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Cloris Leachman

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: April 30, 1926 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Des Moines, Iowa, USA Profession: actress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

With a career that spanned a staggering six decades on stage and screen, actress Cloris Leachman was one of primetime's funniest comediennes and a favorite player in the classic film satires of Mel Brooks. A former beauty pageant winner who began her career on the Broadway stage, Leachman's first high profile achievement was her Academy Award-winning performance in Peter Bogdanovich's stark drama "The Last Picture Show" (1971). From there, the over-40 actress' career kicked into high gear, with award-winning roles as the hilariously self-important Phyllis Lindstrom on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77) and the subsequent spin-off, "Phyllis" (CBS, 1975-77). She forever held a place in film comedy history for her tightly wound, strangely accented characters in Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" (1974) and "History of the World, Part 1" (1981) - a strength she introduced to a new generation of fans in the role of grandma Ida on Fox's quirky "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06). The octogenarian became the reality competition's oldest contestant when she joined the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ) in 2008, then trotted on to the sitcom "Raising Hope" (Fox, 2010- ), as the semi-lucid...

With a career that spanned a staggering six decades on stage and screen, actress Cloris Leachman was one of primetime's funniest comediennes and a favorite player in the classic film satires of Mel Brooks. A former beauty pageant winner who began her career on the Broadway stage, Leachman's first high profile achievement was her Academy Award-winning performance in Peter Bogdanovich's stark drama "The Last Picture Show" (1971). From there, the over-40 actress' career kicked into high gear, with award-winning roles as the hilariously self-important Phyllis Lindstrom on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77) and the subsequent spin-off, "Phyllis" (CBS, 1975-77). She forever held a place in film comedy history for her tightly wound, strangely accented characters in Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" (1974) and "History of the World, Part 1" (1981) - a strength she introduced to a new generation of fans in the role of grandma Ida on Fox's quirky "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06). The octogenarian became the reality competition's oldest contestant when she joined the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ) in 2008, then trotted on to the sitcom "Raising Hope" (Fox, 2010- ), as the semi-lucid grandmother "Maw Maw" Chance. With more than 40 years of film and television work under her belt, Leachman made it clear she was far from ready to retire, and had plenty more laughs to impart to appreciative fans of all ages.

Cloris Leachman was born on April 30, 1926, in Des Moines, IA where her father owned a lumber company. A self-admitted perfectionist as a child, Leachman made great strides towards her goal of acting with countless stage roles with the Des Moines Playhouse and appearances on local radio by the time she was a teenager. Her impressive achievements earned her a scholarship to the drama department at Northwestern University, where her classmates included future stars Charlton Heston, Patricia Neal and Charlotte Rae. While a student, Leachman entered the Miss Chicago beauty pageant and went on to place as a finalist in the 1946 Miss America competition. She bid college goodbye and used her $1,000 prize money to move to New York City, where she was invited by Elia Kazan to join the Actors Studio. Under their auspices, she made her TV debut as a recurring player on the drama series "Actors Studio" (ABC, 1948-49) and went on to appear in numerous live television dramas during the 'Golden Age of Television' in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Leachman also worked continuously on Broadway, playing Nellie Forbush in the original production of Rogers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," sharing the stage with Katherine Hepburn in "As You Like It," and earning a Drama Desk nomination for "A Story for a Sunday Evening" in 1951.

While her acting career barreled ahead, Leachman married actor George Englund and together the young family headed to Hollywood. Englund launched a career as a film producer and director and Leachman made her film debut as the desperate woman found by the roadside in the opening sequence of Robert Aldrich's landmark film noir "Kiss Me Deadly" (1955). Despite her beauty queen past, the actress was not considered a conventional Tinseltown leading lady, and her sharp features, Midwestern accent and incisive acting skills marked her for offbeat character parts. During the late 1950s, Leachman had a regular TV role playing Timmy's wholesome, Midwestern mom on the series "Lassie" (CBS, 1954-1973) and was seen in countless guest spots on Westerns and live dramas while occasionally returning to Broadway. After nearly a decade of steady work on all the dramas and comedies of the day, including recurring characters on "Dr. Kildare" (NBC, 1961-66) and "77 Sunset Strip" (ABC, 1958-1964), Leachman made a memorable impression as a jittery lady of the evening in the Best Picture Oscar nominee "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969).

