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Angela Lansbury

Dame Angela Lansbury
File:Studio publicity Angela Lansbury.jpg
Lansbury in 1950
Born Angela Brigid Lansbury
(1925-10-16) October 16, 1925 (age 94)
Regent's Park, London, England[1]
Nationality Irish – British-American
Occupation Actress, singer, songwriter, producer, writer
Years active 1944–present
Spouse(s) Richard Cromwell (m. 1945; div. 1946)
Peter Shaw (m. 1949; his death 2003)
Children Anthony Peter Shaw (born 1952)
Deirdre Angela Shaw (born 1953)

Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, DBE (born October 16, 1925) is an English-American actress and singer who has appeared in theatre, television, and films. Her career has spanned seven decades, much of it based in the United States, and her work has attracted international attention.

Lansbury was born in central London to actress Moyna Macgill and politician Edgar Lansbury. In 1940, she moved to New York City in the United States, where she studied acting. Proceeding to Hollywood, Los Angeles in 1942, she signed to MGM and got her first film roles, in Gaslight (1944) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), earning her two Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe Award. She appeared in eleven further MGM films, mostly in minor roles, and after her contract ended in 1952 she began supplementing her cinematic work with theatrical appearances. Although her appearance in the film adaptation of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) was widely acclaimed, she finally gained stardom for her theatrical starring role in the Broadway musical Mame (1966). Relocating from California to County Cork, Ireland in 1970, she continued with a variety of theatrical and cinematic appearances throughout that decade.

Moving to television in 1984, Lansbury achieved widespread fame as the fictional writer and sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the American murder mystery series Murder, She Wrote, which ran for twelve seasons until 1996, becoming one of the longest-running detective drama series in television history. She assumed ownership of the series and was executive producer for the final four seasons. She also moved into voice work, thereby contributing to animated films like Disney's Beauty and the Beast (1991). Since then, she has toured prolifically in a variety of international productions, and continued to make occasional film appearances.

Lansbury has won an Honorary Oscar, five Tony Awards, six Golden Globes and an Olivier Award. She has also been nominated for numerous other industry awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress on three occasions, and various Primetime Emmy Awards on eighteen occasions. Further, she has been cited as both a gay icon and an American icon, with a cult fan following.

Early life

Childhood: 1925–42

Lansbury was born in Hamilton Terrace, Regent's Park, London, United Kingdom on October 16, 1925.[2] Although her birthplace has often been cited as Poplar, East London,[3] she has rejected this, asserting that while she had ancestral connections to Poplar, she was born in the Regent's Park area of Central London.[4][1] Her mother was Belfast-born Irish actress Moyna Macgill (born Charlotte Lillian McIldowie), who regularly appeared on stage in the West End and who had also starred in several films.[5] Her father was the wealthy English timber merchant and politician Edgar Lansbury, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and former mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar.[6] Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader and anti-war activist George Lansbury, a man she felt "awed" by, considering him "a giant in my youth".[7] Angela had an older half sister, Isolde, who was the offspring of Moyna's previous marriage to Reginald Denham.[8] In January 1930, when Angela was four, her mother gave birth to twin boys, Bruce and Edgar, leading the Lansburys to move from their Poplar flat to a house at 7 Weymouth Avenue, Mill Hill, North London; on weekends they would retreat to a farm in Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire.[9]

"I'm eternally grateful for the Irish side of me. That's where I got my sense of comedy and whimsy. As for the English half–that's my reserved side ... But put me onstage, and the Irish comes out. The combination makes a good mix for acting."

Template:Spaced ndash Angela Lansbury.[10]

When Lansbury was nine, her father died from stomach cancer; she retreated into playing characters as a coping mechanism.[11] In 2014, Lansbury described this event as "the defining moment of my life. Nothing before or since has affected me so deeply."[4] Facing financial difficulty, her mother became engaged to a Scottish colonel, Leckie Forbes, and moved into his house in Hampstead, with Angela receiving an education at South Hampstead High School from 1934 until 1939.[12] She nevertheless considered herself largely self-educated, learning from books, theater and cinema.[13] She became a self-professed "complete movie maniac", visiting the cinema regularly and imagining herself as certain characters.[14] Keen on playing the piano, she briefly studied music at the Ritman School of Dancing, and then in 1940 began studying acting at the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art in Kensington, West London, first appearing onstage as a lady-in-waiting in the school's production of Maxwell Anderson's Mary of Scotland.[15]

