Oscar winner and multiple Emmy-winning actor Cloris Leachman has passed away. She was 94 when she breathed her last.
Leachman, best remembered for playing Phyllis Lindstrom on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’, died of natural causes on Tuesday in Encinitas, California, reported Variety.
Her longtime manager Juliet Green made the announcement of the actor’s demise. “It’s been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time,” Green said.
“There was no one like Cloris. With a single look, she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh ’till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic,” Green added.
The late star was known as one of Hollywood’s most prolific performers having won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and eight Primetime Emmy Awards.
Leachman’s character Phyllis in ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’, which she claimed was close to her own persona, brought the actress two Emmys as a featured actress in a series during the mid-’70s and made Leachman a household name.
Leachman also won a supporting actress Oscar for a far different character, an embittered small-town housewife in Peter Bogdanovich’s ‘The Last Picture Show’. She later reprised the role in the film’s less successful sequel ‘Texasville’. Both films were based on the writings of Larry McMurtry.
Her other high-profile television credits include ‘The Facts of Life’ portraying Beverly Ann Stickle, Grandma Ida on ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ and a recent role in the rebooted ‘Mad About You’.
Leachman, who appeared in three of Mel Brooks’ comedy movies, kept acting regularly well into her 90s. She was a contestant on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ at the age of 82 and featured in the 2019 reboot of the comedy series ‘Mad About You’.
However, two of her films made in 2019 and 2020 are yet to be released. She will appear in two projects that are currently in post-production or awaiting release, ‘High Holiday’ and ‘Not to Forget’.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Leachman received working experience as a child at the Des Moines Little Theater, as per Variety. By the age of 15, she was appearing on local radio stations.
She also bagged a special scholarship to study broadcast drama at Northwestern, where she stayed for a while before returning to Des Moines to finish high school. She returned to Northwestern with a theatre scholarship this time but dropped out and entered a beauty contest, eventually finding her way to the 1946 Miss America pageant.
Moving to New York, she landed a role in the movie ‘Carnegie Hall’. She studied at the Actors Studio and made her Broadway debut in 1948 in the short-lived production ‘Sundown Beach’. She attracted many eyeballs as Cecilia in a Theater Guild production of ‘As You Like It’ with Katharine Hepburn that ran for six months.
Her role in ‘A Story for Sunday Evening’ brought her good notices in 1950, and she played Broadway for eight months in the 1954 Jean Kerr/Eleanor Brooke comedy ‘King of Hearts’. She also played Nellie Forbush in a special revival of ‘South Pacific’.
However, her more steady training came via live television. She was a regular on the early series ‘Charlie Wild, Private Detective’, and she excelled at bad girl roles. She also made guest appearances on TV series including ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’.
On the personal front, in 1953, she married George Englund and they divorced in 1979. The couple had five children, one of them, Bryan, died of a drug overdose in 1986.
The evergreen actor was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011. ‘Cloris: My Autobiography’ was published in 2009. She penned the bestseller with Englund, who passed away in 2017.