She followed up with big screen performances in a pair of scathing middle-America commentaries, "WUSA" (1970) and "The People Next Door" (1970), before a recurring role on the groundbreaking sitcom "Mary Tyler Moore" turned Leachman into a household name. The character-driven show, which starred Mary Tyler Moore as a thirty-something single professional and uniquely independent woman, featured Leachman as Mary's on-site landlady - a self-absorbed busybody who fancied herself an intellectual and progressive woman. As Phyllis Lindstrom, Leachman unleashed a sparkling, multiple Emmy-nominated comedic talent. The following year, she affirmed her versatility with a heartbreaking turn as a lonely, neglected housewife who begins an affair with a high school senior in Peter Bogdanovich's near-perfect adaptation of Larry McMurtry's "The Last Picture Show." The flinchingly honest portrayal earned the 45-year-old actress an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She went on to offer a string of award-winning performances on the small screen, beginning with "A Brand New Life" (ABC, 1973), where she played a middle-aged woman facing an unwanted pregnancy, and "The Migrants" (CBS, 1974), where she portrayed the matriarch of a family of fruit pickers.

Another Bogdanovich effort, "Daisy Miller" (1974) proved disappointing, but Leachman rebounded and became a member of Mel Brooks' unofficial stock company with "Young Frankenstein" (1975) and her classic supporting turn as housekeeper Frau Blucher, known for frightening all horses within earshot. She enlivened the early Jonathan Demme mob effort "Crazy Mama" (1975) and finally landed her own TV series, the spin-off "Phyllis" (CBS, 1975-77), which found her now-widowed character moving to San Francisco with her teenage daughter and re-entering the work force. The show was cancelled after two seasons (and one Lead Actress Golden Globe Award) and the same year that "Mary Tyler Moore" left the airwaves. But Leachman remained an in-demand comic player, reteaming with Brooks' to play skilled S&M dominatrix Nurse Diesel in the Hitchcock spoof "High Anxiety" (1977). She enjoyed character roles in madcap comedies like "The Muppet Movie" (1979) and "Herbie G s Bananas" (1980) and joined Brooks a third time to play an innkeeper in "History of the World, Part 1" (1981).

Following starring roles in several made-for-TV movies, Leachman returned to series television in "The Facts of Life" (NBC, 1979-1988) where she took over the "mentor" role vacated by former classmate Charlotte Rae for the show's final two seasons. Beginning in 1989, Leachman began a decade of touring in a one-woman play written for her in which she portrayed American primitive painter Grandma Moses. On the big screen, she reprised her "Last Picture Show" role in the disappointing Bogdanovich sequel "Texasville" (1990) and seemed to be having fun stepping into Irene Ryan's boots to play Granny Clampett in the feature version of "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1993). Not one to consider retirement, the 70-year-old actress spent nearly three years playing Parthy, the captain's wife, in a touring production of "Show Boat" before returning to series grind as a feisty, lusty oldster in the CBS summer sitcom "Thanks" (1999). The very busy Leachman provided a character voice for the acclaimed animated feature "The Iron Giant" and supported Meryl Streep in "Music of the Heart" (1999).

A whole new generation of sitcom viewers was introduced to Leachman when she was cast as Ellen DeGeneres' mother on the CBS sitcom "The Ellen Show" (2001-02) and began a recurring guest turn as the chain-smoking, tough-talking grandmother Ida on Fox's "Malcolm in the Middle." Her repeat performances throughout the series history earned Leachman annual Emmy nominations and delivered awards in 2002 and 2006, the same year she was also nominated for a supporting role in the HBO original drama movie, "Mrs. Harris" (HBO, 2005). Leachman continued to offer comedic big screen outings, taking on matronly roles in such films as "Alex & Emma" (2003) and "Bad Santa" (2003), where she played the half-dead grandmother of a portly misfit who rises only occasionally to make sandwiches. She received some of the best reviews of her career when she appeared as Tea Leoni's alcoholic mother in writer-director James L. Brooks' "Spanglish" (2004).

