In her career that spanned seven decades, Leachman appeared in more than 250 films and TV shows.
The incredibly talented and hilarious actress, Cloris Leachman, best known for the portrayal of annoyingly perfect landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, passed away on January 27, 2021. She has appeared in more than 250 films and TV shows.
Her manager, Juliet Green confirmed that the actress died of natural causes. "It's been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time. 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 told People.
Leachman was 94 years old. TMZ reported that the decorated star passed away at her home in Encinitas, California. Her daughter, Dinah Englund was beside her.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 30, 1926, Leachman spent seven decades of her life in the acting business. Not only was she one of the original members of the famed Actors Studio in New York City, but she was also the one who won more trophies than any other television performer in history with 20 Emmy nominations and nine wins, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe award.
She insisted that she always went to award shows thinking she would be going home empty-handed. During an interview with the TV academy in 2015, she said that she never prepared speeches, "But if you are good at what you do — and I always intend to be good at what I do — then the acclaim is just the follow-through. But it is a wonderful feeling."
Eldest of the three sisters in her family, Leachman divulged that her mother was the reason for her illustrious career as she encouraged her to explore her creative side. At her 2011 induction into the TV academy's Hall of Fame, she said, "Momma never pushed me to anything, always an invitation."
She always knew that she wasn't meant for a 9 to 5 job but something different. By the age of 15, with an impressive resume of radio appearances, Leachman received a radio scholarship to Northwestern University. In college, she participated in beauty pageants that paved her way to New York City and then Hollywood.
Talking to Playgirl magazine in 1972, as cited by People, Leachman recalled the day she knew where she belonged and said, "When I went into town for my first piano lesson, I took a streetcar to the teacher's studio. It was the staggering cultural shock of my life. There were all those gray people — the nine-to-fivers, sitting in a stupor. Right then I determined with every fiber in my being that I would never be grown down into a gray person."
The High Anxiety star was born to be in the spotlight and even her age couldn't stop her from doing so. In 2008, at the age of 82, she participated in season 7 of Dancing with the Stars and came in 6th! However, in recent years, age did slow her down a bit but her wicked humor remained the same.
During a 2015 interview with TODAY, the actress seemed to be struggling with getting out of the chair but the then-89-year-old took the situation in the most light-hearted way possible. "I'm going to get up. It's very difficult. I can get this far," she said as she pushed herself upwards before freezing. She then called out to Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford for the rescue adding, "And then you come in."
Just like her career, the Young Frankenstein actress had an eventful personal life too. She married producer George Englund in 1953 and the couple became parents to four sons and one daughter together: Morgan, Adam, Dinah, George Jr., and Bryan (who died in 1986). However, their relationship was very much scandalous.
According to People, in her 2010 autobiography, Leachman opened up about her husband's infidelity with Dynasty actress Joan Collins and called it "the most difficult time of my life." This was also the time when she had gone through a "terrible miscarriage." According to The Daily Mail, she even confronted Collins after she got to know about it. Leachman too had a few flings and by 1979 the couple divorced for good.
The Last Picture Show actress also mentioned that she wants to be remembered for how she lived her life. "I've lived my life; I haven't trotted alongside it," she wrote in her 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 scars 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."
Proud of how the world failed to change her after all these years, she continued, "I haven't conformed. I've tried, but I couldn't. I've never put a label on myself. I find it distasteful that people put labels on other people and say that's who they are, that one thing. When I was 46, people said I was in middle age. I shrugged off that designation. I didn't want to be lumped into a group."