That year, Angela's grandfather died, and with the onset of The Blitz, Macgill decided to take Angela, Bruce and Edgar to the United States; Isolde remained in Britain with her new husband, the actor Peter Ustinov. Macgill secured a job supervising sixty British children who were being evacuated to North America aboard the Duchess of Athol, arriving in Montreal, Canada, in mid-August.[16] From there, she proceeded by train to New York City, where she was financially sponsored by the Wall Street businessman Charles T. Smith, moving in with his family at their home by Lake Mahopac.[17] Angela gained a scholarship from the American Theatre Wing allowing her to study at the Feagin School of Drama and Radio, where she appeared in performances of William Congreve's The Way of the World and Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. She graduated in March 1942, by which time the family had moved to a flat at 55 Morton Street, Greenwich Village.[18]

Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray: 1942–45

Macgill secured work in a Canadian touring production of Tonight at 8:30, and was joined in Canada by Angela, who gained her first theatrical job as a nightclub act at the Samovar Club, Montreal. Having gained the job by claiming to be 19 when she was 16, her act consisted of her singing songs by Noël Coward, and earned her $60 a week.[19] She returned to New York City in August 1942, but her mother had moved to Hollywood, Los Angeles, in order to resurrect her cinematic career; Lansbury and her brothers followed.[20] Moving into a bungalow in Laurel Canyon, both Angela and her mother obtained Christmas jobs at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles; Moyna was fired for incompetence, leaving the family to subsist on Angela's paycheck of $28 a week.[21] Befriending a group of gay men, Angela became privy to the city's underground gay scene,[22] and with her mother attended lectures by the spiritual guru Krishnamurti, at one of these meeting Aldous Huxley.[22]

At a party hosted by her mother, Angela met John van Druten, who had recently co-authored a script for Gaslight (1944), a mystery-thriller based on Patrick Hamilton's 1938 play, Gas Light. Set in Victorian London, the film was being directed by George Cukor and starred Ingrid Bergman in the lead role of Paula Alquist, a woman being psychologically tormented by her husband. Druten suggested that Lansbury would be perfect for the role of Nancy Oliver, a conniving cockney maid; she was accepted for the part, although because she was 17, a social worker had to accompany her on the set. Obtaining an agent, Earl Kramer, she was signed to a seven-year contract with MGM, earning $500 a week and adopting "Angela Lansbury" as her stage name.[23] Upon release, Gaslight received mixed critical reviews, although Lansbury's role was widely praised; the film earned six Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Supporting Actress for Lansbury.[24]

Her next film appearance was as Edwina Brown, a minor character in National Velvet (1944); the film proved to be a major commercial hit, with Lansbury developing a lifelong friendship with co-star Elizabeth Taylor.[25] Lansbury next starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), a cinematic adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel of the same name, which was again set in Victorian London. Directed by Albert Lewin, Lansbury was cast as Sybil Vane, a working-class music hall singer who falls in love with the protagonist, Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield). Although the film was not a financial success, Lansbury's performance once more drew praise, earning her a Golden Globe Award, and she was again nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, losing to Anne Revere, her co-star in National Velvet.[26]

Later MGM films: 1945–51

On September 27, 1945, Lansbury married Richard Cromwell, an artist and decorator whose acting career had come to a standstill. Their marriage was troubled; Cromwell was gay, and had married Lansbury in the unsuccessful hope that it would turn him heterosexual. The marriage ended in less than a year when she filed for divorce on September 11, 1946, but they remained friends until his death.[27] In December 1946, she was introduced to Peter Pullen Shaw at a party held by former co-star Hurd Hatfield in Ojai Valley. Shaw was an aspiring actor, also signed to MGM, and had recently left a relationship with Joan Crawford. He and Lansbury became a couple, living together before she proposed marriage.[28] They were intent on getting married back in Britain, but the Church of England refused to marry two divorcees. Instead, they wed at St. Columba's Church, a place of worship under the jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland, in Knightsbridge, London in August 1949, followed by a honeymoon in France.[29] Returning to the U.S., where they settled into Lansbury's home in Rustic Canyon, Malibu,[30] in 1951 the couple each became naturalized U.S. citizens, albeit retained their British citizenship through a process of dual nationality.[31]

File:Angela Lansbury in Till the Clouds Roll By.jpg
Lansbury in a scene from MGM's Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), one of her earliest film appearances

Following on from the success of Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray, MGM cast Lansbury in eleven further films until her contract with the company ended in 1952. Keeping her among their B-list stars, it used her less than their similar-aged actresses; biographers Edelman and Kupferberg believed that the majority of these films were "mediocre", doing little to further her career.[32] This view was echoed by Cukor, who believed Lansbury had been "consistently miscast" by MGM.[33] She was repeatedly made to portray older characters, typically villainesses, and as a result became increasingly dissatisfied with working for MGM, commenting that "I kept wanting to play the Jean Arthur roles, and Mr Mayer kept casting me as a series of venal bitches."[34] The company themselves were suffering from the post-1948 slump in cinema sales, as a result slashing film budgets and cutting their number of staff as a result.[34]

1946 saw Lansbury play her first American character as Em, a honky-tonk saloon singer in the Oscar-winning Wild West musical The Harvey Girls.[35] She appeared in The Hoodlum Saint (1946), Till the Clouds Roll By (1947), If Winter Comes (1947) – a film which she particularly despised – Tenth Avenue Angel (1948), The Three Musketeers (1948), State of the Union (1948), often considered her strongest role of the period, and The Red Danube (1949). She was loaned by MGM first to United Artists for their film, The Private Affairs of Bel Ami (1947), and then to Paramount for Samson and Delilah (1949).[36] She appeared as a maidservant in Kind Lady (1951), as a French adventuress in Mutiny (1952) and as a villainess in Remains to Be Seen (1953).[37] Turning to radio, in 1948 Lansbury appeared in an audio adaptation of Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage for NBC University Theatre, and the following year she starred in their adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.[38] Moving into television, she appeared in a 1950 episode of Robert Montgomery Presents adapted from A.J. Cronin's The Citadel.[39]

Mid career

The Manchurian Candidate and minor roles: 1952–65

File:Angela Lansbury NYWTS.jpg
Lansbury with her children in 1957

Unhappy with the roles she was being given by MGM, Lansbury instructed her manager, Harry Friedman of MCA Inc., to terminate her contract in 1952.[40] She was pregnant with Shaw's child, and that year her son Anthony was born.[41] Soon after the birth she joined the East Coast touring productions of two former-Broadway plays: Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's Remains to be Seen and Louis Verneuil's Affairs of State.[42] Biographer Margaret Bonanno later stated that at this point, Lansbury's career had "hit an all-time low".[43] In April 1953, her daughter Deirdre Angela Shaw was born.[44] Shaw himself had a son by a previous marriage, David, and gaining legal custody of the boy in 1953 he brought him to California to live with the family; now with three children to care for, Lansbury moved to a larger house in San Vincente Boulevard in Santa Monica.[45] However, Lansbury did not feel entirely comfortable in the Hollywood social scene, later asserting that as a result of her British roots, "in Hollywood, I always felt like a stranger in a strange land."[46] In 1959 the family relocated to Malibu, settling into a house on the Pacific Coast Highway that had been designed by Aaron Green; there, she and Peter escaped the Hollywood scene, and were able to send their children to state school.[47]

Returning to cinema as a freelance actress, Lansbury found herself typecast as an older, maternal figure, appearing in this capacity in most of the films in which she appeared during this period.[48] As she later stated, "Hollywood made me old before my time", noting that in her twenties she was receiving fan mail from people who believed her to be in her forties.[49] She obtained minor roles in such films as A Life at Stake (1954), A Lawless Street (1955), and The Purple Mask (1955), later describing the latter as "the worst movie I ever made."[50] She played Princess Gwendolyn in the comedy film The Court Jester (1956), before taking on the role of a wife who kills her husband in Please Murder Me (1956). From there she appeared as Minnie Littlejohn in The Long Hot Summer (1958), and as Mabel Claremont in The Reluctant Debutante (1958), for which she filmed in Paris, France.[51] Biographer Martin Gottfried has claimed that it was these latter two cinematic appearances which restored Lansbury's status as an "A-picture actress."[52] Throughout this period, she continued making appearances on television, starring in episodes of Revlon Mirror Theatre, Ford Theatre, and The George Gobel Show, and became a regular on game show Pantomime Quiz.[53]

In April 1957 she debuted on Broadway at the Henry Miller Theatre in Hotel Paradiso, a French burlesque set in Paris, directed by Peter Glenville. The play only ran for 15 weeks, although she earned good reviews for her role as "Marcel Cat;" she later stated had she not appeared in the play, her "whole career would have fizzled out."[54] She followed this with an appearance in 1960s Broadway performance of A Taste of Honey at the Lyceum Theatre, directed by Tony Richardson and George Devine. Lansbury played Helen, the boorish, verbally abusive, otherwise absentee mother of Josephine (played by Joan Plowright, only four years Lansbury's junior), remarking that she gained "a great deal of satisfaction" from the role.[55] During the show's run, Lansbury developed a friendship with her co-star Joan Plowright, as well as with Plowright's lover Laurence Olivier; it was from Lansbury's rented apartment on East 97th Street that Plowright and Olivier eloped to be married.[56]

