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Emmy and Oscar winner Cloris Leachman dies at 94: 'There was no one like Cloris'

Best known for playing the daffy, self-absorbed Phyllis on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' Leachman won eight Emmy Awards in her storied television career.

Emmy and Oscar winner Cloris Leachman dies at 94: 'There was no one like Cloris'
Cover Image Source: Actress Cloris Leachman speaks onstage during the 41st AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Mel Brooks at Dolby Theatre on June 6, 2013, in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Academy Award winner and multiple Emmy winner Cloris Leachman — one of the most decorated actors in sitcom history — has passed away at the age of 94. Confirming the news to Variety, her longtime manager Juliet Green revealed that the star died of natural causes on Tuesday in Encinitas, California. "It's been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time," said Green. "There was no one like Cloris. With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh 'till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic."



 

Best known for playing the daffy, self-absorbed Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Leachman won eight Emmy Awards in her storied television career. Of those, she won two for best supporting actress in a comedy series in 1974 and 1975 for her portrayal of Phyllis — a character she claimed was close to her own persona — which is also responsible for making the actress a household name. According to NBC News, Leachman's other Emmy wins included awards in 1975 for best-supporting actress in a variety or musical for her work in Cher, in 1984 for best variety performance in the Screen Actors Guild 50th Anniversary Celebration, and in 1988 for best actress in a guest role for Promised Land.



 

Decades later Leachman was still working, making a name for herself amongst a younger audience as Malcolm's hilariously scheming grandmother in Malcolm in the Middle. The role won her Emmy Awards in 2002 and 2006 for best guest actress in a comedy. Despite the long list of awards standing guard to her legacy, Leachman insisted she went into every awards night assuming she wasn't going home with a statue. "I never had a speech because I never thought I was going to win," she told the TV academy in a 2015 interview.



 

"But if you are good at what you do — and I always intend to be good at what I do — then the acclaim is just the follow-through. But it is a wonderful feeling," Leachman added. She also made history in 2008 as the oldest competitor in ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" at age 82. Although she was eliminated in week six, she was all attitude when she joked to the judges, "I'm not leaving." Leachman, who was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011, shared in her 2009 memoir Cloris — which she co-wrote with George Englund to whom she was married from 1953 to 1979 and had five children with — that she never considered quitting acting because of a piece of advice from her mother.



 

According to Vanity Fair, Leachman revealed in the memoir that her mother offered her some simple advice when she landed her first play with a community theater group: "If you like it, just keep doing it." Born on April 30, 1926, in Des Moines, Iowa, the icon always knew she was destined for much more than what Iowa had to offer. She studied piano, loved movies, and at the age of 15, earned a summer radio scholarship to Northwestern University in Illinois. She studied drama at the university and became close friends with fellow actors Charlotte Rae and Paul Lynde.



 



 



 



 

Leachman was crowned Miss Chicago in 1946 and went on to compete in the annual Miss America pageant where she ranked in the top 16. In 2017, PETA honored her with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Many of Leachman's fans, friends, and acquaintances turned to social media with tributes for the icon. "Such sad news—Cloris was insanely talented. She could make you laugh or cry at the drop of a hat," tweeted Mel Brooks. "Always such a pleasure to have on set. Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris' unforgettable Frau Blücher. She is irreplaceable and will be greatly missed."

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