It seems odd to try and write a celebrity obituary as some random person on the internet with a blog, but how phenomenal was Cloris Leachman in everything?
That obituary from The Washington Post highlights her work in The Last Picture Show and Young Frankenstein, which is undoubtedly one of the best comedies ever made and in my top 10 of best movies ever made. Comedic performances never get the same respect that dramatic ones do, but it says a lot that she stands out even in a movie filled with pitch-perfect performances from several of the best comic actors of the 20th century.
The obituary also makes a point of how much she was not just willing, but eager to take risks. I wasn’t aware of the true scope of it, but even as a casual fan, I could tell that she took thankless parts and made something great of them. Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show could’ve been just the irritating neighbor lost in an ensemble of great performances, but she managed to nail the comedy so perfectly — making sure that she was always more funny than obnoxious — that even as a little kid, I thought naturally she should have her own show.
Two more quotes from that Washington Post obituary: “‘My intention,’ she told the Los Angeles Times, ‘is not to do something I’ve done before.'” and “…for the most part, she embraced unorthodox, aggressively undignified parts.” That seems like the best legacy for anyone, not just actors. We may not have her talent, but we could all aspire to her fearlessness.