Valerie Harper, who scored guffaws, stole hearts and busted TV taboos as the brash, self-deprecating Rhoda Morgenstern on back-to-back hit sitcoms in the 1970s, has died.
Longtime family friend Dan Watt confirmed Harper died Friday, adding the family wasn’t immediately releasing any further details. She had been battling cancer for years, and her husband said recently he had been advised to put her in hospice care.
Harper was a breakout star on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, then the lead of her own series, Rhoda. She was 80.
She won three consecutive Emmys (1971-73) as supporting actress on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and another for outstanding lead actress for Rhoda, which ran from 1974-78. Beyond awards, she was immortalised – and typecast – for playing one of television’s most beloved characters, a best friend the equal of Ethel Mertz and Ed Norton in TV’s sidekick pantheon.
Thank you brilliant Valerie- you gave us so much!!💔 RIP Valerie Harper pic.twitter.com/URF0SuzCux
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) August 30, 2019
Even when she was down she danced and showed the world that she refused to let cancer beat her. Now Rhoda is with Mary in heaven. RIP Valerie Harper. You were the epitome of strength and humor. 😢🤟🏻 pic.twitter.com/CEGWl4hfhA
— Marlee Matlin (@MarleeMatlin) August 30, 2019
Valerie Harper was always the most gracious and the kindest actor on set.
She will be missed. Rest In Peace.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) August 30, 2019
In recent years, Harper’s other appearances included American Dad!, The Simpsons and Two Broke Girls.
During the 1990s, Harper starred in a pair of short-lived sitcoms (one of which, City, was created by future Oscar-winner Paul Haggis) and made guest appearances on series including Melrose Place, Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives.
She reunited with Moore in a 2000 TV film, Mary and Rhoda. In 2013, there was an even grander reunion: Harper and Moore were back together along with fellow MTM alumnae Leachman, White and Georgia Engel to tape an episode of White’s hit comedy, Hot in Cleveland. It was the ensemble’s first acting job together in more than 30 years and during a news conference Harper cited a valuable lesson: The character of Rhoda, she said, pointing to Moore, “taught me to thank your lucky stars for a fabulous friend.”