11 things you might not know about Cloris Leachman

Few actors have a career as long and varied as this American treasure.

Top image: AP Photo/George Brich

Cloris Leachman is an American icon. The former beauty queen became a master of comedy and drama on both the big and small screen, racking up an incomparable resume that spans nearly 70 years. As she turns 90, the actress is still going strong, with a few upcoming television series added to a filmography that already included The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Twilight Zone, Phyllis, The Facts of Life, Raising Hope and so much more.

Here are 11 fabulous facts about Leachman.

1. She was close friends with Paul Lynde in college.

At the age of 15, Leachman earned a summer radio scholarship at Northwestern University. She would later enroll at the school and study drama. In Evanston, she grew close to classmates Paul Lynde (Bewitched) and Charlotte Rae (The Facts of Life). Lynde would come to her dormitory to put on operas, with Rae and Leachman singing backup. Decades later, Leachman would replace Rae on The Facts of Life. It's a small world!

Image: AP Photo

2. She was in the 1946 Miss America pageant.

After becoming Miss Chicago, Leachman made the top 16 at the 20th Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The winner of the competition, Marilyn Buferd, would become an actress as well.

Image: etsy

3. She starred in the only 'Twilight Zone' episode with a sequel.

The third season episode "It's a Good Life," wherein Leachman plays the mother of a mind-controlling Bill Mumy, remains one of the highlights of the classic anthology series. Forty-two years later, in the 2003 reboot of The Twilight Zone, Leachman and Mumy would reprise their roles for "It's Still a Good Life." They are the only two actors to appear in both series. 

4. She appeared on three different television shows on Christmas Eve, 1962.

As families tucked in for the night awaiting Santa, they could have watched Cloris in guest spots on episodes of Saints and Sinners, Stoney Burke and The New Loretta Young Show.

Image: AP Photo

5. She filmed her final scene in 'The Last Picture Show' in one take, with no rehearsal.

Leachman took home an Oscar for her stunning performance in the Peter Bogdanovich film. The director believed the scene would be more powerful with no rehearsal, so Leachman just went for it. After the first take, she said, "I can do better." Bogdanovich reportedly replied, "No, you can't — you just won the Oscar." Indeed! Fun fact, costar Ben Johnson also won an Oscar for the movie, for Best Supporting Actor, with under 10 minutes of screen time, the briefest appearance to merit a trophy in that category.

Image: Columbia Pictures

6. The final episodes of 'Phyllis' and 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' aired the same week.

On Sunday, March 13, 1977, the final episode of Phyllis aired, though Leachman would make one final appearance as the title character that Saturday, March 19, in the Mary Tyler Moore Show series finale. The spin-off Phyllis lasted a mere two seasons, though some of that was due to the tragic death of several cast members.

7. She has more Primetime Emmy Awards than any other actor.

Leachman has hauled in a remarkable eight Emmy trophies for her work in primetime — and she has Daytime Emmy on her mantle, too.

Image: AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

8. In fact, she has earned 23 awards and 39 nominations.

With an Oscar, Golden Globe and many Emmys, she just needs a Grammy and Tony for that EGOT. Somebody cast her in a Broadway musical, stat! Her other accolades range from the BAFTAs to the SAG Awards.

Image: The North Avenue Irregulars, Walt Disney, 1979

9. She played Granny in 'The Beverly Hillbillies.'

Well, the movie at least. Leachman filled the hat of Irene Ryan in the 1993 big screen adaptation. 

Image: AP Photo/Deana Newcomb

10. She has appeared on television in eight decades.

Leachman earned her first onscreen credit for work on The Ford Theatre Hour in 1948. She is currently filming American Gods, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman's dark fantasy novel, which will premiere on Starz in 2017.

Image: AP Photo/Sal Veder

11. She was the oldest contestant on 'Dancing with the Stars.'

Yep, in 2008, Leachman partnered with Corky Ballas on the popular reality show at the age of 82, becoming the sixth eliminated contestant in season seven. A few years later, astronaut Buzz Aldrin would hit ABC's dancefloor at the age of 80.

Image: ABC

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