Dayna Smithson

Dayna Smithson

Modified & Updated: 09 Sep 2023


Valerie Harper, known for her captivating performances in film and television, has undeniably left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry. With a career spanning several decades, Harper has showcased her incredible talent, versatility, and unforgettable charm. From her breakthrough role as Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to her brave battle against cancer, Harper’s journey has been both inspiring and remarkable.

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing life of Valerie Harper and discover 45 fascinating facts that shed light on her personal and professional achievements. From her early beginnings in New York City to her numerous awards and accolades, we will explore the highlights of her career and delve into the profound impact she has had on audiences around the world.

So, grab your popcorn and join us as we take a closer look at the extraordinary life of Valerie Harper, a true icon of the silver screen.

Table of Contents

Early Life and Education

Valerie Harper was born on August 22, 1939, in Suffern, New York. She attended the Young Conservatory program at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

Acting Debut

Harper made her professional theater debut in the Broadway musical “Take Me Along” in 1959.

Breakout Role in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

Harper gained worldwide recognition for playing the beloved character Rhoda Morgenstern in the hit television series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Spin-Off Success with “Rhoda”

Following her success on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Harper starred in the spin-off series “Rhoda,” which aired from 1974 to 1978.

Emmy Wins

Valerie Harper won four Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her portrayal of Rhoda Morgenstern in both “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda.”

Stage Career

In addition to her television work, Harper also had a successful stage career, appearing in numerous Broadway productions such as “Looped” and “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.”

Inspirational Battle Against Cancer

Valerie Harper fought a courageous battle against cancer, defying the odds and becoming an inspiration to many.


Harper released her memoir titled “I, Rhoda” in 2013, sharing her experiences and reflections on her life and career.

Dancing with the Stars

In 2014, Valerie Harper participated in the 17th season of “Dancing with the Stars,” showcasing her determination and grace on the dance floor.

Political Activism

Throughout her life, Harper has been actively involved in political causes, advocating for issues such as women’s rights and healthcare.

Iconic TV Appearances

Aside from her starring roles, Valerie Harper made memorable guest appearances on popular TV shows like “Melrose Place” and “Desperate Housewives.”

Theater Directing

Harper also explored her talent behind the scenes, directing theater productions such as “The Women’s Room” and “The Dinner Party.”

Voice Acting

Valerie Harper lent her voice to various animated projects, including the character of Pammie in the series “The Simpsons.”

Honorary Doctorate

In 2010, Harper received an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts from her alma mater, the American Conservatory Theater.

The Valerie Harper Show

In 1986, Valerie Harper starred in her own sitcom titled “The Valerie Harper Show,” where she played the role of a mother and career woman.

Talented Painter

Aside from her acting career, Valerie Harper is also an accomplished painter, with her artworks showcased in galleries.

Broadway Revivals

Harper returned to Broadway several times, including revivals of “The Matchmaker” and “Golda’s Balcony.”

Animal Rights Advocate

Harper has been an advocate for animal rights and has supported organizations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

Emmy Nominations

In total, Valerie Harper received eight Primetime Emmy nominations throughout her career.

Memorable Film Roles

Aside from her television work, Harper had notable film roles in movies such as “Freebie and the Bean” and “Chapter Two.”

Advocacy for Alzheimer’s Research

After being diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer, Harper became an advocate for Alzheimer’s research and raised awareness about the disease.

Eye Injury

During a rehearsal for the television series “Rhoda,” Valerie Harper suffered an eye injury, which led her to wear an artificial eye.

Collaboration with Mary Tyler Moore

Valerie Harper collaborated with her “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” co-star Mary Tyler Moore on the television movie “Mary and Rhoda” in 2000.

Candidacy for SAG Presidency

In 2001, Harper ran for the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) but was unsuccessful.

Marriage to Tony Cacciotti

Valerie Harper has been happily married to Tony Cacciotti since 1987, and they have a daughter together named Cristina.

Guest Appearances on Talk Shows

Harper made numerous guest appearances on talk shows such as “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Prolific Television Career

Throughout her career, Valerie Harper appeared in over 75 television shows, showcasing her versatility as an actress.

