Cloris Leachman, Oscar-Winning Star of ‘Young Frankenstein’ and ‘Phyllis,’ Dies at 94

Actress won her Academy Award for “The Last Picture Show”

cloris leachman
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Cloris Leachman, the Oscar-winning actress known for “The Last Picture Show” and “Young Frankenstein” and who had an equally long career on television in shows like “Phyllis,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Facts of Life,” has died. She was 94.

Leachman died in her sleep Tuesday at her home in California of natural causes, her manager told TheWrap.

Leachman’s career has spanned decades, and in that time she won eight Emmys from 22 nominations, setting records for both wins and nominations at the time, while still holding the record for most wins tied with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Some of her other long-running TV roles have included “Raising Hope,” “A Brand New Life,” “The Ellen Show,” “Lassie” and many more. And on film she’s been seen more recently in “Spanglish,” “I Can Only Imagine,” and she lent her voice to both of “The Croods” animated films, including most recently the sequel from late last year. In all she logged more than 287 acting credits in her career dating back to the ’40s.

Her breakthrough role was on “The Mary Tyler Moore” show as the nosy landlady Phyllis Lindstrom, which earned her two Emmys before the show was eventually spun off into her own leading role on “Phyllis.” Shortly after breaking out, she paired with Peter Bogdonavich for “The Last Picture Show,” playing the wife of a closeted school teacher in a small town in Texas. The role won her a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in a cast that also included Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Timothy Bottoms and Ellen Burstyn.

Leachman also worked with Mel Brooks three times, including as Frau Blücher (cue horse whinny) in “Young Frankenstein,” in “History of the World, Part 1” and in his Alfred Hitchcock parody “High Anxiety.” Some of her other film credits from early in her career included “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Kiss Me Deadly,” which was one of her first film roles.

Leachman was born in Des Moines, Iowa and competed in the Miss America pageant as a young woman. She studied under director Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York and began her professional career in 1948.

Leachman had a long stint as a guest actress on the sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle,” playing Grandma Ida and twice winning an Emmy for her work, both in 2002 and 2006. Her most recent Emmy nomination came in 2011 on “Raising Hope” for her character Maw Maw, playing the role for 83 episodes.

In 2008, Leachman placed seventh as a contestant on the seventh season of “Dancing With the Stars.” She wrote an autobiography published in 2009 titled “Cloris,” and she was additionally a strong advocate of PETA, posing for an ad campaign “Let Vegetarianism Grow on You.”


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