Oscar-winning actress and comedy icon Cloris Leachman died of natural causes this Tuesday aged 94; pictured in 2018
Oscar-winning actress and Mary Tyler Moore Show icon Cloris Leachman died of natural causes Tuesday aged 94.
Her son said: ‘She had the best life beginning to end that you could wish for someone, adding: ‘she left everyone with a lot of love.’
Tributes poured in for the comedy star, who was tied with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most acting Emmys won by anyone.
Reese Witherspoon called her a ‘talented actress who will be deeply missed’, while Ellen DeGeneres said: ‘I always considered myself lucky for having the chance to work with her’.
Leachman was nominated 22 times for the Emmy Award and won eight, including two for her turn as Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s.
Cloris went onto lead the cast of a short-lived spin-off series called Phyllis, which earned her yet another Emmy nomination.
Cloris (bottom right) became a star on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She is pictured on the show in 1974 with Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Ted Knight, Gavin Macleod and Valerie Harper
She also won an Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1971 for her role Peter Bogdanovich’s coming of age movie The Last Picture Show, which also won her a BAFTA.
She delivered a heartrending performance as an embittered housewife called Ruth whose secretly gay husband is the football coach at the local high school.
Ruth takes comfort in an affair with one of the students at the high school, Sonny, who was played by Timothy Bottoms.
In her later years she continued to be a major presence in TV comedy, winning a further two Emmys as Grandma Ida on Malcolm In The Middle.
Her Oscar came for Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 coming of age movie The Last Picture Show, which also won her a BAFTA
Witherspoon, 44, shared her homage to Twitter, writing: ‘Truly original and larger than life in every unique performance. An incredibly talented actress who will be deeply missed.’
DeGeneres had the opportunity to work alongside Leachman on her short-lived sitcom The Ellen Show in 2001, where the pair played a mother-daughter duo.
And in wake of Cloris’ passing, the 63-year-old talk show host gushed about how ‘lucky’ she felt to have been in the comedy icon’s presence.
‘Cloris Leachman played my mother on my second sitcom,’ she began. ‘I always considered myself lucky for having the chance to work with her. She will be missed.’
‘A one-of-a-kind actor, she could do everything!’ declared actor Mark Hamill, 69, who uploaded a stunning throwback snapshot of Leachman to Instagram.
Deeply missed: ‘Truly original and larger than life in every unique performance. An incredibly talented actress who will be deeply missed,’ wrote Reese Witherspoon, 44, who shared her homage to Twitter
Former co-star: Ellen DeGeneres had the opportunity to work alongside Leachman on her short-lived sitcom The Ellen Show in 2001, where the pair played a mother-daughter duo
He continued: ‘She made anything she appeared in much better & her versatility was astonishing. Thank you for a lifetime of unforgettable performances. #ripClorisLeachman’
Viola Davis gushed over how much she ‘LOVED’ Cloris’ work, specifically her performance in the 1970s spin-off sitcom Phyllis, which aired on CBS for two seasons.
‘I loved your work!!! Just LOVED!! I grew up watching Phyllis and The Last Picture Show,’ wrote the fellow Academy Award-winner, 55, via Twitter.
‘Your consistent excellence, ability to morph, and bravery will be sorely missed. RIP Cloris Leachman! Godspeed,’ concluded Davis.
Recalling his first meeting with Leachman, Jesse Tyler Ferguson aimed to display the actress’ genuine kindness and the respect she displayed towards her peers.
‘The 1st time I met #ClorisLeachman was at a fundraiser. Without even saying hello, she came over to our table & started clearing our plates while we were mid bite,’ wrote the Modern Family star, 45.
One-of-a-kind: ‘A one-of-a-kind actor, she could do everything!’ declared actor Mark Hamill, 69, who uploaded a stunning throwback snapshot of Leachman to Instagram
Lots of love: Viola Davis gushed over how much she ‘LOVED’ Cloris work, specifically her performance in the 1970s sitcom Phyllis, which aired on CBS for two seasons
He continued: ‘She took them & stacked them on a neighboring table. She did this until everything was gone, then walked away. RIP.’
