Valerie Harper, who was cast as Mary Richards’ best friend Rhoda Morgenstern on the 1970s comedy “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” revealed to People magazine on March 6 that she has terminal brain cancer. The 73-year-old actress says that after a “battery of tests” she was diagnosed with leptomeningeal carcinomatosis, a rare condition that occurs when cancer cells spread into the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the brain.
Harper, who went on to star in ‘Rhoda’ a spin-off of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” tells People that she found out the news on Jan. 15,and is resolved to face her last days “with courage and humor.” Valerie Harper battled lung cancer in 2009. Said Harper, “I don’t think of it as dying. I think of think of it as being here now.”
Valerie Harper began her career as a dancer and chorus girl on Broadway in the musical “Li’l Abner” in 1959. During her Broadway career Harper worked with Lucille Ball and Jackie Gleason.
Harper moved to Los Angeles in 1970 and was cast as a “brash New Yorker” and best friend to Mary Richards, portrayed by Mary Tyler Moore. Valerie starred on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” until 1974 when she starred in the spin-off “Rhoda” from 1974 until 1978. Harper garnered four Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Rhoda Morgenstern.
In 1986 Valerie Harper returned to television as Valerie Hogan in the NBC series “Valerie.” After a salary dispute, NBC and its production company Lorimar in 1987, Harper was fired at the end of the series second season. Valerie Harper sued NBC and Lorimar for breach of contract. The claim against NBC was dismissed, but Harper was awarded $1.4 million plus 12.5 percent of the show’s profits.
Valerie Harper’s television guest appearances include such shows as “Melrose Place” in 1998 and “Sex and the City” in 1999. In addition to her acting career, Harper was involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement and was an advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and 1980s.
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