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Valerie Harper

Actor Valerie Harper Dead At 80

Valerie Harper (CBS)
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(CelebrityAccess) — Actor Valerie Harper, who played Rhoda Morgenstern on the hit 1970s television sit-com “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its later spin-off “Rhoda” has died. She was 80.

While a cause of death was not disclosed, Harper was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer in 2013 and at the time, told she only had months to live.

In July, her husband Tony Cacciotti posted to social media that the couple had opted against hospice care for Harper.

“We will continue going forward as long as the powers above allow us. I will do my very best in making Val as comfortable as possible,” Cacciotti wrote in a Facebook post.

After studying ballet, Harper began her professional career as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway before moving into improv and joining the Chicago-based Second City theater troupe.

While performing in Los Angeles, she was noticed by agent Ethel Winant and landed a successful audition for the role of Rhoda, Mary Tyler Moore’s friend and neighbor on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” After the show’s four-year run, she kept the character alive in a dedicated spin-off, “Rhoda” which ran from 1974 to 1978, and later reunited with Tyler-Moore in the “Mary & Rhoda” television movie.

Harper’s portrayal of the street-savvy, straight-talking Rhoda served as a foil for Tyler-Moore’s sweet midwestern charm and netted her four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.

More recently, she won a Tony Award for her portrayal of actress Tallulah Bankhead in Matthew Lombardo’s “Looped” but withdrew form the role in 2013 due to her declining health.

Harper was a longtime member of the Screen Actors Guild and unsuccessfully ran for president of the Union in 2001, losing to Melissa Gilbert.

Harper married actor Richard Schaal in 1964 but they divorced in 1978. Harper married Tony Cacciotti in 1987.

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