Mel Brooks, choosing to pay homage to Cloris via Twitter on Wednesday, famously featured the star in his classic comedy Young Frankenstein, which hit theaters in 1974.
‘Such sad news—Cloris was insanely talented. She could make you laugh or cry at the drop of a hat,’ began the acclaimed director, who added that Cloris was ‘always such a pleasure to have on set.’
Working together: Mel Brooks, choosing to pay homage to Cloris via Twitter on Wednesday, famously featured the star in his classic comedy Young Frankenstein, which hit theaters in 1974
Iconic: Referencing to her character in Young Frankenstein, Brooks noted that ‘every time [he] hear a horse whinny [he] will forever think of Cloris’ unforgettable Frau Blücher’; Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Gene Wilder, and Teri Garr in Young Frankenstein
Referencing to her character in Young Frankenstein, Brooks noted that ‘every time [he] hear a horse whinny [he] will forever think of Cloris’ unforgettable Frau Blücher.’
‘She is irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed,’ Mel concluded.
Ed Asner paid tribute to his longtime friend and the Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star by uploading a sweet snapshot from ‘the last time [he] saw [Cloris].’
In the photo, the 91-year-old Lou Grant star can be seen placing a kiss on Cloris’ head as she playfully gasped in horror.
He continued: ‘Always beautiful. Nothing I could say would top the enormity of my love for you. Until we meet again darling.’
Rosie O’Donnell labeled Leachman as the ‘funniest’ and as someone who got an ‘applause on every entrance and exit.’
Made an impact: Recalling his first meeting with Leachman, Jesse Tyler Ferguson aimed to display the actress’ genuine kindness and the respect she displayed towards her peers
Their last hangout: Ed Asner paid tribute to his longtime friend by uploading a sweet snapshot from ‘the last time [he] saw [Cloris]’
Born to a family that ran a lumber company in Des Moines, Cloris got the performing bug as a third grader when ‘my teacher asked me to read in front of the class.’
She told the Des Moines Register: ‘I was so touched because that really was the first acting I had ever done, just reading in front of the class. And I was so amazed with the fulfillment I got from being in front of people.’
Cloris won a drama scholarship to Northwestern University, where Paul Lynde was a classmate of hers, but she dropped out after she became Miss Chicago.
At the age of 20 she competed in the Miss America pageant in 1946 and made it to finalist, getting a $1,000 grant for her trouble.
Her father then gave her enough money to be in New York ‘for three days including airfare,’ she said in an interview with blogger Vanessa McMahon.
Cloris quickly became a jobbing actress, landing an extra gig in the 1947 movie Carnegie Hall – the same year that the Actors Studio was co-founded by Elia Kazan and, as Cloris said: ‘I was in the first group.’
She delivered a heartrending performance in 1971’s The Last Picture Show as an embittered housewife called Ruth whose secretly gay husband is the football coach at a local high school
She spent two years at the Actors Studio until the legendary acting coach ‘Lee Strasberg came in. He’s not Elia Kazan. So I quit the Actors Studio.’
During the 1950s she acted on TV shows like Lassie and Alfred Hitchcock Presents as well as in such movies as The Rack with Lee Marvin and Paul Newman.
In 1950 she starred alongside Katharine Hepburn in what become the longest-running Broadway production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
She also did three films with Mel Brooks starting with 1974’s Young Frankenstein (pictured) in which she is pictured with Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder and Teri Garr
Years later Cloris told TheaterMania that it was in fact Katharine who had ‘wanted me to read for As You Like It, which she was going to do on Broadway that fall.’
One year before she achieved full-on stardom she appeared in the 1969 film Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid led by Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
She became a true showbiz juggernaut with her iconic role as the leading lady’s zany and meddlesome neighbor Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
The show ran from 1970 to 1977 and made stars of several members of its cast including the late Valerie Harper who played Rhoda.
During the 1970s Cloris became a comedy mainstay not just on television but in films, doing three movies with Mel Brooks from 1974 to 1981.
She gave an unforgettable turn in Young Frankenstein as the forbidding Frau Blucher who sings the song He Vas My Boyfriend about Dr. Frankenstein.
