My tribute to the great Cloris Leachman – the Oscar winner and nine-time Emmy winner has died at 94
What a great life and astounding career she had from her Oscar-winning role on The Last Picture Show to her great run as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the spinoff Phyllis. She won eight Prime-Time Emmys and one Daytime Emmy during her long career.
I know her Emmy count quite well because about 15 years ago, my niece and I were seated next to Miss Leachman and her granddaughter at the Disneyland premiere of one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In introducing my niece, I said Miss Leachman had won eight Emmys and an Oscar. She corrected me by saying: “Actually, it’s nine.” I had not counted the Daytime Emmy. During the screening, which was held outdoors, Miss Leachman covered my niece with a blanket as the evening grew colder. It struck me how normal this big star, a mother of five, really was off-screen.
A few years earlier, I had interviewed Miss Leachman by phone when she was nominated for a SAG Award for her performance ing Spanglish. She told me she would have gotten to the phone sooner but she was picking up a “steaming pile of dogs*t in the yard.”
What a character!
Among her other most famous TV roles: She replaced Charlotte Rae for the final two seasons of The Facts of Life, played Ellen DeGeneres’ mom for the single season of The Ellen Show, recurred on Malcolm in the Middle from 2001-06 as Grandma Ida and earned two Emmy Awards, and was a she was a series regular on Fox’s Raising Hope from 2011-14. One of her earliest TV roles was playing the mom in Lassie. She left the show after the first season and was replaced by June Lockhart. Her final regular TV roles was that of Mrs. Mandelbaum in 10 episodes of the 2019 reboot of Mad About You.
Her memorable films included the Mel Brooks flicks Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and The History of the World Part I, an acclaimed performance in Spanglish starring Adam Sandler, and the role of Granny in a big-screen adaptation of The Beverly Hillbillies.
Before her success in television and films, Miss Leachman spent more than a decade on the Broadway stage appearing in 12 productions (plays and musicals) in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s including the lead role of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific after Mary Martin left the show. She was also in a national tour of Showboat in the mid-90s.