Cloris Leachman is the oldest of three sisters born to the owner of a Midwestern lumber company. She got her start on the stage in the Des Moines Playhouse and competed in the Miss America pageant in 1946. She later studied drama at the Actors Studio in New York.
She appeared in several theatrical and television productions in New York, but had her first major role in the 1955 noir film “Kiss Me Deadly.”
Through the 1950s and ’60s, she had several notable TV appearances, including the “It’s a Good Life” episode of “The Twilight Zone.” But her real fame came from her supporting role on “The Mary Tyler Moore” show as Moore’s neighbor and landlady Phyllis.
“The Mary Tyler Moore” show earned Leachman her first Emmy nomination in 1972 and her second Emmy win in 1974. (She had won previously for a TV movie). She has gone on to earn 21 Primetime Emmy nominations, eight Primetime Emmys and one Daytime Emmy.
In 1971, Leachman won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for “The Last Picture Show,” in which she played a high school gym teacher’s wife who has an affair with one of her husband’s students.
Along with her frequent collaborator, writer-director Mel Brooks, Leachman created one of her most famous characters, the lustful Frau Blucher in Brooks’ 1974 horror parody, “Young Frankenstein.” Years later, when “Young Frankenstein” became a Broadway musical, Leachman auditioned for the role again at the age of 81. Brooks thought she was too old.
She went on to appear on TV's “Dancing With the Stars,” where she was the show’s oldest contestant ever.
Leachman’s only marriage to producer George Englund lasted from 1953 to 1979 and ended in divorce. The couple had five children, one of whom, son Bryan, died of a drug overdose in 1986.
|1971||Best Supporting Actress||The Last Picture Show||Win|