Cloris Leachman: Accomplished Chameleon Born in 1926, Cloris Leachman grew up in a small town near Des Moines. As a child, she loved to act and play the piano. At age 11, she landed a job on a local children's radio show. By 17, Leachman had joined the Kendall Community Playhouse; a year later the aspiring actress headed to Northwestern University on a drama scholarship. At 20, Leachman entered a local beauty pageant on a lark and made it all the way to the Miss America finals. Leachman lost the beauty contest, but not her love of the spotlight. She headed for New York City and was recruited for the prestigious Actors Studio. Determined not to be typecast as a beauty queen, she tackled a smorgasbord of parts. In 1952, the starlet fell for aspiring director George Englund; the couple married in 1953 after Leachman discovered she was pregnant. Although Englund would have several affairs, the couple stayed together for many years and had four more children. Ignoring the traditional 1950s stereotypes of motherhood, Leachman kept working on both the small and big screen, which includes her critically acclaimed turn as a prostitute in the 1969 classic "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." But it wasn't until she was 44 that Leachman scored the biggest role of her career. She was cast as Phyllis Lindstrom, the snooty, busybody neighbor on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Her outrageous antics earned her rave reviews and two Emmy Awards. During the sitcom's hiatus, the diverse actress portrayed a neglected wife in "The Last Picture Show." Her powerful performance won her an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress in 1971. In 1975, Leachman went on to star on her own show, "Phyllis," based on her famous TV character, for which she took home a Golden Globe Award. Despite the successes in her career, the actress's personal life was unraveling. After 26 years of marriage, she divorced her husband in 1979 so that he could marry another woman. More heartbreak followed when Leachman's son Bryan died of a cocaine overdose in 1986. Though, devastated, Leachman eventually found her way back to her first love, acting. She took home her eighth Emmy in 2002 for her portrayal of the grandma from hell on "Malcolm in the Middle."moreless
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