Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman, the prolific actress of stage and screen best known for her role as Phyllis Lindstrom on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and its short-lived spinoff “Phyllis,” died in her sleep of natural causes at the age of 94, her manager said Wednesday.
Leachman died Tuesday at her home in Encinitas, her son told TMZ. She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1971’s “The Last Picture Show.”
“She had the best life beginning to end that you could wish for someone,” he said. “She left everyone with a lot of love.”
Leachman was born in De Moines, Iowa, on April 30, 1926, and studied drama at Illinois State University, and later at Northwestern University. She competed in the 1946 Miss America pageant before moving to New York to study at the Actors Studio in New York City.
She appeared in numerous shows during television’s early era, along with some plum roles on Broadway, including a production of “As You Like It” with Katherine Hepburn. She balanced stage and television work with appearances in several memorable feature films, including “Kiss Me Deadly,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Last Picture Show.”
But it was her work on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” that cemented her in the minds of the public. Her Phyllis Lindstrom was both friend and nosy neighbor to Moore’s Mary Richards. Phyllis was portrayed as a slightly snobbish modern woman fined attuned to the latest trends in fashion, women’s lib and other trendy social causes of the early 1970s. She often clashed with Mary’s other friend Rhoda, played by Valerie Harper.
In September 1975, CBS launched “Phyllis” hoping to capture the same success the network had with its spinoff “Rhoda,” in which Harper’s character moved to New York City. The show ran for two seasons before it was canceled for low ratings.
Leachman was also a favorite of Mel Brooks, appearing in the director’s “Young Frankenstein,” “High Anxiety” and “History of the World: Part I.”
She won eight Emmys and scored 22 nominations in her long career, which ties her with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for most nominations.
She won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for 1971’s “The Last Picture Show.”
She had multiple appearances on “The Love Boat,” and a recurring role on “The Facts of Life.”
Her late-career work included spots on “Malcolm and the Middle,” “The Simpsons” and “Bob’s Burgers,” and the films “Bad Santa,” “The Longest Yard,” and “Scary Movie 4.”
In 2008, she became the oldest person to compete on “Dancing With the Stars.”
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