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'She is irreplaceable': Mel Brooks, Ed Asner, Viola Davis, other luminaries honor Cloris Leachman

Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
·7 min read

During a stellar eight-decade career, Cloris Leachman worked with top Hollywood actors and directors, many of whom offered tributes Wednesday following her death at the age of 94.

What better place to start than Mel Brooks, who directed Leachman's memorable portrayal of Frau Blücher in the 1974 classic "Young Frankenstein." After the sad news broke, Twitter was atwitter with such Frau references as Ovaltine, whinnying horses and "He vas my boyfriend."

“Cloris was insanely talented. She could make you laugh or cry at the drop of a hat. Always such a pleasure to have on set. Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris’ unforgettable Frau Blücher," Brooks tweeted. "She is irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed.”

Unforgettable: Cloris Leachman, beloved as TV's 'Mary Tyler Moore Show' neighbor Phyllis, dies at 94

Leachman won a supporting actress Oscar for a dramatic turn in 1971's "The Last Picture Show" at the same time she was becoming known to millions as haughty, insecure, yet somehow lovable Phyllis Lindstrom, Mary Richards' annoying landlord and friend on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Edward Asner, one of Leachman's "Moore" co-stars, shared a sweet photo from their final time together at Asner's 90th birthday celebration in 2019.

“A picture from the last time I saw you. Always beautiful. Nothing I could say would top the enormity of my love for you. Until we meet again darling,” he tweeted.

Leachman made a big impact across generations, too. Amber Tamblyn remembered Leachman fondly from working with her on "Joan of Arcadia."

"I've been lucky to work with some of the best artists in my 20+ year career. Cloris Leachman on ('Joan of Arcadia') was one of them. What a brilliant, fearless firecracker she was and will be remembered as. Fly safe now, dear Cloris," she wrote.

Lynda Carter, who worked with Leachman on her 1970s "Wonder Woman" series, had her own photographic memento from when Leachman guest starred as Queen Hippolyta.

"Cloris Leachman was queen of the Amazons and a queen of industry, breaking barriers and inspiring women in film and TV for decades. She was a sweet TV mom and a riot to work with. I will miss you, along with the smiles and laughter you brought everywhere you went, Cloris," she wrote.

Others described Leachman as a real-life scene stealer and on-screen inspiration.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson of "Modern Family" recalled Leachman's show-stopping behavior.

"The 1st time I met #ClorisLeachman was at a fundraiser. Without even saying hello, she came over to our table & started clearing our plates while we were mid bite. She took them & stacked them on a neighboring table. She did this until everything was gone, then walked away. RIP," he wrote.

Leachman's ribald side is on full display in a John Stamos tweet with a video clip from a roast for his fellow "Full House" alum Bob Saget. "God I loved her. RIP #ClorisLeachman," Stamos wrote.

Saget offered his own tribute: "So sad over the loss of the brilliant Cloris Leachman. Beyond being an Academy award winner, her hilarious role in 'Young Frankenstein,' and being 'Phyllis,' I had the pleasure of being roasted by her on television. My deepest sympathies to her loved ones."

And producer-director Greg Garcia, who worked with Leachman on the comedy series "Raising Hope," conveyed her playful side in a photo and tweet: "Very sad to find out we lost an absolute legend today, Cloris Leachman. I can’t squeeze into a tweet all the fun times I had with this woman and how much I loved her so I’ll just say she’ll be extremely missed. She was the definition of one of a kind."

Leachman also received kudos from her acting peers – and that's a pretty small club.

Fellow Oscar winner Viola Davis echoed those in later generations as she recalled watching Leachman on the big and small screens when she was young.

"I loved your work!!! Just LOVED!! I grew up watching Phyllis and The Last Picture Show. Your consistent excellence, ability to morph, and bravery will be sorely missed," she wrote. "RIP Cloris Leachman! Godspeed"

And, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, an Emmy magnet much like Leachman was, acknowledged her influence: "#ClorisLeachman’s perfect performance as Frau Blucher had an enormous impact on my life. She was sublime. 'He vas my boyfriend!' RIP Cloris Leachman"

Steve Martin tweeted a “salute to Cloris Leachman, who brought comedy’s mysteries to the big and small screen.”

Director Edgar Wright ("Baby Driver," "The World's End") wanted to make sure the public knew of what he considers her best performance.

"Brilliant and memorable though it is, Cloris Leachman's best performance in a 1970's classic shot in B&W is not 'Young Frankenstein' but her role in 'The Last Picture Show'. If you only know her as Frau Blücher, then prepare to be amazed," he wrote.

Author Stephen King agrees, as he remembers Leachman being "so good" in "Picture Show." "Remember her throwing the coffee pot?" he wrote.

And while Leachman is now gone, fans can savor her film and TV work forever. As Wright correctly instructed: Prepare to be amazed.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Cloris Leachman honored by Mel Brooks, Viola Davis and other stars