Late veteran actress Cloris Leachman was at the top of her game in showbiz with a career that spanned more than seven decades. She was a sought-after star on Broadway and television.
Cloris Leachman was an award-winning actor who hailed from Des Moines, Iowa. She began her acting career on stage, performing Shakespeare alongside Katharine Hepburn.
The comedienne then starred in Broadway, where she sang for Rogers and Hammerstein to land the lead role in “South Pacific.”
Leachman initiated her way to a television debut at studios in Los Angeles. There she bagged the role of Phyllis Lindstrom on the sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
She became a multiple Emmy Award winner who also won an Oscar for portraying a supporting role as a frustrated housewife in “The Last Picture Show.”
Leachman has entertained audiences in both comedic and dramatic projects with eleven Broadway plays, 57 films, and 137 television shows under her belt. In addition, Leachman earned 16 awards and 23 nominations.
CAREER VS PERSONAL STRUGGLES
Her journey to stardom was filled with ups and downs. In her autobiography, Leachman penned down all that affected her rise to fame, including her role on the series “Lassie,” where she played Ruth Martin.
She wrote how she enjoyed doing the TV show as she was a mother at home and at work. Leachman was content with that, but her personal life slightly interfered as she and her then-husband George Englund were constantly butting heads about raising their brood.
After she left the show, she took her kids to go and visit her sister Mary in Darien, Connecticut. She mentioned the point of being worried about them.
In Darien, Leachman’s life was appealing as Mary and her husband Bob Castle welcomed her kids with open arms. Soon after, she purchased a house nearby and moved in with her children.
Her spouse Englund was back in New York and came to visit them. He stayed one night, and Leachman conceived. Not long after, she was called to go and do another TV show in LA and had to take off instantly.
In the show’s making, Leachman had to run, jump, and turn around more than once and had to rehearse it repetitively. Pretty soon, she started staining, and then she began bleeding every five minutes. She explained:
“Something akin to a large liver came out of me. George took me to the hospital. I had a miscarriage.”
Leachman said her tragedy affected her emotionally, and she was left heartbroken. She went back home, frail and a complete wreck. That same night, she received another phone call from New York and was asked to replace an actress in a show out of town.
As usual, Englund was supportive of her, and she hopped on a plane to join the production. After the show, she went out for dinner alone and came across producer Robert Whitehead and Harold Clurman, a film director.
They invited her to join them at their table and offered her another role on a Broadway play, “A Touch of the Poet.” However, she told them she would have to sleep on it.
When she returned to the hotel, Englund dialed her asking her to come home as the kids needed her. Because of guilt, she broke down in tears when she arrived for production around that time.
However, Englund assured her that he would take care of the kids in her absence and continued to shower her with support to fulfill her career. On the evening of the show, as she was about to make an entrance, Leachman shared she looked down on a newspaper with the headline that read:
“Joan Collins should get an Oscar for the love scene she played with George Englund last night.”
Astounded by the headline, Leachman did not know what to make of it, but she got through the scene. Three nights later, at approximately 4 a.m., she got a call from Collins.
The English native told her Englund had just left her place and that they saw each other daily. Collins declared her love for Leachman’s spouse and asked her what she wanted to do about it.
Leachman told her she did not know, adding she was unsure what the choices were in that case, and asked her whether their affair could blossom into something more.
Collins said yes, and became emotional while on the phone. She emphasized that Englund loved Leachman as well, right before she dropped the phone ending the conversation.
At the time, Collins was making her mark in America as a screen sex symbol in films. In her book, Leachman also claimed she had flings with fellow Hollywood stars including, Andy Williams and Gene Hackman.
More so, she suspected Englund was also cheating on her. However, she was stunned when Collins, then in her mid-20s, disclosed her infidelity with Englund.
Leachman and Englund first met after she moved to New York City in the 1950s. She was on a play on Broadway where she crossed paths with the late producer and director.
That was when they established their romance and even moved in together. The former couple lived together for four years and later got married in 1953.
That same year, they welcomed their first child Adam Englund, 68. The pair had four more children, George Jr., 64, Morgan, 58, Dinah, 55, and their late son Bryan.
Amid Leachman’s successful career in Hollywood, her marriage suffered. She and Englund ended their union after being married for 26 years in 1979.
Even though they parted ways, Leachman shared she never stopped loving him. She said she was still in love with him and that he was magnificent.
Englund died at age 91 in September 2017 following complications from a fall. He passed on at his home in Palm Springs while surrounded by friends and family. He is survived by sisters, five kids, seven grandchildren, and a great-grandson.
Leachman and Englund’s youngest child Bryan died from an overdose of ulcer medication at age 30, which rocked both their lives in 1986. During an emotional interview about his untimely death, Leachman shared she thought of him a lot.
Bryan had a long battle with drug addiction, and his mother always supported him whenever she could. Leachman herself said she did everything she could for him during an interview in 1986.
Her son was born on January 1, 1956, and was an aspiring actor until his passing. Reports stated he was discovered deceased by a maid in Manhattan YMCA.
Bryan’s brother, Adam, was born on October 5, 1953, and works in the entertainment industry. He has starred in the comedy film “Mortuary Academy.”
George Jr. was born on May 21, 1957, and makes a living as a production manager and composer. His younger brother Morgan was born on August 25, 1963, and pursued a career in acting and writing.
The second youngest sibling is Dinah, born on January 16, 1966, and she followed in her mother’s footsteps. She has starred in films like “The Migrants.”
On January 27, 2021, Leachman passed away at age 94 due to complications from a stroke with COVID-19 as a contributing factor.
Leachman died at her home in Encinitas, California, with her only daughter by her side, TMZ reported at the time. Her son released a statement saying she had the best life from the beginning to the end, adding she was at peace.
In addition to her thriving career to add to her success, Leachman was a Miss Chicago title holder of 1946 from the Miss America contest.