Cloris Leachman was an award-winning actress who died at the age of 94 at her home in Encinitas, California, on January 26. Leachman had a very long and successful Hollywood career, winning an Oscar award and multiple Emmy awards. She is best remembered for her role as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Off-screen, Leachman was a loving mother of five. She was married to director and producer George Englund from 1953 to 1979. The couple had four sons and one daughter. Lorna Luft, Leachman’s neighbor in the early 1960s, described her as “the kind of mom I’d only seen on TV” in her 1998 memoir.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Her Son Bryan Died in 1986 at the Age of 30
In 1986 Bryan Englund was found dead in a room in a Manhattan YMCA. There was reportedly no sign of foul play in his death, but the police did find two bottles of ulcer medication in his room. The cause of death was determined to be a drug overdose.
Bryan Englund was an actor and had made a few appearances in movies like The Prowler and Crazy Mama. He had struggled with drug addiction for years, and Leachman had always supported him the best that she could.
In an interview in the Bangor Daily News in 1986 Leachman stated that she “did everything humanly possible, without putting him in chains or behind bars to control him. And I know how much he loved me, and I know that he knew how much I loved him.”
2. Her Late Husband Was Best Friends With Marlon Brando
During the 1950s Leachman studied under film director Elia Kazan, famous for movies like On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. While studying under Kazan she was introduced to Marlon Brando and they became good friends.
Leachman later introduced Brando to her husband, George Englund. Englund became close to Brando and eventually directed him in The Ugly American. When Brando passed, Englund wrote a memoir about their friendship and Brando as a person, entitled “Marlon Brando: The Way It’s Never Been Done Before.”
3. Englund Was a Nephew of Actor Jack Albertson
Englund was born in 1926 to actress Mabel Albertson. His mother had a relatively successful acting career, making appearances on shows such as Bewitched and The Munsters. Mabel Albertson’s brother, Jack Albertson, was also a successful actor.
In his career, Albertson won Tony and Oscar awards for his work in The Subject Was Roses and its film adaptation, as well as an Emmy award for Chico and the Man. His most recognizable work, however, is as Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
4. Her Son Morgan Played Bryan on ‘Guiding Light’
Guiding Light is an American television and radio soap opera. It holds the world record for the longest-running drama in American television history, being broadcast from 1952 up until 2009. It involves a number of complex storylines, along with a variety of actors and characters throughout the years.
One such actor was Leachman’s son, Morgan Englund. Englund first appeared in May 1989, and was a regular character until leaving the show in 1995. He later made a few guest appearances for the show’s final episodes.
After leaving Guiding Light, Englund tried out a variety of different careers. In an interview with Soap Opera Digest Englund explained a bit about his career so far. “I tried to make a career in country music and flew to Nashville a lot,” he says. “I wanted something steady that my kids and I could be proud of, so that led me to first-responder type of work and ultimately to the fire department. I was a paramedic for four years and then I joined the fire department at 41 years old.”
5. Leachman & Her Family Were Neighbors With Judy Garland & Sid Luft
During the early 1960s Englund and Leachman found themselves neighbors with Judy Garland and her third husband, Sid Luft. Luft was also Garland’s tour manager and producer at the time. They had two children, Lorna Luft and Joey Luft. Garland divorced Sid Luft in 1963 on the ground of mental cruelty, and also claimed he was an alcoholic.
According to Lorna Luft, Leachman was well aware of the turmoil in the Luft home. Leachman would make the Luft children meals and always make them feel welcome when they needed a place to stay.