Making people laugh was only one facet of Valerie Harper’s career, which extended from the stage to television and feature films. A native of Suffern, New York — “I was born to suffer” — Harper began her career as a dancer with the corps de ballet at Radio City Hall during its spectacular heyday. She gradually moved into acting, working in everything from industrial shows to regional theatre to the Second City comedy troupe of Chicago. Eventually, she made it to Broadway in productions of Dear Liar, the Tony Award winning Story Theatre, Something Different and Metamorphosis. Stardom came with television, including four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her work in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970) and Rhoda (1974), in which the latter she played the title role. Harper won Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year, and her Rhoda’s Wedding episode set that 1974’s ratings record. Since retiring Rhoda Morganstern to re-runs, Harper was active on stage and in movies. Her feature films included Chapter Two (1979), Freebie and the Bean (1974) and The Last Married Couple in America (1980). In television, she starred on all three networks in movies of the week, including Farrell for the People (1982) (NBC), Don’t Go to Sleep (1982) (ABC) and An Invasion of Privacy (1983) (CBS). A strong supporter of women’s rights, Harper worked since the mid-80s on a film with second husband Tony Cacciotti which will probably never reach fruition after all this time, based on a true story involving domestic violence.
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