After a small role as a school nurse with X-ray vision in the family superhero comedy "Sky High" (2005), Leachman appeared in Peter Segal's weak remake of the classic 1974 Burt Reynolds film "The Longest Yard" (2005) and delivered a hilarious turn in the popular franchise "Scary Movie 4" (2006). In 2008, Leachman began a national tour of her one-woman autobiographical stage show "Cloris!" and appeared as part of the outstanding ensemble cast of the chick flick "The Women" (2008). She supported her latest efforts by joining the fall season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ) where at age 82, she became the oldest contestant in the show's history. She next landed a supporting role on the irreverent hit comedy "Raising Hope" (Fox, 2010- ), playing the Alzheimer's-afflicted great-grandmother of a 23-year-old new father (Lucas Neff) who is utterly clueless about raising his infant daughter. Leachman was one of several highlights on the show and earned herself an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Bronx Bull, The (2014)
2.
 Croods, The (2013)
3.
 Adult World (2013)
4.
 Croods, The (2013)
6.
 Fields, The (2012)
7.
 Expecting Mary (2010)
8.
 Love Takes Wing (2009)
9.
 American Cowslip (2009)
10.
 Ponyo (2008)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Hosted an advice-to-homemakers radio program while in her mid-teens
1946:
Won title of Miss Chicago; later was one of the finalists in Miss America Beauty Pageant
:
Moved to NYC and was chosen by Elia Kazan to be a member of original Actors Studio
:
Acted on Broadway in supporting roles in William Inge's "Come Back, Little Sheba" and Shakespeare's "As You Like It"
1949:
Made TV debut with semi-regular role on "Actor's Studio" (ABC, CBS)
1949:
Cast in regular role on CBS series "Hold It Please"
1950:
Played secretary Effie Perrine on NBC detective show "Charlie Wild, Private Detective"
1952:
Appeared regularly on NBC's "The Bob & Ray Show"
1955:
Feature film acting debut, "Kiss Me Deadly"
1957:
Cast as Ruth Martin, Timmy's adoptive mom on fourth season of CBS series "Lassie"
1969:
Landed brief role as a prostitute opposite Paul Newman and Robert Redford in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"
1970:
Played recurring role of Sandi Hollinger on ABC series "That Girl"
1970:
Once again cast opposite Newman in "WUSA"
1970:
Played recurring role of landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on CBS series "Mary Tyler Moore"
1971:
Received acclaim as a high school gym teacher's wife who embarks on an affair with a teenager in Peter Bogdanovich's "The Last Picture Show"
1972:
Co-starred with Carroll O'Connor in CBS adaptation of Gershwin musical "Of Thee I Sing"
1973:
Gave Emmy-winning performance as a middle-aged woman who discovers she's pregnant in ABC movie "A Brand New Life"
1974:
Re-teamed with Bogdanovich for period drama "Daisy Miller"
1974:
Offered brilliant comic turn as Frau Blucher in Mel Brooks' spoof "Young Frankenstein"
1974:
Delivered strong dramatic turn in CBS telefilm "The Migrants"
1975:
Starred in Jonathan Demme's low-budget gangster drama "Crazy Mama"
1975:
Played title role on "Phyllis" (CBS), a spin-off of "Mary Tyler Moore"
1977:
Re-teamed with Mel Brooks for his spoof of Hitchcock films "High Anxiety"
1979:
Portrayed the unsinkable Molly Brown in ABC movie "S.O.S. Titanic"
1979:
Appeared in "The Muppet Movie" as the secretary to a producing mogul (Orson Welles)
1981:
Again collaborated with Brooks for comedy "History of the World Part I"
1982:
Co-hosted short-lived CBS magazine program "The Book of Lists"
1982:
Played four roles (three sisters and their mother) in TV adaptation of "Twigs" (E!)
1985:
Starred opposite Dick Van Dyke in PBS production "Breakfast with Les and Bess"
1986:
Replaced Charlotte Rae's character as the den mother on NBC sitcom "The Facts of Life" for its final two seasons
1989:
Played a nativist painter in an acclaimed touring stage production of "Grandma Moses"; appeared in play on-and-off for over a decade
1989:
Played Ms. Frick on short-lived NBC sitcom "The Nutt House"; series created by Mel Brooks
1990:
Reprised role of Ruth Popper in Peter Bogdanovich's sequel "Texasville"
1991:
Played Emily Collins on short-lived NBC sitcom "Walter and Emily"
1993:
Stepped into Irene Ryan's shoes to play Granny in feature film version of "The Beverly Hillbillies"
1996:
Appeared as Parthy, the captain's wife in touring company of "Show Boat"
1996:
Made two guest appearances as Aunt Mooster on CBS series "Promised Land"
1999:
Lent voice to animated feature "The Iron Giant"
1999:
Played Meryl Streep's mother in Wes Craven's "Music of the Heart"
2001:
Landed recurring guest role as Grandma Ida on Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle"
2001:
Returned to TV as Dot, the title character's eccentric mother on CBS sitcom "The Ellen Show"
2004:
Portrayed the boozy, former jazz singer and grandmother Evelyn in James L. Brook's "Spanglish"
2004:
Landed guest starring role on "Joan of Arcadia" (CBS)
2006:
Played famed cardiologist Herman Tarnower's adoring sister in HBO movie "Mrs. Harris"
2008:
Joined seventh season of ABC's reality competition series "Dancing With The Stars" along with professional partner Corky Ballas
2010:
Cast as Maw Maw on Fox comedy series "Raising Hope"
2010:
Featured in ensemble comedy "You Again"
2011:
Inducted into Television Academy Hall of Fame
2013:
Voiced the grandmother of a prehistoric family in DreamWorks animated comedy "The Croods"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Northwestern University: Evanston , Illinois -
Actors Studio: New York , New York -
Roosevelt High School: Des Moines , Iowa - 1944

