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Actress Valerie Harper won three consecutive Emmy Awards for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Valerie Harper - I, Rhoda (3:54)
Betty White - Mini Biography (3:28)
Actress Valerie Harper ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Rhoda") discusses her new autobiography, "I, Rhoda." Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster. Click "Buy Now" to learn more about the book.
During an era that showcased actresses in young wives and mother roles, "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" revolutionized the image of women on TV.
Though Betty White has always looked like the sugary sweet girl-next-door, her comedic talents often tap into her acid wit.
Betty White is best known for her roles on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Golden Girls." She has appeared for decades on talk shows and game shows and spends her free time advocating for animals.
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Born in Suffern, New York, on August 22, 1939, Valerie Harper began as a dancer in Broadway musicals like Lil Abner,Wildcat and Subways Are For Sleeping. She spent the 1960s studying and performing with Chicago's Second City Theater. In 1970, Harper was cast as Rhoda Morgenstern in the hit sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a role that earned her three consecutive Emmy Awards and a spinoff show of her own called Rhoda.
"I realized that if I was going to be an actress I needed to not keep dancing in the chorus because you didn't get taken seriously."
"Seize the day. That's what's important. Live moment to moment. And that's good acting. Moment to moment."
"I realized that if I was going to be an actress, I needed to not keep dancing in the chorus because you didn't get taken seriously."
Valerie Harper was born on August 22, 1939, in the small town of Suffern, New York. Her mother, Iva McConnell, was a nurse, and her father, Howard Harper, was a lighting salesman whose job took the family all over the country. After spending her earliest years in South Orange, New Jersey, Harper moved to Pasadena, California; Monroe, Michigan; Ashland, Oregon; and back to Jersey City, New Jersey—all by the age of 13. Asked by an interviewer where she considers home, Harper responded, "You'd call me a Jersey girl."
Inspired by the 1948 British ballet film The Red Shoes, young Valerie Harper dreamed of becoming a ballerina. "I thought, 'Oh God, if I could just grow my hair red and dance like that, I would rule the world.'" She began taking ballet lessons, and when her family moved from Jersey City back to Oregon, a teenage Harper stayed behind to attend Manhattan's School for Young Professionals while continuing her training in ballet.
Harper made her professional debut as a dancer at age 16 in the Corps de Ballet at Radio City Music Hall. After graduating from high school, she continued at the New School for Social Research, where she took courses in French and philosophy. While still in school, she made her Broadway debut as a dancer in the musical Li'l Abner, choreographed by the famous Michael Kidd. After that, Harper danced in a trio of other Kidd-choreographed Broadway shows: Destry Rides Again (1959) with Andy Griffith; Wildcat (1960) with Lucille Ball; and Subways are for Sleeping (1961) with Orson Bean. "I became what you call a 'Michael Kidd dancer,'" she once recalled. However, she turned down another chorus role in the musical Here's Love because, she explained, "I realized that if I was going to be an actress, I needed to not keep dancing in the chorus because you didn't get taken seriously."
For the rest of the 1960s, Harper worked on making her transition from dancer to actress. She began taking acting lessons under famous instructor Viola Spolin, whose son, Paul Sills, founded Chicago's Second City Theater. After seeing her comedic talents, Sills invited Harper to join his company. Spurred on by her work at Second City, Harper returned to Broadway as an actress in Carl Reiner's 1967 production of Something Different and Paul Sills's 1970 production of Ovid's Metamorphoses. It was through her work with Second City that Harper also met Richard Schaal, whom she married in 1964. They stayed together for 14 years before divorcing.
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