Oscar-winning actress Cloris Leachman passed away from natural causes on Jan. 27 at the age of 94. Although she was best known for her roles in the films “The Last Picture Show” and “Young Frankenstein” along with her supporting role on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” Leachman’s career spanned over seven decades and multiple mediums, including movies, TV, and Broadway plays. Here are nine facts you may not know about this accomplished actress.
1. She Attended Northwestern University
An Iowa native, Leachman moved to Chicago to study drama at Northwestern University, alongside fellow actors Charlotte Rae and Paul Lynde.
“When I went to Northwestern University, I already knew I wanted to be an actress,” she told Emmys.com in 2015. “My friend Paul Lynde and I ran that school! He was so funny.”
2. She Competed In The Miss America Pageant
After becoming Miss Chicago, Leachman went on to compete in the 1946 Miss America pageant, placing in the top 16 finalists. Her scholarship money funded her move to New York to break into the entertainment business. She took voice lessons there and studied at the Actors Studio.
3. She Became A Vegetarian At The Age Of 35
She was a lifelong vegetarian and passionate animal rights advocate. She even received PETA’s lifetime achievement award.
She has credited her vegetarian diet for curing her asthma, saying that one day, when she could not breathe, her mother-in-law gave her a glass of orange juice and told her to stay in. She drank juices for four days, and her asthma was gone.
“I decided I wouldn’t eat meat anymore, not even for a million dollars,” she told Parade. “I felt cleansed and incredible, like the inflammation in my body had been reduced. It was life-changing. Now I eat lots of fresh soup with vegetables — veggie stock instead of chicken stock.”
4. She Won An Impressive Number Of Awards During Her Long Career
In addition to her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “The Last Picture Show,” Leachman also won a Golden Globe and eight primetime Emmy Awards. She was nominated 22 times in categories such as Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series and Best Lead Actress in a Drama. In 2011 she was inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame.
5. She Was Extremely Funny
After news of her passing became public, celebrities took to Twitter to commemorate the actress, and some mentioned her sublime sense of comedy. Comedian Wanda Sykes remembered Leachman as “always the funniest one in the scene.”
Rest In Peace, Cloris Leachman. She was always the funniest one in the scene.
— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) January 28, 2021
Meanwhile, Adam Sandler who worked with Leachman on the film “Spanglish,” tweeted, “A true legend. One of the funniest of all time.”
6. She posed nude for a magazine cover in her 70s
Wearing only body paint, Leachman posed for the cover of “Alternative Medicine Digest” in 1997. She turned 71 that year. An image of that cover was posted to Twitter by podcast host William Scurry after news of her passing.
7. She Was The Oldest Contestant To Ever Compete On “Dancing With The Stars”
Although she didn’t go home with the trophy, Leachman set a record for being the oldest competitor on “Dancing With The Stars” during the 2008-2009 season. The New York Times reported she had to beg to be on the show.
“This was the third time,” she said about finally being accepted onto the reality series. “They turned me down twice because I was too old.”
ABC denies that it rejected her because of her age. She was 82 at the time.
8. She Leaves Behind Four Children And Six Grandchildren
She is survived by four out of five of her children. Her youngest son, Bryan Englund, died in 1986 at the age of 30.
9. She Wanted To Be Remembered As Someone Who Stayed Unique
In her 2010 autobiography, “Cloris,” Leachman summed up her life this way, as reported by People: “I’ve lived my life; I haven’t trotted alongside it. I’ve opened the doors of opportunity wherever I’ve seen them,” she wrote. “I’ve walked into discoveries and dreams, disappointments and death. I bear the scars of not having obeyed rules made by others, and I wear the deep satisfaction of knowing I never bent to conventions I didn’t believe in.”
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