(LOS ANGELES) — Cloris Leachman, the versatile Oscar and multiple-Emmy winning actress whose career on stage, television and film spanned more than seven decades, has died at age 94.
She passed away Tuesday of natural causes in Encinitas, California, her longtime manager Juliet Green tells ABC News.
“There was no one like Cloris,” Green said, calling the performer, “one of the most fearless actresses of our time.”
Leachman, equally adept at comedy and drama, was perhaps best known for her TV roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Phyllis, as well as The Facts of Life, Malcolm in the Middle and more recently, in Fox’s Raising Hope.
She won eight Primetime Emmy Awards — a record that stood for decades, until it was matched in 2017 by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Leachman, however, also won one Daytime Emmy Award.
On the big screen, she won the Academy Award for her role as a gym teacher’s neglected wife in 1971’s The Last Picture Show. She also appeared in three Mel Brooks films, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and History of the World: Part I. And she played Daisy May Moses in the 1993 film version of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Leachman was introduced to a new generation of fans when she became the oldest contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars in 2008. Paired with professional dancer Corky Ballas, she was 82 at the time. Her appearance led to a surge of new TV and film roles, including playing Maw Maw on the Fox sitcom Raising Hope from 2010-2014.
Leachman was born April 30, 1926, the oldest of three sisters, in Des Moines, Iowa. She began acting as a youngster and later studied drama at Northwestern University in Illinois, alongside friends Charlotte Rae and Paul Lynde.
After graduating from high school, Leachman enrolled at Illinois State University to study drama, and later, Northwestern University, where she was a member of Gamma Phi Beta. After winning a scholarship in the Miss America pageant, she moved to New York City to study acting under director Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio and was immediately cast on Broadway and in film.
Starting in the 1950s, she appeared in many TV programs, including a brief stint as Timmy’s mother in the original Lassie. Her role as Mary Tyler Moore’s nosy and manipulative landlady, Phyllis Lindstrom, made her a star.
In addition to her busy acting career, Leachman raised five children — four sons and a daughter — with film director George Englund. Leachman and Englund were married for 26 years, before divorcing in 1979.
Leachman never remarried and is survived by four of her children as well as several grandchildren whom, “she loved fiercely,” according to her rep.
By Christopher Watson
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