Valerie Harper, TV's Rhoda Morgenstern, Dies at 80

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Rhoda Morgenstern will live forever, but Valerie Harper, who portrayed the iconic New Yorker on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has passed away at the age of 80.

Harper began battling cancer in 2013 after being told she had Leptomeningeal carcinomatosis.

Doctors asserted she had as few as three months to live, but Harper was having none of it.


Harper fought her diagnosis and announced eight months later that she was in remission.

The seasoned entertainer jumped on board an NBC documentary.

She also joined Dancing with the Stars. That premiered on September 16, 2013.


A former ballet dancer, Harper was paired with Tristan MacManus and got eliminated after the third episode.

She wanted Americans to be less afraid of death and to recognize it's a passage of life.

"While you're living, live," she told the audience.

Born to Iva and Howard Harper in Suffern, New York, Harper was the middle child.


Harper's first film role was a bit part in the film version of Li'l Abner in 1959.

Her first television appearance was in an episode of the soap opera, The Doctors.

It was while doing theater in Los Angeles in 1970 that she caught the eye casting agent Ethel Winant who wanted her to audition for the role of Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

She got the part as Mary's best friend and co-starred on the series for four seasons before landing her spinoff, Rhoda.


Rhoda ran on CBS for four years and featured her character heading back to the big Apple.

Harper won four Emmys and a Golden Globe for her role as Rhoda.

Harper reunited with Moore for a TV movie titled Mary and Rhoda in 2000 which saw the two iconic friends together again.


In 1986, Harper landed the title role in a series named Valerie.

She famously got fired from the series in which Sandy Duncan replaced her and the name of the series eventually changed to The Hogan Family after her character was killed off.

Harper later guest-starred in series such as Melrose Place, Desperate Housewives, and 2 Broke Girls and was featured in seven episodes of The Simpsons as various characters.

Harper ran for SAG president in 2001 but lost to Melissa Gilbert.


In 2017, Harper said, "People are saying, 'She’s on her way to death and quickly'. Now it’s five years instead of three months ... I’m going to fight this. I’m going to see a way."

There is no doubt that Harper, much like her plucky and brash Rhoda Morgenstern, fought valiantly and lived well.

Episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show are available on Hulu.

If you've never experienced the '70s firsthand, celebrate the life of Valerie Harper by giving them a watch..

Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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