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'One of the funniest of all time': Oscar-winner Cloris Leachman dies aged 94

Millions of viewers knew the actor as the self-absorbed neighbour Phyllis in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Cloris Leachman
Cloris Leachman
Image: PA Images

US ACTOR CLORIS Leachman, who won an Oscar for The Last Picture Show and Emmys for her comedic work in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and other TV series, has died aged 94.

Leachman died of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, California, publicist Monique Moss said. Her daughter was at her side.

Millions of viewers knew the actor as the self-absorbed neighbour Phyllis in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

She also appeared as the mother of Timmy on the Lassie series.

She played a frontier prostitute in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, a crime spree family member in Crazy Mama and the infamous Frau Bucher in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.

In 1989, she toured in Grandma Moses, a play in which she aged from 45 to 101.

Tributes have been pouring in – Adam Sandler echoed the sentiments of many people, calling her “one of the funniest of all time”.

For three years in the 1990s she appeared in major cities as the captain’s wife in the revival of Show Boat.

In the 1993 movie version of The Beverly Hillbillies, she assumed the Irene Ryan role as Granny Clampett.

She also had an occasional role as Ida on Malcolm In The Middle, winning Emmys in 2002 and 2006 for that show.

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And in 2008, she joined the ranks of contestants in Dancing With The Stars, not lasting long in the competition but pleasing the crowds by wearing sparkly dance costumes, sitting in judges’ laps and swearing during the live television broadcast.

Although she started out as Miss Chicago in the Miss America Pageant, Leachman willingly accepted unglamorous screen roles.

“Basically I don’t care how I look, ugly or beautiful,” she told an interviewer in 1973.

“I don’t think that’s what beauty is. On a single day, any of us is ugly or beautiful. I’m heartbroken I can’t be the witch in The Wizard Of Oz. But I’d also like to be the good witch. Phyllis combines them both.

“I’m kind of like that in life. I’m magic, and I believe in magic. There’s supposed to be a point in life when you aren’t supposed to stay believing that. I haven’t reached it yet.”

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