Cloris Leachman Dead at 94: Remembering Her Character on ‘Gunsmoke’

by Madison Miller
Photo by: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Cloris Leachman, an iconic Hollywood actress for over seven decades, passed away yesterday at the age of 94. She passed away at her home with family near.

Leachman has a list of film and TV credits that could likely fill a whole book. In fact, if you visit her IMDb page, you truly spend several seconds scrolling from the top to the bottom. She has eight Primetime Emmy Awards as well as an Academy Award for “The Last Picture Show.” It’s hard to find another word to use besides “legend” when describing her.

She has been acting since the ’40s and didn’t stop even in her 90s.

“They are going to have to take a lead pipe and beat me over the head with it to get me to stop,” she once said in reference to her desire to never stop acting.

She is most known for her roles in “The Last Picture Show,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” However, fans may recognize her for a very short appearance in the TV show, “Gunsmoke.”

Small Role in ‘Gunsmoke’

“Gunsmoke” was an American television Western drama directed by Norman Macdonnell. The show is about a group of people around the Dodge City, Kansas settlement in the American West. Marshal Matt Dillon plays the lawman, who is the main character of the show.

Where did Cloris Leachman fit into the gun-slinging, 20-season, Western TV show?

She was a guest of the show before she had gotten as popular as she is today. According to MeTV, her character’s name was Flory Tibbs. She appeared in the episode called “Legal Revenge,” which aired in 1956. Doc had encountered a homesteader who was confined to bed with an infected leg. However, he also had a gun under the sheets to protect himself from his wife, Flory Tibbs.

She played the character of Flory Tibbs/Boni for two episodes in “Gunsmoke.” Being on the set of “Gunsmoke” wasn’t her only experience in the world of Westerns, however.

In fact, she spent a lot of her earlier career on the set of different Western-themed shows. She also appeared on “The Big Valley,” the opponent of “Gunsmoke,” as Fay Kelly for one episode.

She would also later be on “Wagon Train,” “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “Rawhide,” and “Laramie.”

Cloris Leachman Tries Dancing

While her earlier career was in dramas like “Gunsmoke” and “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” Leachman would soon find herself in even bigger roles. She was cast as a doomed hitchhiker in “Kiss Me Deadly” in 1955. After that, Peter Bogdanovich really thrust her into the spotlight when he hired her for “The Last Picture Show.”

From movies to TV to dramas to comedies and everything in between, Leachman was a seasoned professional.

One of her more recent roles was as a contestant on the show “Dancing with the Stars.” She was on the seventh season of the show, which aired in 2008. This means she was 82 when fans got to watch her shimmy and prance around the dance floor. It was an opportunity for fans to see her being herself and not in a role.

She was partnered with Corky Ballas. She was the oldest person to ever be on “Dancing with the Stars,” a testament to her love for performing and the entertainment business.

She went home after week six with a Cha-Cha-Cha performance to “Come See About Me” and a hip-hop performance to “It Takes Two.”

From “Gunsmoke” to “You Again” to “The Last Picture Show,” to even dancing on stage, Leachman has done it all.

Cloris Leachman was a talented Hollywood actress and will be missed for her fun, quirky personality. She could really do any role from serious to silly to dramatic.