"I'm having an amazing life, and it isn't over yet."
April 30, 2016 7:43 AM   Subscribe

Born April 30, 1926, Cloris Leachman has appeared in a multitude of roles on stage, film, and especially television. In addition to an Oscar for her role in The Last Picture Show, she holds the record for most acting Emmys, at eight. This fall she will star with George Takei on a Lifetime original sitcom, Friends with Government Benefits, and just last week it was announced that she will play Zorya Vechernyaya in the Starz television adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

Leachman is probably best known for her role as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spinoff Phyllis, but she's had many other roles before and since. Early roles included Christina in the 1955 film noir Kiss Me Deadly [previously] and Mrs. Fremont in the classic Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life" — she and Billy Mumy would reprise their roles in a followup episode, "It's Still a Good Life," from the 2002 revival series.

In 1974 she was the dour (and apparently frightening to horses) Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein. [previously, previously]

When Charlotte Rae left The Facts of Life, Leachman joined the cast as Beverly Ann, taking over the mother figure role for the show's final two seasons. More recent television appearances included a recurring role as Lois's hateful mother Ida on Malcolm in the Middle and Maw Maw on Raising Hope.

In 2008, at the age of 82, she became the oldest competitor ever to appear on Dancing with the Stars.

Other examples of her comic timing can be seen in her 2008 appearance at Comedy Central's roast of Bob Saget, and in a 2011 Network Solutions video parodying the racy GoDaddy commercials of the time.

In 2009 she was interviewed by Terry Gross for Fresh Air and talked at length about Dancing with the Stars, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and The Last Picture Show.

She is an atheist, and has been a vegetarian since the age of 35, although some of her costars have been less than enthusiastic about this.

Here, Parade gives us some of their favorite quotes from Leachman.
posted by DevilsAdvocate (33 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Even with more Emmy awards than anyone else, I think Leachman is under-appreciated. I'd not heard that she'd been cast in "American Gods". My excitement level for that show was already pretty high, and knowing she'll be appearing in something so far afield from the stuff she's been involved with for the past several years kicks it up even higher.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:18 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Holy shit, that's great news. And Peter Stormare as Czernobog!
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:20 AM on April 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Given celebrity news trends lately, the perfect title! Thank you! <3
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:22 AM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

The American Gods casting decisions just keep getting better and better.

And what an awesome post about Leachman. Thanks, DevilsAdvocate!
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:22 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

, (comma, glad it's not a period) Great voice-over work in the English dub of Miyazaki films and The Croods, too
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:23 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Check the date on the "Friends with Government Benefits" sitcom announcement.
posted by mach at 8:23 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

She's been salty for my whole life.

Thanks for posting that bit about her at the Bob Saget roast. Her line about Stamos almost killed me.
posted by Sphinx at 8:25 AM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cloris Leachman is known to us connoisseurs of badfilm for her brief appearances as the voice of "Lunch Lady" in the interminable CG movie Foodfight, and also being in Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. Also in both movies: Christopher Lloyd!
posted by JHarris at 8:29 AM on April 30, 2016

Check the date on the "Friends with Government Benefits" sitcom announcement.

Aw, crap. The one time I actually should have read the comments.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:29 AM on April 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh my lord, I totally forgot about Frau Blücher. Man, she is really a five-tool player.
posted by Sphinx at 8:40 AM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

American Gods is my favourite adaptation of Pratchett's Small Gods. Glad it's coming to the screen! Thanks for telling us.
posted by adept256 at 8:41 AM on April 30, 2016

Thank you. Just watched the Mary Tyler Moore show episode. Both she and Betty White were wonderful (as was everyone else..for that matter).
posted by shibori at 8:59 AM on April 30, 2016

Just like we have eponysterical, I propose the word Onomapanic for that small rush of panic one experiences when they read the name of someone on the blue just before realizing, that no, the post is NOT about said subject dying.
posted by symbioid at 9:15 AM on April 30, 2016

posted by symbioid at 9:15 AM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

“…I knew I wouldn’t be the only one, and I knew I wasn’t his type.” (Why she rejected Marlon Brando who asked her out when they were in class together at the Actors Studio in the 1950s.)

