Facts about Cloris Leachman

Cloris Leachman died at 94 years old
Born: April 30, 1926
Best known as: The egotistical landlady Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show



Cloris Leachman Biography

Character actress Cloris Leachman won nine Emmy Awards plus an Oscar in her 60+ years of work in television and films. An actress of remarkable range, she played both winsome dramatic leads and unpredictable, smart-mouthed old dames.

Cloris Leachman grew up in Iowa and attended Northwestern University, winning the 1946 Miss Chicago contest (and in that role, taking part in the Miss America contest) while she was there. She started her acting career a few years later, appearing in the original Broadway productions of South Pacific (1950, as understudy to Mary Martin) and The Crucible (1953, by Arthur Miller).

Leachman’s great burst of creativity and fame began in 1970, when she played the neurotic landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77) and the spinoff sitcom Phyllis (1975-77). (Leachman once described the character’s personality as “the sure firm touch on the wrong note.”) In those same years she won an Oscar as best supporting actress for her turn as the lovelorn wife of a small-town coach in The Last Picture Show (1971), then won raves for her zany performance as the castle crone Frau Blucher in the 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Young Frankenstein.

Leachman made hundreds of TV appearances on shows ranging from The Twilight Zone to Ellen, and was Emmy-nominated six straight years (winning in 2002 and 2006) for her recurring guest spots as cranky Grandma Ida on TV’s Malcolm In the Middle. She appeared on Dancing With the Stars in the fall of 2008, becoming at age 82 the show’s oldest contestant to that time. Her last major film role was as the grandmother of a struggling young drag queen in the family drama Jump, Darling (2020).

Extra credit

Her eight prime-time Emmy Awards are the most ever by a single actress; she also won a daytime Emmy for the 1983 ABC Afterschool Special, The Woman Who Willed a Miracle… Cloris Leachman was married to producer George Englund from 1953 until their divorce in 1979. They had four sons and a daughter: Adam (b. 1954), Brian (b. 1956), George Jr. (b. 1957) and Morgan (b. 1964), and Dinah (birthdate unknown)… Before Cloris Leachman, the oldest Dancing With the Stars contestant was George Hamilton at age 66… Another actress of the same physical type is Irene Ryan of Beverly Hillbillies fame… Cloris Leachman studied at Elia Kazan’s Actor’s Studio in New York in the 1940s; Marlon Brando was a fellow student.


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