Cloris Leachman (born April 30, 1926) is an Academy Award-, nine-time Emmy- and
Golden Globe-winning American actress of stage, film and television. She has won eight primetime Emmy Awards—more than
any other female performer—and one Daytime Emmy Award.
Leachman, the eldest of three sisters, was born in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter
of Cloris and Buck Leachman, who owned a lumber company. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1947. She later
majored in drama at Northwestern University, where she was a member of Gamma Phi Beta and a classmate of future comic actor
Paul Lynde. Leachman began appearing on television and in films shortly after competing in Miss America as Miss Chicago 1946.
After winning a scholarship in the beauty pageant, Leachman studied acting in
New York City at the Actors Studio with Elia Kazan. She appeared in the Broadway production of William Inge's Come Back, Little
Sheba. She appeared in many live television broadcasts in the 1950s, including such programs as Suspense and Studio
One. She was also one of the Raisonette Girls in the 1960s. She made her feature film debut in Robert Aldrich's film noir
classic Kiss Me Deadly, released in 1955. Leachman was several months pregnant during the filming, and appears in
one scene running down a darkened highway barefoot and wearing only a trenchcoat. A year later she appeared opposite Paul
Newman and Lee Marvin in The Rack (1956). She later appeared with Newman again in a brief role as a prostitute in
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969). Nonetheless, she continued to mainly work on television, her appearances
including the classic It's a Good Life episode of The Twilight Zone, in which she played Billy Mumy's mother, Rawhide, Alfred
Hitchcock Presents, and Lassie, in which she played Timmy's mom, Ruth Martin, for one season before being replaced by June
Recognition and acclaim
Leachman has won numerous awards during her lengthy career. She won an Oscar
for Best Supporting Actress in The Last Picture Show (1971), based on the bestselling book by Larry McMurtry (Brokeback
Mountain). She played the high school gym teacher's wife, with whom Timothy Bottoms' character has an affair. Director Peter
Bogdanovich had predicted to Leachman during production that she would win an Academy Award for her performance. The part
was originally offered to Ellen Burstyn, who wanted another role in the film.
Leachman has also won a record-setting eight primetime and one daytime Emmy Awards
and been nominated over 20 times for her work in television over the years, most notably as the character of neighbor/landlady/nosy
friend Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The character was a fixture on the program for five years and was subsequently
featured in a spinoff series, Phyllis (1975-1977), for which Leachman garnered a Golden Globe award.
In 1978 she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre. During
the mid and late 1970s she was the adult leading child dancers and singers in Schoolhouse Rock. In 1986, Leachman returned
to television, replacing Charlotte Rae's character Edna Garrett as the den mother on The Facts of Life. Leachman's role, as
Edna's sister, Beverly Ann Stickle, could not save the long-running series, and it was canceled two years later.
Leachman appeared in Herbie Goes Bananas (1980). She has voice acted in numerous
animated films, including My Little Pony: The Movie, The Iron Giant, and most notably as the voice of the cantankerous sky
pirate Dola in Hayao Miyazaki's 1986 feature Castle in the Sky. Dubbed by Disney in 1998, Leachman's performance in this film
received nearly unanimous priase.
Leachman played embittered, greedy, Slavic “Grandma Ida” on the Fox
sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, for which she won two Emmy Awards, both for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (once
in 2002, then again in 2006). She was nominated for the same role in that category six consecutive years. Later television
credits include the successful Lifetime Television miniseries Beach Girls with Rob Lowe and Julia Ormond. Leachman was nominated
for a SAG Award for her role as the wine-soaked, former jazz singer and grandmother Evelyn in the Sony feature Spanglish
opposite Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni. She had replaced an ailing Anne Bancroft in the role. The film reunited her with her
Mary Tyler Moore Show writer-producer-director James L. Brooks. That same year she appeared with Sandler again, in the remake
of The Longest Yard. She also appeared in Kurt Russell comedy Sky High.
In 2006, Leachman's performance alongside Sir Ben Kingsley and Annette Bening in
the HBO special Mrs. Harris earned her an Emmy nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a miniseries or TV movie as
well as a SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries. On
May 14, 2006, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Drake University.
Mel Brooks films
Leachman has appeared in three Mel Brooks films. She played Frau Blücher in
Young Frankenstein (1974), in which the mere mention of her character's name frightens all horses within earshot
(merely a silly joke: Blücher is rumored to be German for "glue," although the actual word for glue is Klebstoff).
She also appeared in High Anxiety, as demented psychiatric nurse Charlotte
Diesel, and as Madame Defarge in the segment of History of the World: Part I which parodied Dickens's A Tale
of Two Cities. In 2006 rumors have surfaced that she would have been reviving her role from Young Frankenstein in the upcoming
Broadway production opposite Megan Mullally (replacing formerly cast Kristin Chenoweth) and Roger Bart. Leachman showed her
interest in reprising her role, but in July 2007 it was announced that Leachman won't. Instead the role went to Andrea Martin in favor of having an entirely new cast for
the stage musical. Leachman posed "au naturel" on the cover of "Alternative Medicine Digest" (issue 15, 1997) body-painted
with images of fruit. This was a parody, or imitation, of the famous Demi Moore body painted nude Vanity Fair photo.