Legendary star of stage and screen Cloris Leachman has died at the age of 94, her manager, Juliet Green, conformed to The Washington Post early Wednesday evening.
The multidimensional Oscar-winning actress’ eight-decade career appealed to a host of audiences, spanning everything from radio plays and Broadway to Emmy-winning performances and silver screen accolades.
Leachman’s storied resume included “a tour de force performance as a desperately lonely Texas housewife in ‘The Last Picture Show’ and a tour de farce portrayal of the grim-faced Transylvanian housekeeper Frau Blücher in ‘Young Frankenstein,’” the Post reported.
Although she commanded respect in Hollywood, starring in more than 40 films, Leachman simultaneously earned small screen stardom after landing the role of the charmingly neurotic Phyllis Lindstrom on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the early 1970s, which earned her two Emmys and her own spinoff.
Green did not provide additional details of the actress’ death, beyond confirming Leachman died at her Encinitas, California home. The family requests that any donations in her name be made to PETA or Last Chance for Animals, Variety reported.
“It’s been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time,” Green told the entertainment news outlet. “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.”
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Leachman got her start on local radio, earning a broadcast drama scholarship – and later a drama scholarship – at Northwestern University, before being named one of 16 finalists in the 1946 Miss America pageant and ultimately studying under legendary director Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio in New York, Variety reported.
While her Best Supporting Actress win for 1971’s “The Last Picture Show” ensconced Leachman among the Hollywood elite, it was her turn in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” as the ominously expressionless Frau Blücher that made her a household name among movie lovers.
Per the Post: “Ms. Leachman made the deadpan most of her deliciously cockeyed lines. ‘Stay close to zee candles,’ she says, holding an oversized candelabra with unlit candlesticks as she climbs a shadowy staircase. She overdoes her offer of a nightcap to an increasingly angry Frankenstein, first proffering brandy, then ‘varm milk…perhaps’ and, finally, the chocolate malted kid’s drink Ovaltine. Later, she confesses to a dark secret: ‘Yes! Yes!’ she shouts of Victor Frankenstein. ‘HE voss my boyfriend!’”
In addition to her Academy Award, Leachman won a total of eight Primetime Emmys – in both drama and comedy – as well as one Daytime Emmy. She also holds the distinction of being the oldest female contestant to compete on “Dancing With the Stars,” a feat she gracefully achieved in 2008 at the age of 82, Variety reported.
Leachman is survived by her daughter, Dinah, and three sons, Adam, George Jr. and Morgan, the entertainment news outlet reported.
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