Phyllis Lindstrom was Mary Richards’ over-the-top, overbearing neighbor who couldn’t get over herself. Talk about self-centered!
You couldn’t help but love her.
Cloris Leachman had this way of making her characters so flawed and so oblivious to their flaws that they were absolutely hilarious. She made them unforgettable, from Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein” to Phyllis on the iconic 1970s CBS sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The latter character got her own spinoff called “Phyllis.”
Ms. Lindstrom, an Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress, died Wednesday at her home in Encinitas. She was 94 and kept working to the end.
Her latest role was as the voice of Gran in “The Croods: A New Age,” the 2020 animated movie that screened recently at the West Wind Drive-in in Goleta.
Known for her comedies, Ms. Leachman was also a dramatic tour de force. Critics praised her Oscar-winning portrayal of a lonely middle-aged housewife in the Peter Boganovich-directed “Last Picture Show” (1971). Her character has an affair with high school senior Sonny, played by Santa Barbara native Timothy Bottoms. (Mr. Bottoms is the son of the late Santa Barbara sculptor Bud Bottoms.) The movie also starred Montecito star Jeff Bridges.
Another Montecito celebrity, author and actress Fannie Flagg, recalled acting with Ms. Leachman on the Burbank set of the pilot for CBS’ “The New Original Wonder Woman” in the 1970s.
Ms. Leachman was guest-starring as Hippolyta, the mother of Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) and the queen of Paradise Island.
“Cloris is hilarious,” Ms. Flagg said in November. “It was grand fun to work with her.”
Ms. Leachman impressed an audience in 2013 at The Granada, where she performed in a semi-staged production of “My Fair Lady in Concert.” Ms. Leachman played Mrs. Higgins.
The production starred Jonathan Pryce, who told the News-Press at the time that he was thrilled to be performing with Ms. Leachman.
“Just going all the way back to ‘The Last Picture Show’ when she won her Oscar, I’ve always remembered her performance and always thought she’s a stunning, extraordinary actress,” Mr. P ryce, who played Henry Higgins, said in 2013. “Now at age 87, she’s an outrageous actress, and she’s very funny, with a lot of energy for someone her age.”
Ms. Leachman was energetic — and prolific. She had nearly 300 acting credits and won eight individual primetime Emmys, tying her with Montecito star Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the record for an actor.
And Ms. Leachman was a hit on social media.
She had more than 79,000 followers on Twitter, where she posted, “Obviously I act, play the piano and love my family. I’m also a firecracker on the dance floor.”
That was a reference to her participation in 2005 on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” Then 82, she became the show’s oldest contestant.
Her tweets in later years reflected her ongoing energy and humor. In one 2018 post, she addressed Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. “My dear, @TheRealStanLee, I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better … shall I help whip you back into shape with a friendly arm wrestling match?”
On March 2, 2018, she posted congratulations to her friend Betty White for her Lifetime Achievement Award from the Publicists Guild.
They acted together on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” In 2013, TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” reunited its cast members, Ms. White and Georgia Engel, with their fellow “MTM” alumni — Ms. Moore in her final TV appearance, Valerie Harper (Rhoda) and, of course, Ms. Leachman. They played characters very similar to their “MTM” personas, and Ms. Leachman showed the unfailing energy that made Phyllis wonderfully unpredictable. Like her characters, she was not one to stand still.
Ms. Leachman, who was of Czech and English descent, was born April 30, 1926, in Des Moines, Iowa, to Berkeley Claiborne “Buck” Leachman and the former Cloris Wallace. Her father owned Leachman Lumber Co.
After graduating from high school, Ms. Leachman attended Illinois State University and majored in drama at Northwestern University. Meant for the stage, she won Miss Chicago 1946, a title that was part of the Miss America pageant. After that, she acted with the Des Moines Playhouse before moving to New York City.
She started her TV work with “The Ford Theatre Hour” in 1948 and appeared on many television anthologies and series before becoming a regular on “The Bob & Ray Show” in 1952.
Ms. Leachman, who was married to director-producer George Englund from 1953 to 1979 and had five children with him, went on to other TV and movie work. She had a knack for appearing in great TV shows and movies; her roles included one in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969).
Mel Brooks loved her presence on the big screen. She acted in three of the director’s movies, including “High Anxiety” and, of course, “Young Frankenstein.”
“Such sad news — Cloris was insanely talented,” Mr. Brooks posted on Twitter. “She could make you laugh or cry at the drop of a hat. Always such a pleasure to have on set.
“Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris’ unforgettable Frau Blücher.”