Award-Winning Actor Cloris Leachman Dies, Aged 94

Cloris Leachman

by James White |
Updated on

Cloris Leachman, a talented, prolific actress who won an Oscar and several Emmys across a consistent career, has died. She was 94.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1926, Leachman worked at a theater as a child and began appearing on local radio stations in her teenage years. She studied at Northwestern before competing in the 1946 Miss America pageant. Leachman didn’t take the top prize, but she won a scholarship, which she used to study under Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York City. After success on the stage in South Pacific and As You Like It (appearing in the Shakespeare production opposite Katherine Hepburn), Leachman launched her film career with Carnegie Hall, though her big-screen breakthrough in 1955’s Kiss Me Deadly, where she makes an indelible impression by running alongside a busy highway wearing nothing but a trench coat. Other famous roles included those in The Last Picture Show (for which she won her Oscar) and Texasville, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Daisy Miller, and, with Mel Brooks, sterling comedy work such as Young Frankenstein.

On the small screen, Leachman made the role of The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Phyllis Lindstrom her own, scoring two of her Emmys for the role, and spawning a two-season spin-off based around her characters.

Though she got her bigger breaks later in life than some, Leachman was always employed, switching easily between comedy and drama, and as she aged, carving a niche in parts such as Gran in the Croods movies and Maw Maw in TV's Raising Hope.

"It’s been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time," her longtime manager Juliet 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." She's survived by three sons and a daughter.

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