I got in trouble last week for not telling my wife that Larry King had died. She had to learn that sad news from reading my blog. That is why I made a specific point of going directly to her just after I heard that Cloris Leachman had passed away at the age of ninety-four. If you are only finding out about this now, I apologize and will put you on the urgent obit line of communique that I must now maintain with my bride.
Which is to say that this past week, one of the funniest people on the planet left the planet. Cloris Leachman, Oscar and multiple Emmy award winning actress died. And I would like to tell you that I am sad, but it's very difficult considering her body of work to carry that off. Ms. Leachman brought a seemingly effortless combination of charm and snark to even her scariest and most embittered characters. If you cannot utter the words "Frau Blücher" without the accompanying whinny of horses, then you understand what I mean. I was twelve the first time I saw Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, There were plenty of things that sailed over my pre-teen head, but not Cloris. The moment she confesses her love for Frooderick - pardon me - Frederick's grandfather is both heartbreaking and hysterical.
And if that was the only thing Cloris Leachman had ever given the world, that would be enough. But with nearly three hundred credits listed on a career that spanned more than seventy years, there was a laugh, and a few tears, for everyone. I know this because when I announced to my wife that she had died, I asked my son if he was familiar with Cloris Leachman, expecting him to land on Young Frankenstein, which I had showed him in his formative years. But instead, he said, "Oh, she was in Malcolm in The Middle." For a moment, I wanted to correct him, but I knew that he was correct.
She was on Ironside. And Wagon Train. And everyone's landlord Phyllis Lindstrom on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She was in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I was able to appreciate her star turn in The Last Picture Show. Many of the same qualities she brought to her comedy are visible in her performance. Slow burn, truth inside and out, fully embodying the woman she is portraying. The same can be said for Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety. It was this performance that gave me a pop culture nugget that I carry with me to this day: "Those who are tardy do not get fruit cup."
As I mentioned at the beginning, it would be correct to say that I am mourning Cloris Leachman's passing. If only I could stop laughing. She stomped on the Terra in such a way as to make my sides hurt. She will be missed.