The first name was not trivial, the face either, at the same time sparrow and bird of prey, matron and mistress, a small contrite smile, angular features and, above, eyes that seemed to already know a lot about existence and its complications. Born in 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa, amid a deafening din – her parents ran a sawmill – Cloris Leachman set sail for New York at the age of 20, with her diploma in drama, a little theater experience and the title of Miss Chicago 1946. After years of television, she landed in 1955 at the cinema, out of breath, strapped in a raincoat, barefoot, terrified, in the awesome In fourth gear by Robert Aldrich. She only came back there very occasionally, but always in indelible, traumatic roles, among which we will remember those of the priceless Frau Blücher, in 1974, in Frankenstein Junior of Mel Brooks (with whom she will collaborate regularly) and especially, in 1971, that of Ruth Popper, abandoned wife who rediscovers love in the uncertain arms of Sonny Crawford, hero of the last session by Peter Bogdanovich, a masterpiece that won him an Oscar, the only one of his career.
Despite these screaming outbursts, she will remain, until the end and above all, a television woman, passing as well by the Fourth Dimension and le Muppet Show what Lassie or the Cruise is having fun, settling down permanently in some US TV institutions of seventies, such as Mary Tyler Moore Show or Phyllis. More recently, we had seen her in Malcolm, Raising Hope and American Gods. Tireless, Cloris Leachman occupied the screen with almost no downtime for nearly sixty-five years. In 2008, she even set a record by becoming the oldest participant – 82 – on the show. Dance with the stars, where she took a nasty tango score. She ended up hanging up, coerced and forced, while she still had two TV movies in production. Cloris Leachman died at her home in Encinitas, Calif. On Tuesday, January 26, at the age of 94.