Mary Tyler Moore Star Cloris Leachman Dies At 94

Mary Tyler Moore Star Cloris Leachman Dies At 94

Juliet Green, her manager, confirmed that unfortunate news stating the Leachman died of natural causes on Wednesday.

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The incredibly talented and highly decorated actress Cloris Leachman, who is best known for her portrayal of the delightfully neurotic Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has tragically passed away. She was 94. TMZ first reported the news of her passing at her home in Encinitas, California, beside her daughter Dinah. Juliet Green, her manager, confirmed that unfortunate news stating the Leachman died of natural causes on Wednesday, according to PEOPLE.


"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," shared Green, per Variety. "She loved her children and her grandchildren ferociously. A lifelong vegetarian, she was a passionate advocate for animal rights. The family requests that any donations in her name be made to PETA or Last Chance for Animals," she continued.


Leachman was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on April 30, 1926, and was the eldest of three sisters. She was interested in acting at a very early age as she began appearing in children's plays at Drake University when she was just 8. Her mom, who was also named Cloris, supported her interest in entertainment and also served as an excellent source of inspiration for her daughter's unmatched sense of humor. By the time she was 15, Leachman had created quite an impressive resume for herself as she made radio appearances and even received a radio scholarship to Northwestern University.


During her college days, she decided to try her hand at beauty pageants and competed in the 1946 Miss America pageant as Miss Chicago. Although she didn't win the crown, she did earn some money, and moved to New York City. Having attended Actors Studio in its founding years, Leachman made her Broadway debut in the 1947 farce John Loves Mary, as an understudy. She also got the opportunity to take over leading roles. Meanwhile, her television career kicked off as well with a number of live broadcasts in the '40s and '50s, including Night Must Fall and TV shows like Danger, Kraft Theatre, and Suspense


Shows like The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents carried her through the 1970s. Her excellent performance in The Last Picture Show gained her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in 1971 which she won. Following this unexpected win, Leachman gained more popularity in the most iconic role of Phyllis Lindstrom on the 1970s The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This not only earned her recognition but also two consecutive supporting actress Emmys for the role in 1974 and 1975. Her character was such a hit that after appearing in seven seasons of the CBS sitcom, Leachman's character got a solo spinoff series titled Phyllis from 1975-1977. Thus she went on to earn a Golden Globe for a leading comedy actress for the show. 


After giving us comedy's most cherished punchlines in Mel Brooks' 1974 classic, Young Frankenstein, she teamed with the director again in 1977's High Anxiety and 1981's History of the World: Part I. The star continued to work on the big screen, appearing in movies like The Muppet Movie, Now and Then, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bad Santa, The Longest Yard, Spanglish, Music of the Heart, The Wedding Ringer, and New York, I Love You. But it seemed like television was her playing filed as her career really blossomed there as she kept reinventing herself year after year. She played Beverly Ann Stickle on The Facts of Life from 1986-88 and guest-starred on Malcolm in the Middle from 2001-2006 and earned two Emmys for her role. 


Her exceptional performances in recent times include Raising Hope from 2010-2014 and a revival of Mad About You in 2019. Leachman has bagged Emmys for several television appearances including, Phineas and Ferb and The Ellen Show, as well as for her roles in Promised Land, Cher, and A Brand New Life. She guest-starred on Joan of Arcadia, The Office, Two and a Half Men, Hawthorne among others. Even at the age of 82, she was unstoppable as Leachman ventured into reality television taking part in the 7th season of Dancing with the Stars as a contestant. 


As for her personal life, Leachman tied the knot in 1953 with Hollywood impresario George Englund. The pair had four sons- Morgan, Adam, George Jr., Bryan, and one daughter- Dinah, together. But her marriage was surrounded by scandal after her husband had an affair with Dynasty actress Joan Collins. Although they remained together, Leachman admitted in her book "Cloris: My Autobiography" that she too was involved with a few stars, including Andy Williams and Gene Hackman. In 1979 the pair divorced. 


Leachman, who has been a vegetarian since the age of 35, lived outside a horse farm in the hills above Los Angels. In her autobiography, she revealed how she wanted to be remembered for the unique life force with which she approached everything. "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," she wrote. She continued, "I never wanted to conform. 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." 


Leachman is and will always remain an inspiration for every generation and the ones to come. May her soul rest in peace. 

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