Cloris Leachman

On this date in 1926, actress Cloris Leachman was born in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father owned a lumber company. After being crowned Miss Chicago in the 1946 Miss America competition, she won a scholarship to study at the Actor’s Studio in New York. Some of her earliest films include “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955), “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) and “The Last Picture Show” (1971), for which she won an Academy Award. She had roles in three Mel Brooks films: Frau Blücher in “Young Frankenstein” (1974),  demented nurse Charlotte Diesel in “High Anxiety” (1977) and Madame Defarge in “History of the World: Part I.”

She played memorable roles on television, including Timmy’s mother on “Lassie” from 1957-58, and Phyllis Lindstrom on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970-77) and in her own series, “Phyllis” (1975-77). She made frequent appearances on “The Facts of Life” and other shows. She played a main character in 83 episodes of the comedy “Raising Hope” (2010-14). In over 60 years of acting, in roles ranging from comedic to dramatic, Leachman won eight Emmys, appeared in over 100 TV shows and, in the fall of 2008, participated as the oldest contestant yet (age 82) on “Dancing With the Stars.”

From 1953-79 she was married to Hollywood impresario George Englund, with whom she had five children before divorcing. Asked in a 2012 Huffington Post interview if she considered herself an atheist, she replied, “Definitely.” Asked about religious miracles, she said, “Extraordinary miracles, billions and trillions of them, happen all the time but not because there’s a God. … It’s beyond belief. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Is he hearing 7 billion people at once?”

She died at age 94 in Encinitas, Calif. (D. 2021)

PHOTO: Leachman in a 1970 publicity still.

Freedom From Religion Foundation