ACTRESS Valerie Harper who shot to fame in The Mary Tyler Moore Show has died aged 80.
The TV star had been battling cancer for years and her husband said recently he had been advised to put her in hospice care.
She was a breakout star in her role as the brash Rhoda Morgenstern on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Valerie proved so popular that she landed the lead in her own series, Rhoda.
She won three consecutive Emmys (1971-73) as supporting actress on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and another for outstanding lead actress for Rhoda.
Beyond awards, she was immortalised — and typecast — for playing one of television’s most beloved characters, a best friend the equal of Ethel Mertz and Ed Norton in TV’s sidekick pantheon.
Fans had long feared the news of her passing.
In 2013, she first revealed that she had been diagnosed with brain cancer and had been told by her doctors she had as little as three months to live.
Some responded as if a family member were in peril.
But she refused to despair. “I’m not dying until I do,” Valerie said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.
“I promise I won’t.”
Harper did outlive her famous co-star: Mary Tyler Moore died in January 2017.
Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman and Betty White are among the former cast members who survive her.
In recent years, Harper’s other appearances included “American Dad!” ″The Simpsons” and “Two Broke Girls.”
Harper was a chorus dancer on Broadway as a teen before moving into comedy and improv.
In 1970, she auditioned for the part of a Bronx-born Jewish girl who would be a neighbour and pal of Minneapolis news producer Mary Richards on a new sitcom for CBS.
It seemed a long shot for the young, unknown actress.
As she recalled, “I’m not Jewish, not from New York, and I have a small shiksa nose.” And she had almost no TV experience.
But Harper, who arrived for her audition some 20 pounds overweight, may have clinched the role when she blurted out in admiration to the show’s tall, slender star: “Look at you in white pants without a long jacket to cover your behind!”