Cloris Leachman Biography

(Actress and Comedienne Known for Role as ‘Phyllis Lindstrom’ in the TV Sitcom ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’)

Birthday: April 30, 1926 (Taurus)

Born In: Des Moines, Iowa, United States

Cloris Leachman is a veteran American comedian and actress. A versatile personality, she has crafted an incredibly diverse filmography over the course of her 75-year career. Leachman began her long journey at a slow pace. As a teenager, she performed on stage along with other youths of her locality at Drake University in Des Moines. Her first foray into the world of glamour was as a contestant in Miss America in 1946. She made her screen debut in an uncredited role in the 1947 musical drama ‘Carnegie Hall’. In 1948, she was cast in ABC’s ‘Actor’s Studio’, one of the first dramatic television series to be ever made. Her earliest appearance in a major film role came about in 1955 in ‘Kiss Me Deadly.’ In the ensuing years, she worked with Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Hepburn, Jeff Bridges, Ben Johnson, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert De Niro, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Bryan Cranston and won eight Primetime Emmys, one Daytime Emmy, and one Academy Award. In 2008, at the age of 82, she participated in the dance reality show ‘Dancing with the Stars’, effectively becoming the oldest person to compete in the history of the show.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 94


Spouse/Ex-: George Englund (m. 1953–1979)

father: Berkeley Claiborne

mother: Cloris (née Wallace; 1901–1967)

children: Adam Englund, Bryan Englund, Dinah Englund, George Englund, Jr., Morgan Englund

