'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' star Cloris Leachman dies at 94

By Heather Cichowski and Zach Harper

Emmy Award and Oscar-winning star Cloris Leachman, best known for bringing audiences joy on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, has passed away at age 94.

The beloved actress died of natural causes in Encinitas, Calif., according to a statement from her manager.

"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," her manager, Juliet Green, said in a statement. "With a single look, she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh 'till the tears ran down your face. You never knew what Cloris was going to say or do and that unpredictable quality was part of her unparalleled magic."

Cloris Leachman at the 54th Annual Emmy Awards on Sept. 22, 2002 with her Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series award for her appearance on Malcolm in the Middle. Photo: © Kevin Winter/ImageDirect

Cloris's incredible career spanned over seven decades. During that time, she worked with countess other stars, many of whom were quick to pay tribute to her and recognize her greatness on the screen and stage.

Comedic legend Mel Brooks, who worked with Cloris on Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety, was quick to pay tribute to the woman who played the hilarious Frau Blucher in the former film.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who along with Cloris is the most-decorated star in Emmys history, opened up about how the actress' work in Young Frankenstein had influenced her own comedic work.

Viola Davis, one of Hollywood's most-awarded stars, praised Cloris and her body of work.

Younger readers may know Cloris from her portrayal of Ellen DeGeneres's mom on Ellen's second sitcom. Her former co-star was also quick to pay tribute to Cloris after news of her death broke.

Former Glee star Chris Colfer reminisced about the benefit of working in close quarters with the actress.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson shared a humorous story about the first time he met Cloris, revealing she was as hilarious off-screen as she was on camera.

Elizabeth Banks penned a heartfelt message about Cloris, who was her childhood idol.

Adam Sandler wrote a moving piece and shared a sentimental photo of he and Cloris.

Born in 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa, Clories's career seamlessly covered television and film, as well as comedic and dramatic parts. She got her start after winning a scholarship in the Miss America pageant, and was one of the original members of Elia Kazan's Actors Studio in New York.

Cloris began her acting career on Broadway, landing roles in South Pacific and Come Back Little Sheba. She eventually branched out into film after meeting Katharine Hepburn, who asked her to appear in a staging of As You Like It.

In 1953, Cloris married film editor and director George Englund. The two had five children together before they divorced in 1979.

The 1950s saw her appear on television shows such as Suspense and The Twilight Zone, before landing a huge film role in The Last Picture Show, an adaptation of Larry McMurtry's novel of the same name. She won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.

Cloris (right) with Mary Tyler Moore on The Mary Tyler Moore show in 1971. Photo: © Bettmann/Getty Images

Cloris then moved into more comedic work, working with Mel in Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety. She also landed best-known role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. Her character, Phyllis Lindstrom, was given a spinoff series that ran for two years. The latter part won her a Golden Globe Award.

Later generations were introduced to the actress thanks to her role of Grandma Ida on Malcolm and the Middle and as Barbara June "Maw Maw" Thompson on Raising Hope.

She also made many memorable guest appearances, including competing on Dancing With the Stars in 2008, as well as appearances on Girl Meets World, Hot in Cleveland and RuPaul's Drag Race. Cloris also lent her voice to The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers and Elena of Avalor.

Cloris Leachman's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame photographed on Jan. 27, 2021. Photo: © Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

As mentioned, Cloris won a record-setting eight Emmy Awards throughout her career, and was nominated 20 times. In addition to her Oscar and Golden Globe, she also received a BAFTA, was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame and won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.

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