R.I.P. Cloris Leachman, Phyllis from Mary Tyler Moore and most awarded actress in Emmy history

By: Start TV Staff     Posted: January 27, 2021, 5:43PM    Tags: Obituaries

Cloris Leachman, who broke out as nosy landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and got her own spin-off, Phyllis, has passed away at the age of 94.

Over her long and accomplished career on TV since then, she became the most nominated woman in the history of Emmy Awards with 22 nominations and her eight wins gave her the title of most awarded actress in Emmy history, shared with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. 

At the age of 15, Leachman earned a summer radio scholarship at Northwestern University. She would later enroll at the school and study drama. In Evanston, she grew close to classmates Paul Lynde (Bewitched) and Charlotte Rae (The Facts of Life). Lynde would come to her dormitory to put on operas, with Rae and Leachman singing backup. Decades later, Leachman would replace Rae on The Facts of Life.

She appeared in one of the most memorable and iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone, "It's a Good Life", wherein Leachman played the mother of a mind-controlling Bill Mumy. Forty-two years later, in the 2003 reboot of The Twilight Zone, Leachman and Mumy would reprise their roles for "It's Still a Good Life."

Leachman took home an Oscar for her stunning performance in the Peter Bogdanovich film, The Last Picture Show. The director believed the scene would be more powerful with no rehearsal, so Leachman just went for it. After the first take, she said, "I can do better." Bogdanovich reportedly replied, "No, you can't — you just won the Oscar."

Indeed, that Oscar would become one of the actress' 23 awards and 39 nominations. Her final nomination would come in 2011 for her role in the sitcom Raising Hope.

She remained incredibly active in later life and even became the oldest actress to compete on Dancing With The Stars at the age of 82. In recent years, a recurring role on the sitcom Raising Hope led to late-career performances in Girl Meets World and American Gods. Her final onscreen television role would be as Mrs. Mandelbaum in the reboot of Mad About You in 2019.