Iowa Native Cloris Leachman Dies at 94
No actress has been nominated for more Emmy Awards than Cloris Leachman. (Leachman also ties Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most Emmy wins in history, with eight.) She was also an Oscar winner, a Golden Globe winner, and a Daytime Emmy Award winner, and she left an indelible mark on the worlds of film, TV, and comedy. Sadly, Leachman passed away on Tuesday in California of natural causes. She was 94 years old.
Born in Iowa in 1926, Leachman competed in the Miss America pageant in 1946 and then began studying acting in New York City. It’s difficult to say precisely what she was best known for. In a career that spanned some 70 years, she was known for many things. For some, it will surely be her role as Mary’s landlady Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. After five seasons on the show (and two Emmy Awards) she got her own spinoff series, Phyllis, which ran for two seasons on PBS.
Others might think first of her work in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show. Leachman won 1971’s Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing Ruth, a depressed middle-aged housewife who begins an affair with a local high school boy.
Or they might think of Leachman as one of the secret weapons in director Mel Brooks’ ensembles. While she had roles in High Anxiety and History of the World: Part I, her most famous role in a Brooks film came as Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein. Every time someone says her name, a horse whines.
But that barely scratches the surface of the dozens of films and shows she made. A brief list of highlights: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dillinger, The Love Boat, The Muppet Movie, The Facts of Life, Texasville, The Simpsons, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Longest Yard, Malcolm in the Middle, Beerfest, and on and on and on. She was truly one of the comedy legends of the 20th century.
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