Contributions to Children’s Literature

Harper authored several children’s books, including the series “Tallulah,” which centered around the adventures of a lovable young penguin.

Golden Globe Nominations

Valerie Harper received four Golden Globe nominations, recognizing her outstanding performances in both “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda.”

Close Friendship with Mary Tyler Moore

Valerie Harper and Mary Tyler Moore shared a close friendship both on and off-screen throughout their careers.

Collaboration with Lucille Ball

Harper had the opportunity to work with comedy legend Lucille Ball on the television series “Life with Lucy” in 1986.

Health Advocacy

After her cancer diagnosis, Harper became an advocate for healthcare access and affordability, highlighting the importance of regular screenings and early detection.

Participation in Celebrity Cruises

As a celebrity guest, Harper often participated in cruises and delighted fans with performances and meet-and-greet events.

Lifetime Achievement Award

In 2013, Valerie Harper received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Image Network (WIN) for her contributions to the entertainment industry.

Love for Gardening

Harper has a deep passion for gardening and finds solace in nurturing plants and flowers in her personal garden.

Entrepreneurial Ventures

In addition to her artistic endeavors, Valerie Harper has ventured into entrepreneurship, including the creation of her line of designer scarves.

Broadway Tribute Concert

In 2010, a tribute concert was held on Broadway, titled “Funny Girl to Funny Lady,” honoring Valerie Harper’s extensive career in the theater.

Dedication to Charity Work

Valerie Harper has been actively involved in charitable endeavors, supporting organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Cancer Society.

Friendship with Betty White

Harper developed a close friendship with her “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” co-star Betty White, which lasted throughout their lives.

Recognition as an LGBT Ally

Harper has been celebrated for her support and advocacy for the LGBT community, receiving several honors for her contributions.

Love for Travel

Valerie Harper enjoys traveling and exploring different cultures, often immersing herself in the local customs and traditions.

Intimate One-Woman Show

Harper performed a critically acclaimed one-woman show titled “Looped,” where she portrayed actress Tallulah Bankhead.

Contributions to Comedy

Throughout her career, Valerie Harper made significant contributions to the comedy genre, bringing laughter to audiences with her impeccable timing and wit.

Resilience and Determination

Despite facing numerous challenges throughout her life, Valerie Harper demonstrated incredible resilience and determination, inspiring others with her positive attitude.

Legacy of Inspiration

Valerie Harper’s legacy lives on as an inspiration to aspiring actors, cancer survivors, and those who admire her immense talent and unwavering spirit.


Valerie Harper was undoubtedly a talented and beloved actress who made a significant impact on the entertainment industry. With a career spanning over five decades, she charmed audiences with her brilliant performances and infectious personality. From her breakthrough role as Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to her inspiring battle against cancer, Harper’s resilience and talent have left an indelible mark on the hearts of her fans.Throughout her life, Valerie Harper demonstrated immense strength and grace in the face of adversity. Her dedication to her craft, advocacy for healthcare, and positive outlook on life serve as an inspiration to us all. Although she may no longer be with us, her legacy will continue to shine bright for years to come. Valerie Harper will forever be remembered as a true icon in the world of entertainment.


1. When did Valerie Harper start her acting career?

Valerie Harper began her acting career in the 1960s, appearing in various television shows and movies.

2. What is Valerie Harper best known for?

Valerie Harper is best known for her iconic role as Rhoda Morgenstern on the hit sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

3. How many Emmy Awards did Valerie Harper win?

Valerie Harper won a total of four Emmy Awards throughout her career, including three for her role as Rhoda on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

4. Did Valerie Harper have any other notable roles?

Apart from her role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Valerie Harper also starred in the spin-off show “Rhoda” and appeared in various other television series and movies.

5. How did Valerie Harper inspire others?

Valerie Harper inspired others through her bravery and determination during her battle with cancer. She used her platform to raise awareness about the disease and advocate for improved healthcare.

6. What is Valerie Harper’s legacy?

Valerie Harper’s legacy is one of talent, resilience, and compassion. She touched the lives of many with her remarkable performances and unwavering spirit.