Cloris Leachman

Hollywood is in mourning this week after Cloris Leachman, who won an Oscar and eight Emmy Awards during her decades-long career, passed away in her sleep on Wednesday. She was 94 years old.

Leachman Passes Away

Leachman’s death was confirmed to the Los Angeles Times by her publicist, who said that she died at her home in Encinitas, California. 

“It’s been my privilege to work with Cloris Leachman, one of the most fearless actresses of our time. 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,” said Juliet Green, Leachman’s manager.

“You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do, and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic,” Green added.

Leachman’s Early Life 

Born in 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa, Leachman dropped out of college in the 1940s to compete on the pageant circuit. She later admitted it was a move that “seemed rather stupid.”

Success quickly followed when she won Miss Chicago before competing in the Miss America pageant. In the Miss America pageant, she make it to the top five after playing part of the Grieg piano concerto as her talent.

Leachman used the $1,000 scholarship she won in the Miss America pageant to fund her move to New York City. Once in the Big Apple, she began studying voice and drama at the Actor’s Studio.

She never looked back from there, working on Broadway steadily in the late forties and early 50s before transitioning to the big screen by the end of the decade.

Leachman worked steadily as a character actress for the next decade, but it wasn’t until her Oscar-winning role in the 1971 movie The Last Picture Show that she became a true star.

Her haunting performance as a middle-aged housewife who has an affair with a high school football star won her an Academy Award. 

“I’m at a point where I’m free to go out and have a little fun with my career,” she said after her win, according to The New York Times. “Some Oscar winners have dropped out of sight as if they were standing on a trapdoor. Others picked it up and ran with it. I’m going to run with it.”

And run with it she did, indeed. 

Leachman’s Television Career

In the 1970s, Leachman became even more famous when she was cast as the nosy neighbor Phyllis in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Her character and performance was so popular that she was even given her own spinoff, “Phyllis.” 

Check out this snippet with Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore, and Ad Asner from the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” called “An Innocent Souffle.”

Leachman’s former “Mary Tyler Moore Show” costar Ed Asner took to Twitter to pay tribute to her on Wednesday. 

“Nothing I could say would top the enormity of my love for you. Until we meet again darling,” he wrote alongside a photo of the two of them. 

Related: Valerie Harper’s Family Gives Sad Update About ‘Rhoda’ Star’s Cancer Battle

Leachman never stopped working, and she died with nearly 300 film and television credits to her name, according to IMDB.

“They are going to have to take a lead pipe and beat me over the head with it to get me to stop,” she said in a 2011 interview.

In 2008, Leachman entered the world of reality television when she competed on “Dancing With The Stars.” She came in seventh place outlasting Kim Kardashian and Toni Braxton along the way. She was 82 when she danced on the show.

Leachman joined Twitter in 2010 and quickly became a hit. She earned herself over 88,000 followers. One of her favorite pastimes on Twitter was throwing playful jabs at her good friend and fellow legend Betty White, who turned 99 last week.

On Leachman’s 90th birthday in 2016, she tweeted, “Thank u all 4 the kind & sweet birthday wishes. Remember, no matter what I’ll always be younger than @BettyMWhite #HappyBirthdayCloris.”

Related: Inside Betty White’s ‘Low-Key’ Plans For Her 99th Birthday – She ‘Won’t Be Short On Attention’

Tributes Pour In For Leachman

Tributes have been pouring in for Leachman from stars and fans alike since news of her passing broke:

Leachman is survived by four of her five children. She lost her son Bryan to a drug overdose in 1986. She is also survived by six grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.

Leachman Reveals How She Wants To Be Remembered

In her 2010 autobiography, Leachman opened up about how she wanted to be remembered by fans.

“I’ve lived my life; I haven’t trotted alongside it,” she wrote, according to People Magazine. “I’ve opened the doors of opportunity wherever I’ve seen them. I’ve walked into discoveries and dreams, disappointments and death. I bear the scares of not having obeyed rules made by others, and I wear the deep satisfaction of knowing I never bent to conventions I didn’t believe in.”

More than anything, Leachman was proud of never conforming, and staying unique right to the end. 

“I never wanted to conform,” she wrote. “I haven’t conformed. I’ve tried, but I couldn’t. I’ve never put a label on myself. I find it distasteful that people put labels on other people and say that’s who they are, that one thing. When I was 46, people said I was in middle age. I shrugged off that designation. I didn’t want to be lumped into a group.”

Rest in peace, Cloris Leachman. 

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