Love with the Proper Stranger. She toured with Second City with Schaal, Linda Lavin and others, later appearing in sketches on Playboy After Dark. Harper and Schaal moved to Los Angeles in 1968, and co-wrote an episode of Love, American Style.


While doing theater in Los Angeles in 1970, Harper was spotted by casting agent Ethel Winant, who called her in to audition for the role of Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She co-starred from 1970–1974 and then starred in the spin-off series, Rhoda (CBS 1974-1978) in which her character returned to New York. She won four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for her work as Rhoda Morgenstern throughout this period. In 2000, Harper reunited with Moore in Mary and Rhoda, a TV movie that brought their iconic characters together again in later life. The first season of Rhoda was released on DVD on April 21, 2009, by Shout! Factory.
She was nominated for a Golden Globe for "New Star of the Year" for her role in Freebie and The Bean (1974). Harper was a guest star on The Muppet Show in 1976, its first season.

Harper returned to situation comedy in 1986 when she played family matriarch Valerie Hogan on the NBC series Valerie. Following a salary dispute with NBC and production company Lorimar in 1987, Harper was fired from the series at the end of its second season. Harper sued NBC and Lorimar for breach of contract. Her claims against NBC were dismissed, but the jury found that Lorimar had wrongfully fired her and awarded her $1.4 million plus 12.5 percent of the show's profits. The series continued without her with the explanation that her character had died off-screen. 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. NBC canceled The Hogan Family in 1990, but it was picked up by CBS for a final season.
Harper appeared in various television movies, including a performance as Maggie in a production of the Michael Cristofer play The Shadow Box, directed by Paul Newman, and in guest roles on such series as Melrose Place (1998) and Sex and the City (1999).


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