Shortly thereafter she featured in Mel’s Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety as the evil Nurse Charlotte Diesel. Then she was in his send-up of period pieces History Of The World Part 1 playing Madame Defarge from A Tale Of Two Cities.
She recurred on such programs as The Facts Of Life and The Love Boat and appeared in movies like The Beverly Hillbillies.
She featured in Mel’s Hitchcock spoof High Anxiety in 1977 as the evil Nurse Charlotte Diesel
She recurred on such shows as The Facts Of Life (pictured) and The Love Boat and appeared in movies like The Beverly Hillbillies
Cloris retained a prominent acting career well into the 21st century including on Malcolm In The Middle which lasted until 2006.
Then in 2008 at the age of 82 she became the oldest-ever contestant on Dancing With The Stars where she was teamed with ballroom dancer Corky Ballas.
‘I really loved it. I loved everybody associated with it. We just had a wonderful time. We were so cared for,’ she recalled afterwards.
‘Anything that happened was already premeditated and handled. There was never a problem. And I love dancing anyway, the world of dance.’
Her film work did not stop either, as she appeared in such comedies as Bad Santa, Spanglish and The Longest Yard.
She was a scene-stealing presence in Bad Santa as an addled old lady whose grandson becomes friends with an alcoholic thief played by Billy Bob Thornton.
Cloris took to the stage and toured in Grandma Moses, playing the lead from middle-aged to elderly. She also appeared in a touring revival of Show Boat.
Just last year Cloris had a major role in the comedy movie Jump, Darling in which she played the grandmother of a drag queen.
Cloris is tied with Julia-Louis Dreyfus for most acting Emmys of all time; she won two of them for The Mary Tyler Moore Show (pictured)
Cloris also starred on a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show called Phyllis which she is pictured on with Lisa Gerritson (left)
She remained so busy until the end that she has two movies lined up to be released posthumously – High Holiday and Not To Forget.
A few years ago when The Hollywood Reporter asked her if she considered retirement she joked: ‘F*** you.’
In another interview the same year she expressed her delight that acting jobs are still offered to her ‘and it is the most amazing thing.’
Cloris confessed: ‘So many times I have been like: “Oh God, what were they thinking? How did they connect me to this part?” If you asked me, I wouldn’t have thought of myself for this role or this production, but they do and it comes to me and that means more to me than anything.’
Her films include the classic 1969 buddy western Butch Cassidy And The Sundace Kid which she is pictured in with Paul Newman
Just as she could earn both laughs and tears onscreen, her personal life had its share of both joy and heartbreak including her failed marriage to George Englund.
George, who came from a showbiz family and was close pals with Marlon Brando, married Cloris in 1953 when she was still a rising actress.
According to Cloris’ memoir she and George once acted as a buffer for Marlon when the hunk went on a date with the Italian movie star Anna Magnani.
Marlon apparently told Cloris and George: ‘I’ve got a date with Anna Magnani and I know she’s gonna try to f*** me. And that is truly the last thing in the world I want to happen, so can you two come along, give me some protection?’
The couple were hugely amused and agreed to help out their friend – but during the date when Anna started making advances toward Marlon, George and Cloris bailed and left him to rebuff her alone.
They had five children together – Dinah, Morgan, Bryan, George Jr. and Adam – but the marriage finally fell apart by 1979.
In the meantime he was unfaithful to her – Joan Collins has confessed that when she was in her 20s she had an affair with George during his marriage to Cloris.
In her later years she continued to be a major presence in TV comedy, winning a further two Emmys as Grandma Ida on Malcolm In The Middle (pictured with Robert Loggia)
In 2008 at the age of 82 she became the oldest ever contestant on Dancing With The Stars where she was teamed with ballroom dancer Corky Ballas
‘One dreadful afternoon when George was in my apartment, his wife, actress Cloris Leachman, arrived and started banging on the door and screaming that she knew he was there with me,’ Joan wrote in the MailOnline.
At his instruction Joan lied and said: ‘George isn’t here, Cloris’ – but Cloris was having none of it and bellowed: ‘I know he’s in there, you b****.’