Actresses Comedians

Height: 5'3" (160 cm), 5'3" Females

Died on: January 27, 2021

place of death: Encinitas, California, United States

Ancestry: Czech American

Notable Alumni: Theodore Roosevelt High School

City: Des Moines, Iowa

U.S. State: Iowa

More Facts

education: Northwestern University, Theodore Roosevelt High School

Childhood & Early Life
Born on April 30, 1926, in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., Cloris Leachman was the oldest daughter of Cloris Wallace and Berkeley Claiborne Leachman, who worked at the family-owned Leachman Lumber Company. Of English and Bohemian / Czech descent, she had two younger sisters, Claiborne Cary, who was an actress and singer, and Mary.
She studied at the Theodore Roosevelt High School before attending Illinois State University to study drama. She later enrolled at the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she joined the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.
In 1946, she was crowned Miss Illinois which led to her Miss America appearance. She was a regular performer at the Des Moines Community Playhouse before moving to New York.
Leachman was granted a scholarship for being a contestant in the Miss America pageantry and later took acting classes under Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York. She had previously appeared in a production of ‘Blithe Spirit’ in 1943 at the Northwestern University.
Upon completion of the course, her background combined with her inherent talent made her venture into the New York theatre.
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Stage Career
Cloris Leachman’s first Broadway appearance was in ‘Sundown Beach’ in 1948. In the 1950 Broadway production of ‘As You Like It’, she played Celia alongside Katharine Hepburn’s Rosalind. She replaced Martha Wright in ‘South Pacific’ (Broadway, 1951), Madeleine Sherwood in ‘The Crucible’ (Broadway, 1953), and Kim Stanley in ‘The Touch of the Poet’ (Broadway, 1958). Moreover, she toured the US with the productions of ‘Grandma Moses: An American Primitive’ (1989) and ‘Slow Boat’ (1994).
Film Career
After playing minor roles in films like ‘Carnegie Hall’ and ‘Kiss Me Deadly’, Cloris Leachman’s first importance appearance was in the classic western film ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ (1969). In the 1974 drama ‘Daisy Miller’, she portrayed Mrs Ezra Miller, the mother of the eponymous character.
She and Mel Brooks collaborated in three movies. She was cast as the housekeeper Frau Blücher in the 1974 comedy horror ‘Young Frankenstein’, an affectionate and well-made parody of the classic horror film genre in true Mel Brooks style. The movie is generally considered to be one of the greatest comedy films of all time. She also played Nurse Charlotte Diesel in ‘High Anxiety’ (1977) and Dickensian character Madame Defarge in ‘History of the World, Part I’ (1981).
Leachman charmed the audience as the wine-soaked former jazz singer and grandmother Evelyn in the Adam Sandler starrer ‘Spanglish’ (2004). She acted as May Conner in Taylor Hackford’s ‘The Comedian’ in 2016.
She has lent her voice to animated films such as ‘My Little Pony: The Movie’ (1986), ‘The Iron Giant’ (1999), ‘Ponyo’ (2009), and ‘The Croods’ (2013).
In the coming future, she is set to appear in the comedy-drama ‘Lez Bomb’, Netflix comedy film ‘Game Over, Man!’, family-drama ‘I Can Only Imagine’, comedy ‘The Gliksmans’, and the animated feature ‘The Croods 2’.
Television Career
Cloris Leachman landed her first credited role in an episode of ‘The Ford Theatre Hour’ in 1948. She then played numerous memorable and iconic characters on television like Ruth Martin in ‘Lassie’ (1957-58), Phyllis Lindstrom in ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ and its spin-off ‘Phyllis’, Beverly Ann Stickle in ‘The Facts of Life’ (1986-88), Grandma Ida in ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ (2001-06), Dot Richmond in ‘The Ellen Show’ (2001-02) and Maw Maw in ‘Raising Hope’ (2010-14).
Recently, Leachman voiced the comic book character Granny Goodness in ‘Justice League Action’ (2017). She currently stars as the Slavic goddess Zorya Vechernyaya, the Evening Star’, in Starz’s fantasy drama ‘American Gods’.
A prominent small screen actress as her long list of television shows can attest, she has also appeared in a wide range of telefilms. In 1969, she worked in her first television movie ‘The Man in the Moon’. She would act in 44 more in the next five decades. Her last appearance to date was in the Christian drama ‘Loves Takes Wing’ in 2007.
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Major Works
In the 1971 American drama film ‘’The Last Picture Show’, Cloris Leachman portrayed Ruth Popper, a depressed, middle-aged wife of a high school coach, who is secretly gay. The film received universal critical acclaim, still maintaining a 100% fresh rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes. It garnered eight Oscar nominations and won two for Leachman and Ben Johnson’s (Sam the Lion) performances.
She played Phyllis Lindstrom, the snobbish, acid-tongued wife of a dermatologist named Dr. Lars Lindstrom, in ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ (1970-75). The character became so well-liked by the audience that she went on to star in her own spin-off series ‘Phyllis’ (1975-77). She received multiple accolades for the role, including a Primetime Emmy for the former TV series and a Golden Globe for the latter.
Awards & Achievements
Cloris Leachman has received 22 Primetime Emmy nominations, winning eight. She was awarded the first one in 1973 for ‘A Brand New Life’. She earned the others for ‘Cher’ (1975), ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ (1974, 1975), for ‘performing at the Screen Actors Guild 50th Anniversary Celebration’ (1984), and ‘Promised Land’ (1998). Furthermore, she grabbed two Emmys for ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ (2002 and 2006).
Nominated four times, she was conferred with the Globe Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for ‘Phyllis’ in 1975.
For ‘The Woman Who Willed a Miracle’, she was granted The Daytime Emmy Award for ‘Outstanding Performer in Children's Programming’ in 1983.
At the 1971 Academy Awards, she took home the Best Supporting Actress Award for ‘The Last Picture Show’. The role also brought her the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
On September 22, 1980, she got own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6435 Hollywood Boulevard.
Personal Life
Cloris Leachman married actor and filmmaker George Englund in 1953. They had five children together: Adam (1953), Bryan (1956-1986), George Englund Jr (1957), Morgan (1963), and Dinah (1966). In the 1950s, Englund had a torrid affair with British actress Joan Collins who one night called Leachman to boast about the relationship. The union, however, survived the infidelity. They eventually divorced in 1979 but maintained a strong connection until his death in September 2017.
She has six grandchildren, including singer Anabel Englund.
In 2009, she published ‘Cloris: My Autobiography’, which she had co-authored with her ex-husband George.
Leachman is an atheist and a vegetarian.

Cloris Leachman Movies

1. Young Frankenstein (1974)


2. The Last Picture Show (1971)


3. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

  (Crime, Western, Biography, Drama)

4. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

  (Sci-Fi, Film-Noir, Mystery, Thriller, Crime)

5. The Muppet Movie (1979)

  (Musical, Family, Comedy, Adventure)

6. I Can Only Imagine (2018)

  (Drama, Family)

7. Dillinger (1973)

  (Crime, Drama, Biography, Action)

8. The North Avenue Irregulars (1979)

  (Comedy, Family, Crime, Action)

9. History of the World: Part I (1981)


10. The Rack (1956)

  (Drama, War)


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1972 Best Actress in a Supporting Role The Last Picture Show (1971)
Golden Globe Awards
1976 Best Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical Phyllis (1975)
Primetime Emmy Awards
2006 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Malcolm in the Middle (2000)
2002 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Malcolm in the Middle (2000)
1998 Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Promised Land (1996)
1984 Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program Screen Actors Guild 50th Anniversary Celebration (1984)
1975 Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama Series Mary Tyler Moore (1970)
1975 Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in Variety or Music Cher (1975)
1974 Best Supporting Actress in Comedy Mary Tyler Moore (1970)
1973 Outstanding Single Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role A Brand New Life (1973)
BAFTA Awards
1973 Best Supporting Actress The Last Picture Show (1971)

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