Cloris Leachman dead at 94; actress was an Emmy winner and Oscar winner

January 27, 2021

by Carla Hay

Actress/comedienne Cloris Leachman died in her sleep at her home in Encinitas, California, on January 26, 2021. She was 94. The Associated Press reported that Leachman’s publicist Monique Moss announced Leachman’s death and that Leachman’s daughter Dinah Englund was at Leachman’s side when Leachman passed away.

Leachman was a versatile entertainer who starred in numerous TV shows and movies. On TV, her best known role was as Phyllis Lindstrom in the 1970s TV series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its spinoff “Phyllis.” She won eight Emmy Awards, including two for “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Leachman also had roles in the TV shows “Lassie,” “The Facts of Life,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” She became one of the oldest contestants on “Dancing With the Stars,” when she competed on the show in 2008.

Her best-known films included “Young Frankenstein,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Last Picture Show” (for which she won an Oscar) and the animated “The Croods” movies. Although most of her roles were supporting roles, she made an impact as a talented character actress. She also made her mark on stage in theater roles, including the the original Broadway production of “South Pacific,” a Broadway production of “As You Like It” and a 1990s touring musical revival of “Showboat.”

Leachman was born on April 30, 1926, in Des Moines, Iowa. She was the eldest of three daughters and was named after her mother Cloris. Her father Berkeley Claiborne “Buck” Leachman owned a lumber company. A former Miss America contestant (she was Miss Illinois), Cloris attended Northwestern University in the School of Education.

She later studied at Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York City, and she began acting in theater before branching out into television and movies. Her first movie appearance was as an extra in 1947’s “Carnegie Hall” and didn’t have her first real speaking role in a movie until 1955’s “Kiss Me Deadly.”

Cloris was married to film director/producer George Englund from 1953 until their divorce in 1979. They had five children: Adam, Bryan, Dinah, George and Morgan. She is survived by all of her children, except for Bryan, who died in 1986 at age 30.