Oscar-winning actress Cloris Leachman dies aged 94

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Actress Cloris Leachman has died in California at the age of 94.

The Oscar winner died in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, with her daughter by her side, according to her publicist.

Leachman's early career saw her appear on TV as the mother of Timmy in the Lassie series, a frontier prostitute in Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, and the member of a crime family in Crazy Mama.

The Last Picture Show - 1971
Timothy Bottoms, Cloris Leachman

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Leachman won an Oscar for her role in The Last Picture Show

She won a best supporting actress Oscar in 1971 for her portrayal of a lonely housewife in The Last Picture Show and was perhaps best known for playing nosey neighbour Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Speaking of the role in 1973, she said: "Basically I don't care how I look, ugly or beautiful.

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"I don't think that's what beauty is. On a single day, any of us is ugly or beautiful.

"I'm heartbroken I can't be the witch in The Wizard Of Oz. But I'd also like to be the good witch. Phyllis combines them both.

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"I'm kind of like that in life. I'm magic, and I believe in magic. There's supposed to be a point in life when you aren't supposed to stay believing that. I haven't reached it yet."

Cast of the ' Mary Tyler Moore Show' actresses Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore & Valerie Harper, Hollywood. 1970

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Leachman (left) with Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper in 1970

In more recent times she had an occasional role as Ida in Malcolm In The Middle, winning Emmys in 2002 and 2006, among eight Emmys she was awarded during her career.

She was also a contestant on the 2008-09 season of ABC's Dancing With The Stars; at the time, she was the oldest competitor in the show's history, at age 82.

Leachman was born and raised in Iowa but moved to the outskirts of Chicago, competing in the 1946 Miss America competition as Miss Illinois.

Her longtime manager Juliet Green told NBC: "She loved her children and her grandchildren ferociously.

"A lifelong vegetarian, she was a passionate advocate for animal rights. The family requests that any donations in her name be made to PETA or Last Chance for Animals."

She is survived by three sons and a daughter.

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