Guess Who’ll Be Watching

Leachman_cloris
He’ll be watching — and he’ll be cheering her. That’s what Mel Brooks told me today when I told him a phone conversation I’d just had with Cloris Leachman, who’ll be a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars” starting Monday. As you recall, Cloris starred as “Frau Blucher” in Brooks’ film, “Young Frankenstein” (as well as in his “High Anxiety” and “The History of the World, Part I”). She was anxious to reprise her “Frau Blucher” role in the B’way musical and she tested. But, because the role (eight performances a week) was very strenuous, Andrea Martin got the part. “We didn’t want Cloris (who is 81) to die on stage,” said Mel Brooks.   

Cloris, now 82, sounded terrific on the phone and told me of her determination to do “Dancing.” “Twice, they (the show’s producers ) said I couldn’t do it — but the third time, after an hour-long meeting with my manager (son George Englund, Jr.), they said ‘OK’.” Her family, from ex-husband George Englund, Sr. to granddaughter Skye, will be on hand. Cloris has been rehearsing hours daily with her partner Mark “Corky” Ballas, Sr. and she laughingly admits, following these sessions, “I go to bed!”

Their first dance Monday is the Fox Trot, the second is the Mambo. If Cloris continues into the competition, Quentin Tarantino told her he’d rearrange the shooting schedule in Berlin for her role in “Inglorious Bastards.” “I’m so proud,” she says “It’s the best film script I’ve ever read. It’s beyond belief.” She plays an elderly Jewish woman in WWII.

Cloris recently also played an “old Jewish woman” married to Eli Wallach, with whom she worked with in the first group of the Actors Studio. Currently Cloris can be seen in “The Women,” stealing scenes when she’s on screen. She recalls working for George Cukor (director of the original “Women”) in “The Chapman Report” in 1962. “He [Cukor] was mad at me,” laughs Cloris, “and he kept my back to the camera all the time.” It didn’t stop her career, which now also includes co-starring in “The American Cowslip” with Val Kilmer, Diane Ladd, Rip Torn and Peter Falk, in which Cloris displays yet another talent — playing poker. 

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