The late Cloris Leachman held a special, lasting bond with her “Mary Tyler Moore Show” co-stars. Following her death, a longtime Hollywood Reporter columnist who spent time on the original set is sharing one of the cast’s last, touching reunions with Leachman.
Though “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” wrapped in 1977, the cast remain friends to this day. They remember those they’ve lost fondly and will carry on the legacy of their dear friend, Cloris Leachman. Leachman died of natural causes under the care of her family Wednesday. She was 94.
In celebration of her life, prolific Hollywood Reporter columnist Sue Cameron is sharing one of the last big events the “Moore” cast spent together with Leachman.
“Leachman was “exactly the same” as she was while on the 1970s sitcom — “being funny and crazy” — aside from the moments when the actors broke character,” Cameron tells People. The cast, including fellow American Icons Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, Georgia Engel, and Valerie Harper, met up for a 2013 episode of the TVLand sictom, Hot In Cleveland.
Co-Stars with Cloris Leachman: “Everybody was near tears most of the time”
“Everybody was near tears most of the time,” the journalist and author continues. “But there was a moment when they were all sitting around a table — the next scene was going to be just all of them sitting at a table in a restaurant — and they had to reset lights and none of them got up from the table.”
“All of them suddenly started talking, and they were all themselves then. They weren’t in character,” Cameron adds, noting the “extraordinary” nature of their relationships.
“There were no laughs. It was very sincere. It was kind of like a goodbye, reminiscing thing. It was so moving. It was a moment that was one of the most stunning in the entertainment industry that I’ve ever seen.”
Cameron also recounts a moment before filming began that day. Within, the longtime Hollywood journalist, who spent time with each of the stars on the set of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” says the iconic women shared a special moment together backstage “in a small ante room next to the makeup area.”
“Valerie [Harper] and I went in there just to kind of rest before the show. And one by one, they all came in — Mary, Cloris, Betty and Georgia Engel. And it was quiet,” Cameron recounts. “And then Mary looked at Valerie and said, ‘I love you, Valerie.’ And Valerie started to cry, and Mary started to cry, and everybody in there is crying.”
“Then there’s a knock on the door and everybody goes, ‘Okay, makeup retouch. Let’s go.’ And they all walked out of there and did a show.” Cameron still regards this as one of the most powerful celebrity moments she’s ever witnessed, many of which she chronicles in her book, Hollywood Secrets and Scandals – which covers her incredible four decades of Tinseltown coverage.
Remembering American Icons
Fans will forever remember Cloris Leachman for her brilliance in portraying landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. Within, her biting wit and high-brow antics plagued titular Mary, alongside Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper).
Many of the show’s comedic highlights, however, came from her interactions with Betty White‘s Sue Anne Nivens, who “famously” had an affair with Lindstrom’s husband.
Of their time on set with the American icons, Cameron adds that Rhoda’s late Valerie Harper, who passed in August 2019, was “assigned” to Cloris Leachman. Cameron notes fondly that the actress was a “true eccentric.”
As a result, “[Harper] was the Cloris wrangler,” she continues to People. “She was the only one who could really control Cloris. Cloris really was a genius, both in acting and everything in life — she was extraordinary. But she was completely eccentric, a true eccentric. And I say that with great kindness.”
“She never missed a line. She was spot on. She was a total professional when the time came to be that, but she was just very eccentric,” she adds.
Celebrate the life of Cloris Leachman: