Thursday, April 25, 2024

How TV’s “Rhoda” Put Han Solo on A Career Track


My old friend, Valerie Harper, has just published a charming, breezy new memoir called “I, Rhoda,” which has a lot of fascinating nuggets of information. One of them is that our Rhoda put Han Solo on his career track. Valerie recalls that during the early days of her run on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, she hired a carpenter to fix a loft in her house. That would be Harrison Ford, who told Valerie that he was an actor but pounding nails to make a living. Soon after, Ford fell out of Harper’s loft and broke his arm. That was the end of his carpenter career. “Star Wars” was not far off.

Fans of “MTM” and “Rhoda” will enjoy this look back to Harper’s meteoric rise as a comedy actress. She played nine seasons as Rhoda Morgenstern, four on Mary’s show and five on her own. I wish I could tell you that Valerie has something nasty to say about anyone she worked with, but she doesn’t. Mary encouraged right through her career, and almost forced her to do the “Rhoda” spin off. They remain friends today, and Mary even called in yesterday morning and surprised Harper on “Good Morning America.”

Valerie does recount her legal success against Lorimar Productions after they fired her from the “Valerie” TV series. She doesn’t give much info about her political life with the Screen Actors Guild, something maybe she’ll discuss in another volume.  But the big secret of the book–successful surgery for benign lung cancer–is a cliff hanger with a (thank goodness) happy ending.

Now if only whoever owns the “Rhoda” series would clean it up digitally and put out a decent boxed set!

PS Book publicists being what they are, I downloaded “I, Rhoda” onto my Kindle today. It was totally worth it. If I’d waited for a review copy, we’d all be very old and gray. Nothing has changed.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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