Cloris Leachman, ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ Star, Dies At 94
Actress Cloris Leachman died at her home in Encinitas, California of natural causes on Wednesday at 94.
Leachman’s impressive career spanned over seven decades in the entertainment business. She won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. She was nominated for 23 Emmys throughout her career and won nine, one of them being a Daytime Emmy. Leachman won more awards during her career than any other TV actor.
Leachman was born on April 30, 1926 in Des Moines Iowa, the oldest of three sisters. She eventually left Iowa to attended Northwestern University. As a college student, she started participating in beauty pageants. In 1946, she competed in the Miss America Pageant as Miss Chicago.
While she did not win Miss America, Leachman used her prize money from the pageant to move to New York City where she attended the Actors Studio and studied under Elia Kazan.
Leachman’s Broadway debut was in 1947 in John Loves Mary. She went on to perform in As You Like it, South Pacific and The Crucible on Broadway. Simultaneously, Leachman was working on TV shows in the 40s and 50s. Eventually, she landed roles on Lassie, Rawhide, Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason and countless others.
Leachman’s film career began in the 40s and continued throughout the rest of her life. Early on, she acted in Kiss Me Deadly, The Rack and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Her breakout film role was in 1971 in The Last Picture Show. Her work in the film won an Academy Award for best supporting actress. She went on to act in Young Frankenstein, The Muppet Movie, The Beverly Hillbillies, Now and Then, Bad Santa, Spanglish, The Longest Yard, The Wedding Ringer and New York, I Love You, to name a few.
In the 1970s Leachman played Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Phyllis became one of her most iconic television roles. From 1975-1977, Leachman played the character on two seasons of a spinoff series, Phyllis. Leachman went on to other television shows such as Facts of Life and Malcolm in the Middle.
At age 82, Leachman performed on Dancing With the Stars, and came in 6th place.
Her personal life involved a marriage, a divorce and five children. Leachman married George Englund in 1953. The couple divorced in 1979. Leachman is survived by four of her children, Morgan, Adam, Dinah, George Jr., and her grandchildren. Her son Bryan passed away in 1986 from an overdose.
Leachman released an autobiography in 2010 titled Cloris: My Autobiography.
“I’ve lived my life; I haven’t trotted alongside it,” she wrote in the book. “I’ve opened the doors of opportunity wherever I’ve seen them. I’ve walked into discoveries and dreams, disappointments and death. I bear the scares of not having obeyed rules made by others, and I wear the deep satisfaction of knowing I never bent to conventions I didn’t believe in.”