The Acting Corps: Cloris Leachman

Leachman, who died on the 26th at the age of 94, pretty much defined what it means to be a member of what I’ve called the Acting Corps, a bank of reliable actors with large numbers of acting credits (there’s a Page of links, on this blog here): her professional debut was in 1948 — I was 8 at the time — and she has nearly 300 credited roles on IMDb (a list that doesn’t cover all of her acting work).

Leachman in three of her roles: as Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein; as Barbara June “Maw Maw” Thompson in Raising Hope; as the title character in the sitcom Phyllis (a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show)

The beginning of the Wikipedia entry provides a one-sentence summary:

Cloris Leachman (April 30, 1926 – January 26, 2021) was an American actress and comedienne whose career spanned more than seven decades.

She was adept at both dramatic acting and comedy. Some highlights from the inventory of her film, television, tv film, and stage work on a Wikipedia acting-credits page:

— her first significant role in film, in the remarkable, very dark film noir Kiss Me Deadly (1955), where her character sets the mechanism of the complex plot — eventually, a plutonium bomb figures prominently — in motion

— a delightful performance as the character Phyllis in the 1970-75 tv sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show

— an award-winning dramatic performance as the jaded wife of a closeted schoolteacher in Peter Bogdanovich’s film The Last Picture Show (1971)

— a hilarious performance as Frau Blucher — cue sound of whinnying horses — in Mel Brooks’s film Young Frankenstein (1974)

— an affecting performance as a character slipping into dementia on the family-drama tv series Raising Hope (2010-14)


3 Responses to “The Acting Corps: Cloris Leachman”

  1. kenru Says:

    I made a few TV main title sequences in my time; but the one I’m most proud of was the one for PHYLLIS. She was delightful acting the part for the title sequence.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    For some reason I had it stuck in my head that she had played Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and wondered why I had not seen that role mentioned in any obits or commemorative posts; but it turns out that that was Louise Fletcher. I don’t know why I thought it was Leachman; maybe somebody once said that she should have played the role.

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