Notes

"I played it with my own body, my skin, my face. I wanted that scorned look to come out through my skin rather than my mouth."---Cloris Leachman, on her performance in "The Last Picture Show"

"I would like to correct one description that they put on you, which is, 'She CLUTCHED her Oscar.' It's NOT because you clawed your way to the top, [but because the trophy is so heavy, you might] fall to your knees. If you're in a long gown, you don't want to do that, so you have to quickly clutch it."---Leachman quoted in Premiere, April 1990.

"I remember as a child never wanting to become an embittered old woman who had nothing but a career. Here I am, far from it, with all my children and grandchildren. The end is not in sight."---Cloris Leachman quoted in People, August 9, 1999.

"I've always, all my life since I was little, wanted to be perfect. Be a good girl and be perfect."---Leachman quoted in Los Angeles Magazine, November 2004.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
George H Englund. Born c. 1982.
husband:
George H Englund. Producer, director. Married on April 19, 1953; divorced in 1979.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Buck Leachman. Had four.
father:
Buck Leachman. Lumber company owner.
mother:
Cloris Leachman.
son:
Adam Englund. Lawyer. Born c, 1954.
son:
Adam Englund. Had two; survived him.
son:
Brian Englund. Actor. Born c. 1956; found dead in NYC hotel room at age 30 in 1986; cause of death remains undetermined.
son:
Brian Englund. Survived him.
son:
George Englund. Production assistant. Born c. 1957.
son:
George Englund. Has a sister and a twin brother.
son:
Morgan Englund. Actor, singer. Born c. 1964; appeared on CBS daytime drama "Guiding Light".
son:
Morgan Englund. Born c. 1986.
daughter:
Dinah Englund. Singer, songwriter. Born c. 1967.
daughter:
Dinah Englund. Dancer.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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