Monday, May 27, 2024

Valerie Harper Dead at 80: Beloved Emmy Winning Star of “Mary Tyler Moore” Battled Cancer Valiantly


The great Valerie Harper has died at age 80. The Emmy winning star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show battled cancer valiantly, and lived well past the time doctors predicted. She tried everything in her fight with brain cancer, but recently her family started a Go Fund Me page as expenses mounted. Her husband, Tony Cacciotti, wouldn’t put her in hospice care, but took care of her at home with their daughter, Christina.

It’s hard to imagine that both Mary and Rhoda, the character Harper played so brilliantly, are gone. They live on in reruns that hold up a hundred percent, still hilarious and touching. What a shame. At least we still have Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, and Gavin McLeod (and John Amos).

Valerie won 4 Emmys and 1 Golden Globe for playing Rhoda Morgenstern, the tough as nails New Yorker who moved to Minneapolis to find love and happiness. She wasn’t just Rhoda, though. She was nominated for a Tony Award for playing Tallulah Bankhead in “Looped” in 2010.

She was a trailblazer for actors’ rights as well. When she was dropped from her own series, “Valerie,” in 1986, over a salary dispute. She took Lorimar Productions to court and won $1.4 million for her wrongful firing, and 12% of  the show’s profits going forward– which it did, as “The Hogan Family,” with Sandy Duncan as the new star. Valerie was very active in the Screen Actors Guild as well, and ran for president in 2001.

I first met Valerie in the 1990s, and interviewed her several times. She was absolutely delightful, and we remained friendly for years. She was a great actress, with lethal comedic timing. But she was also a mom and a wife and a friend to dozens and dozens. She’s an inspiration to anyone who’s fighting cancer. She never gave up.

By the way, how good an actress? She wasn’t Jewish, like Rhoda. Some people thought she was Italian. Nope. She just made it seem so real. You can’t do better than that:


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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