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Des Moines, Iowa
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Des Moines, Iowa

Cloris Leachman is a renowned comedian and actress in the United States. Over the course of her 75-year career, she has amassed an unusually broad filmography due to her adaptable disposition. Slowly, Leachman began her long journey. As a teen, she performed at Drake University in Des Moines among other youths from her community. In 1946, she entered the glamorous world as a contestant for Miss America. She made her cinematic debut in the 1947 musical drama Carnegie Hall in an uncredited appearance. In 1948, she was cast in ‘Actor’s Studio,’ one of the earliest dramatic television series ever produced. In 1955’s ‘Kiss Me Deadly,’ she had her first significant cinematic performance. In the years that followed, she collaborated alongside Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Hepburn, Jeff Bridges, Ben Johnson, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert De Niro, Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, and Bryan Cranston, and received eight Primetime Emmys, one Daytime Emmy, and an Academy Award. In 2008, at the age of 82, she competed on the dancing reality show ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ effectively making her the oldest competitor in the show’s history.

Youth and Early Life

Cloris Leachman was born on April 30, 1926, in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., to Cloris Wallace and Berkeley Claiborne Leachman, who worked at the family-owned Leachman Lumber Company. She was of English and Bohemian/Czech origin and has two younger sisters, the actress, and singer Claiborne Cary and Mary.

She attended Theodore Roosevelt High School before studying theatre at Illinois State University. Later, she attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she joined Gamma Phi Beta.

She has crowned Miss Illinois in 1946, which led to her appearance as Miss America. Before relocating to New York, she was a frequent performer at the Des Moines Community Playhouse.

Miss America contestant Cloris Leachman was awarded a scholarship and subsequently enrolled in acting classes with Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York. She had previously appeared in a 1943 Northwestern University production of “Blithe Spirit.”
After completing the training, her experience and natural talent led her to enter the New York theater scene.

Her Developing Profession

1948 was Cloris Leachman’s first Broadway debut in “Sundown Beach.” She played Celia in the 1950 Broadway version of “As You Like It” with Katharine Hepburn’s Rosalind. She replaced Martha Wright in “South Pacific” (1951, Broadway), Madeleine Sherwood in “The Crucible” (1953), and Kim Stanley in “The Touch of the Poet” (1955, Broadway) (Broadway, 1958).

In addition, she toured the United States with the 1989 productions of “Grandma Moses: An American Primitive” and “Slow Boat” (1994).

Cloris’s Film Industry

After performing tiny roles in films such as “Carnegie Hall” and “Kiss Me Deadly,” Cloris Leachman had her first significant appearance in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969). She portrayed Mrs. Ezra Miller, the mother of the titular character, in the 1974 drama Daisy Miller.

She and Mel Brooks worked on three films together. She was cast as the housekeeper Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’s 1974 comic horror picture Young Frankenstein, an affectionate and well-made satire of the classic horror genre.

The film is often regarded as one of the finest comedies of all time. She also is Nurse Charlotte Diesel in “High Anxiety” (1977) and Madame Defarge in “The History of the World, Part I.” (1981).

In ‘Spanglish,’ starring Adam Sandler, Leachman delighted the audience as the wine-soaked former jazz singer and grandma Evelyn (2004). In 2016, she portrayed May Conner in Taylor Hackford’s “The Comedian.”
She has provided her voice for animated films like “My Little Pony: The Movie” (1986), “The Iron Giant” (1999), “Ponyo” (2009), and “The Croods” (2013).

She will soon appear in the comedy-drama ‘Lez Bomb,’ the Netflix comedy ‘Game Over, Man!,’ the family-drama ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ the comedy ‘The Gliksmans,’ and the animated film ‘The Croods 2’.

1948 saw the debut of Cloris Leachman’s television career in an episode of “The Ford Theatre Hour.” She subsequently portrayed numerous memorable and iconic characters on television, including 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 (2010-14).

Leachman recently provided the voice for the comic book villain Granny Goodness on ‘Justice League Action (2017). In the Starz fantasy drama ‘American Gods,’ she now portrays the Slavic deity Zorya Vechernyaya, the Evening Star.

As seen by her extensive record of television appearances, she is a notable small-screen actress who has also acted in a variety of telefilms. “The Man in the Moon” was her debut television appearance in 1969. She would act in 44 additional films over the following five decades. Her most recent role was in the 2007 Christian drama “Loves Takes Wing.”

Her Major Opera

Cloris Leachman portrayed Ruth Popper, the despondent middle-aged wife of a high school coach who is secretly gay, in the 1971 American drama film ‘The Last Picture Show’. The film has maintained a 100 percent fresh rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes despite receiving widespread acclaim. It received eight Oscar nominations and won two for the performances of Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson (Sam the Lion).

In ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ she portrayed Phyllis Lindstrom, the snooty, acid-tongued wife of a dermatologist named Dr. Lars Lindstrom (1970-75). The audience grew so fond of the character that she went on to feature in her own spin-off series, titled Phyllis (1975-77). She won many awards for the part, including a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe for the respective television series.

Awards & Achievements

Cloris Leachman has been nominated for 22 Primetime Emmys and has won eight. The first one was given to her in 1973 for ‘A Brand New Life’ She was also nominated for ‘Cher’ (1975), ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ (1974, 1975), ‘performed at the Screen Actors Guild 50th Anniversary Celebration’ (1984), and ‘Promised Land (1985). (1998). In addition, she won two Emmys for “Malcolm in the Middle” (2002 and 2006).

In 1975, she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy Television Series for her performance in “Phyllis.”
In 1983, she received The Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Performer in Children’s Programming” for “The Woman Who Willed a Miracle.”

She won the 1971 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in “The Last Picture Show.” The portrayal also earned her the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress.
She received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6435 Hollywood Boulevard on September 22, 1980.

Cloris’s Personal Life

In 1953, Cloris Leachman wed actor and filmmaker George Englund. Adam (1953), Bryan (1956-1986), George Englund Jr. (1957), Morgan (1963), and Dinah (1963) were their five children (1966). In the 1950s, Englund had a passionate romance with British actress Joan Collins, who called Leachman one night to brag about the affair.

However, the union survived the adultery. They ultimately separated in 1979 but remained close until his death in September 2017.
She has six grandchildren, the singer Anabel Englund among them.

She co-authored “Cloris: My Autobiography” with her ex-husband George and released it in 2009. Leachman is a vegetarian and an agnostic.

Estimated Net Worth

At the time of her death, American actress Cloris Leachman had a net worth of $10 million. The career of Cloris Leachman extended over seven decades.

She was well-known for her Academy Award-winning performance in the 1971 film “The Last Picture Show” as well as her roles on television programs like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Promised Land,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” and “Raising Hope.” Leachman was nominated for 22 Emmy Awards throughout her career.