After a well-reviewed appearance in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1959) – for which she had filmed in the Australian Outback – and a minor role in A Breath of Scandal (1960), she appeared in 1961's Blue Hawaii as the mother of a character played by Elvis Presley.[57] Acknowledging that the film was of poor quality, she commented that she agreed to appear in it because "I was desperate".[58] Her role as Mavis in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) drew critical acclaim, as did her appearance in All Fall Down (1962) as a manipulative, destructive mother.[59] In 1962 she appeared in the Cold War thriller The Manchurian Candidate as Eleanor Iselin, cast for the role by John Frankenheimer. Although Lansbury played actor Laurence Harvey's mother in the film, she was in fact only three years older than him.[60] She had agreed to appear in the film after reading the original novel, describing it as "one of the most exciting political books I ever read".[61] Biographers Edelman and Kupferberg considered this role "her enduring cinematic triumph,"[62] while Gottfried stated that it was "the strongest, the most memorable, and the best picture she ever made... she gives her finest film performance in it."[63] Lansbury received her third Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for the film, and was bothered by the fact that she lost.[64]

She followed this with a performance as Sybil Logan in In the Cool of the Day (1963) – a film she renounced as awful – before appearing as wealthy Isabel Boyd in The World of Henry Orient (1964) and the widow Phyllis in Dear Heart (1964).[65] Her first appearance in a theatrical musical was the short-lived Anyone Can Whistle (1964), written by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim. An experimental work, it opened at the Majestic Theatre on Broadway, but was critically panned and closed after nine performances. Lansbury had played the role of crooked mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper, but had personal differences with Laurents and was glad when the show closed.[66] She appeared in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), a cinematic biopic of Jesus, but was cut almost entirely from the final edit. She followed this with an appearance as Mama Jean Bello in Harlow (1965), as Lady Blystone in The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders (1965), and as Gloria in Mister Buddwing (1966).[67] Despite her well-received performances in a number of films, "celluloid superstardom" evaded her, and she became increasingly dissatisfied with these minor roles, feeling that none allowed her to explore her potential as an actress.[68]

Mame and theatrical stardom: 1966–69

In 1966, she took on the title role of Mame Dennis in the musical Mame, Jerry Herman's musical adaptation of the novel Auntie Mame. The director's first choice for the role had been Rosalind Russell, who had declined. Lansbury actively sought the role in the hope that it would mark a change in her career. When she was chosen for the role, it came as a surprise to theatre critics, who believed it would go to a better-known actress; Lansbury was forty years old, and this was her first major role.[69] Mame Dennis was a glamorous character, with over twenty costume changes throughout the play, and Lansbury's role involved a number of songs and dance routines.[70] First appearing in Philadelphia and then Boston, Mame opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in May 1966.[71] Reviews of Lansbury's performance were outstandingly positive.[72] In The New York Times Stanley Kauffmann wrote: "Miss Lansbury is a singing-dancing actress, not a singer or dancer who also acts... In this marathon role she has wit, poise, warmth and a very taking coolth."[73] Mame gained Lansbury a cult following in the gay community, something that she later attributed to the fact that Mame Dennis was "every gay person's idea of glamour... Everything about Mame coincided with every young man's idea of beauty and glory and it was lovely."[74]

Lansbury received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical,[75][76][77] commenting on her success by stating that "Everyone loves you, everyone loves the success, and enjoys it as much as you do. And it lasts as long as you are on that stage and as long as you keep coming out of that stage door."[78] The stardom achieved through Mame allowed Lansbury to make further appearances on television, such as on Perry Como's Thanksgiving Special in November 1966, and an episode of CBS-TV show What's My Line? where she made a plea for the Muscular Dystrophy Association fund-raising drive.[79] She was invited to star in a musical performance for the 1968 Academy Awards ceremony, and co-hosted that year's Tony Awards with former brother-in-law Peter Ustinov.[80] That year, Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Club elected her "Woman of the Year".[81] When the film of Mame was put into production, Lansbury hoped to be offered the part, but it instead went to Lucille Ball, an established box-office success; Lansbury considered it "one of my bitterest disappointments".[82] Her personal life was further complicated when she learned that both of her children had become involved with the counterculture of the 1960s and had been using recreational drugs; as a result, Anthony had become addicted to cocaine and heroin.[83]