However after the marriage ended Cloris and George managed to retain a close friendship and even eventually co-wrote her memoir.
In 2010 she told the Toronto Star ‘We adore each other,’ and they remained friendly until he died in 2017 at the age of 91.
Their lives were scarred by tragedy in 1986 when their son Bryan was found dead at the age of just 30 of what the police suggested may have been an overdose.
In her memoir, which she wrote with Bryan’s father, Cloris reflected touchingly on her ‘hope addiction’ that her late son would overcome his drug problem.
‘I feel Bryan’s presence always,’ she wrote. ‘I love him so, and I know how much he loved me, and I know he’d be with me every second if he could, just as when I die, I’m not going to be gone. I’ll be with my children. I’ll never be away from them.’
She continued appearing movies into her later years as well including such comedies as Spanglish (pictured), Bad Santa and The Longest Yard
Cloris was a scene-stealing presence in Bad Santa as an addled old lady whose grandson becomes friends with an alcoholic mall Santa
‘We adore each other’: Cloris was married to George Englund from 1953 until 1979 but even after the divorce they remained friendly until his death in 2017. The couple are pictured at an awards show in 1973
Cloris and George had five children including a daughter called Dinah (left) who was with her when she died. The pair are pictured on the red carpet in 2013
Cloris’ son Bryan (left) was found dead at the age of just 30 of what the police suggested may have been an overdose.
Other Hollywood stars joined tributes to Leachman on Wednesday night.
John Stamos made sure to honor Leachman’s undeniable legacy by sharing a hilarious clip of her from the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget in 2008.
‘I’m not here to roast Bob Saget,’ said Cloris as she took the stage for her portion of the show, before admitting: ‘I’m here to f**k John Stamos.’
The line earned a huge applause as well as an obvious belly laugh from Stamos, himself, who was in the audience for the roast.
‘God I loved her. RIP #CLORISLEACHMAN,’ tweeted the 57-year-old Full House star.
Star Trek actor George Takei regretfully informed his 3.2million Twitter followers on Leachman’s sudden passing, writing: ‘Cloris Leachman has passed.’
‘The Oscar and Emmy-winning funny lady stole her way into our hearts and always left us smiling. She was 94. Rest in peace, and save a laugh for us when we get there,’ he concluded.
Just the funniest: Rosie O’Donnell labeled Leachman as the ‘funniest’ and as someone who got an ‘applause on every entrance and exit’
Hilarious: John Stamos also made sure to honor Leachman’s undeniable legacy by sharing a hilarious clip of her from the Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget in 2008
Regretful: Star Trek actor George Takei regretfully informed his 3.2million Twitter followers on Leachman’s sudden passing, writing: ‘Cloris Leachman has passed’
Sad day for all: Back To The Future’s Lea Thompson deemed Cloris’ death as a ‘sad day for us all’
Incredible: Patton Oswalt took a moment to remind his following of Leachman’s groundbreaking performance in The Last Picture Show, which earned her an Academy Award in 1972
Back To The Future’s Lea Thompson deemed Cloris’ death as a ‘sad day for us all.’
‘She was a treasure. Always outspoken. And so funny. I remember carrying her over my shoulder in #thebeveryhillbillies,’ recalled the 59-year-old actress, who starred along side Leachman in the 1993 comedy film The Beverly Hillbillies.
‘Small but mighty #rip Crying faceClapping hands sign,’ concluded Lea, followed by a broken heart emoji.
Patton Oswalt took a moment to remind his following of Leachman’s groundbreaking performance in The Last Picture Show, which earned her an Academy Award in 1972.
‘Cloris, you just won the Oscar.’ — Bogdonavich, on the set of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, after she nailed this scene in one take,’ marveled the comedian, who shared an image of the actress from the flick.
RIP: Leachman’s passing was confirmed by the star’s son to TMZ on Wednesday, with the outlet stating that Leachman ‘passed away of natural causes Tuesday night at her home in Encinitas, California, with her daughter Dinah by her side’; Cloris pictured in 2005