Friday, July 12, 2024

God Bless Cloris Leachman: Oscar and Emmy Winning Actress Known for Caustic Hilarious Performances Dies of Natural Causes at Age 94


She won every award. She was hilarious, caustic, a genius actress, and will be so sorely missed. Cloris Leachman has died of natural causes in Los Angeles at age 94. I really thought of her as living forever.

An Oscar winner in 1972 for Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” she was already a star, especially on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” There she played Phyllis Lindstrom as if she were Stradivarius himself. She won 7 Emmy Awards, with a total of 19 Emmy nominations. Three of her wins for playing Phyllis. She won twice for guest spots on “Malcolm in the Middle” and just kept working and winning. She was spun off of “Mary Tyler Moore” in her own sitcom, “Phyllis,” that was flawed but hilarious and ran for one crazy season.

Cloris was married to the late George Englund from 1953 to 1978 and had five children including former “Guiding Light” actor Morgan Englund. They had a wild marriage. George famously had an affair with Joan Collins, who left him for Warren Beatty while George was married to Cloris. George– who was a great pal to me– was best friends with Marlon Brando. These people were at the center of Hollywood, and loved it.

Cloris had a wicked sense of humor, and would tell you anything. I remember a night at Morton’s for the Vanity Fair party where she literally bent my ear with tales of the great days with all these people. She was vicious and fun, and loved to gossip.

She was also just enormously talented. Her success didn’t come until she was 40, but then it was everywhere. She’s voice now in the current “Croods,” and has two more movies set for release. She was recently in 10 episodes of the “Mad About You” revival.

And then there’s Cloris and Mel Brooks. She was the immortal Frau Blucher in “Young Frankenstein,” a signature role. Her performance is literally genius, it can’t be compared to anything else.

What a career! What a life! She will be so sorely missed. Condolences to her family. No age is enough, even 94. And now it’s hard to believe that Phyllis, Mary, and Rhoda are all gone.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News