”As we moved into the main course, it was as if a cosmic wind enveloped us. Some giant space magnet was pulling us together. We didn’t finish the meal. We went upstairs, flew into bed and made love. It was epic. And the next morning, Gene went back to his film and I went back to mine. I haven’t seen Gene since that night..” (Writing about Gene Hackman in her autobiography Cloris)
Can we get her to record sex ed videos?
posted by Etrigan at 9:19 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow, you shocked me, for a moment I thought Symbian OS was dead.
posted by adept256 at 9:19 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh man, what a great post and great news! Cloris Leachman takes anything she's in and makes it that much better.

One role not mentioned- she played Lois's horrible mother on Malcolm in the Middle and killed it every time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:48 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

I got to hang out with her a bit while they were restoring some props for a bit we were taping. She was hilarious and incredibly personable. She had her hand on me every time she spoke to me.

Also, we really need to start posts like this with "NOT AN OBIT" OR "nobit" or something. I was choked up and speed reading to see whether she had passed or not.
posted by nevercalm at 10:00 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

"Dinner is served promptly at eight in the private dining room; those who are tardy do not get fruit cup."

I'll love her forever as Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety.
posted by Spatch at 10:03 AM on April 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Loved the Saget roast bits. She is a wonderful person from all I read. Thanks for the post.

posted by AugustWest at 10:04 AM on April 30, 2016

She gave one of my friends diet tips. Unsolicited.
posted by pxe2000 at 10:06 AM on April 30, 2016

I never get around to watching most shows that sound cool, but this one? I need to make a point of seeing this one! I hope it comes through.
posted by elizilla at 10:18 AM on April 30, 2016

The Last Picture Show is a very, very, very good film, and Cloris Leachman is unquestionably the best thing in it.

(But I still can't help but think "Clorox Bleachman" every time she's mentioned.)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:28 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

She gave one of my friends diet tips. Unsolicited.

My mom once told me never to give anyone unsolicited advice. She is absolutely correct in this, and I thank her for this insight. That being said, I didn't ask her when was the appropriate time to give advice.
posted by el io at 11:32 AM on April 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

"He! Was! My! Boyfriend!"

I recently watched the entire run of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (so good!), and her Phyllis was hilariously awful in a way that was at once felt very true to real life and spectacularly unique.

I was idly watching that over-the-air old-time tv network that airs in biggish metropolitan areas this fall, and just before I turned off the TV show Lassie, I realized Leachman was playing Timmy's mom! It was early in her career, but there was a show where they should have let her go daffy.
posted by julen at 1:14 PM on April 30, 2016

this post is something i wish for every time i see a mefi obit: a rich appreciation before someone goes. thanks!
posted by j_curiouser at 1:28 PM on April 30, 2016

Great post!

I've come across her doing voices on various Studio Ghibli movies, where she's always terrific - she did voice work on Ponyo and Laputa: Castle in the Sky

(Looking at her credits, she's actually done a voice work for decades, including The Mouse and his Child back in 1979, My Little Pony in 1986, and The Iron Giant in 1999.)
posted by kristi at 1:52 PM on April 30, 2016

Dinner is served promptly at eight in the private dining room; those who are tardy do not get fruit cup

you're so strict
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:16 PM on April 30, 2016

posted by lordrunningclam at 5:19 AM on May 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's pretty impressive how many cast members of the MTM show are still around and active. Leachman, White, Georgia Engel, Valerie Harper, and Ed Asner are still very active, and Moore and Gavin MacLeod still seem to be doing things occasionally.
posted by tavella at 10:23 AM on May 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

In case you missed it, Leachman voiced Meryl in "Secret Admiral-irer," an episode of Bob's Burgers which aired May 22.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:01 AM on May 27, 2016

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