Saturday, April 21, 2012

Actress Valerie Harper

For her portrayal of liberated Jewish woman Rhoda Morgenstern, first on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and her own show "Rhoda" for four years each (1970 to 1974, 1974 to 1978) Valerie Harper became an inspiration to young Jewish actresses everywhere.

There's just one problem: Valerie Harper is not Jewish.

She's just a very good actress.

Nevertheless, the character of Rhoda Morgenstern was a breakthrough for American television, as she was one of the first TV characters - maybe the first TV character - to be so clearly identified as Jewish. When "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" debuted in September 1970, it was the first of several sitcoms (particularly CBS sitcoms) to acknowledge the real world after a long line of 1960s fantasy sitcoms. And Valerie Harper was at the forefront of it.

In fact, when Harold Gould played Rhoda's father on "Rhoda," not too many people were aware he had tried for the role of Ann Marie's father on the sixties Marlo Thomas sitcom "That Girl," only to be rejected for being "too New York." (Get it?) But the 1970s were a (thankfully) different decade for American television.

Though she's done other TV shows along with movies and theater, Valerie Harper will always be Rhoda to a generation of TV fans.  And she continues to shine like the morning star (which is what Rhoda's last name means in German).  

La da da da da, la da da da . . . :-) 

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