Lansbury followed the success of Mame with a performance as Countess Aurelia, the 75-year-old Parisian eccentric in Dear World, a musical adaptation of Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot. The show opened at Broadway's Mark Hellinger Theatre in February 1969, but Lansbury found it a "pretty depressing" experience. Reviews of her performance were positive, and she was awarded her second Tony Award on the basis of it. Reviews of the show more generally were critical, however, and it ended after 132 performances.[84][85] She followed this with an appearance in the title role in the musical Prettybelle, based upon Jean Arnold's The Rape of Prettybelle. Set in the Deep South, it dealt with issues of racism, with Lansbury as a wealthy alcoholic who seeks sexual encounters with black men. A controversial topic, it opened in Boston but received poor reviews, being cancelled before it reached Broadway.[84][86][87] In 1982, a recording of the show was released by Varèse Sarabande.[88]

Ireland and Gypsy: 1970–78

She turned down several cinematic roles, declining the lead in The Killing of Sister George and the role of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.[89] Instead, she accepted the role of the Countess von Ornstein, an aging German aristocrat who falls in love with a younger man, in Something for Everyone (1970), and in the same year also appeared as the middle-aged English witch Miss Price in the Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The latter was her first lead in a screen musical, and led to her publicizing the film on television programs like The David Frost Show.[90] 1970 was a traumatic year for the Lansbury family, as Peter underwent a hip replacement, and in September, their Malibu home was destroyed in a brush fire.[91] They purchased a house in rural County Cork, Republic of Ireland, and took Anthony there to recover from his drug addiction after he quit using cocaine and heroin in 1971.[92] He subsequently enrolled in the Webber-Douglas School, his mother's alma mater, and became a professional actor, before moving into television directing.[93] Angela and her husband did not return to California, instead dividing their time between Cork and New York City, where they lived in an apartment opposite Lincoln Center.[93]

In 1972, Lansbury returned to London's West End to perform in the Royal Shakespeare Company's theatrical production of Edward Albee's All Over at the Aldwych Theatre. She portrayed the mistress of a dying New England millionaire, and although the play's reviews were mixed, Lansbury's acting was widely praised.[94] This was followed by a revival of Mame, which was then touring the United States,[95] after which she returned to the West End to play the character of Rose in the musical Gypsy. She had initially turned down the role, not wishing to be in the shadow of Ethel Merman, who had portrayed the character in the original Broadway production, but eventually accepted it; when the show started in May 1973, she earned a standing ovation and rave reviews. Settling into a Belgravia flat, she was soon in demand among London society, having dinners held in her honour.[96] Following the culmination of the London run, in 1974 Gypsy went on a tour of the U.S., and in Chicago Lansbury was awarded the Sarah Siddons Award for her performance. The show eventually reached Broadway, where it ran until January 1975; a critical success, it earned Lansbury her third Tony Award.[97] After several months' break, Gypsy then toured throughout the country again in the summer of 1975.[98]

Desiring to move from musicals, Lansbury decided that she wanted to appear in a production of one of William Shakespeare's plays. She obtained the role of Gertrude in the National Theatre Company's production of Hamlet, staged at the Old Vic theatre. Directed by Peter Hall, the production ran from December 1975 to May 1976, to mixed reviews; Lansbury later commented that she "hated" the role, believing it too restrained.[99] Her mood was worsened by the November 1975 death of her mother Moyna in California; Angela had her body cremated and the ashes scattered near their Irish home.[100] Her next theatrical appearance was in two one-act plays by Edward Albee, Counting the Ways and Listening, performed side by side at the Hartford Stage Company in Connecticut. Reviews of the production were mixed, although Lansbury was again singled out for praise.[101] This was followed by another revival tour of Gypsy.[102] In April 1978, Lansbury then appeared in 24 performances of The King and I revival as Mrs Anna, replacing Constance Towers, who was on a short break; it was staged in Broadway's Uris Theatre.[103] Her first cinematic role in 7 years was as novelist and murder victim Salome Otterbourne in Death on the Nile (1978), an adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel of the same name (1937). She starred alongside former brother-in-law Peter Ustinov and Bette Davis, who became a close friend. The role earned Lansbury the National Board of Review award for Best Supporting Actress of 1978.[104]

Sweeney Todd and continued cinematic work: 1979–84

In March 1979, Lansbury first appeared as Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a Stephen Sondheim musical directed by Harold Prince. Opening at Broadway's Uris Theatre, she starred alongside Len Cariou as Sweeney Todd, the murderous barber in 19th century London. After being offered the role, she jumped on the opportunity due to the involvement of Sondheim in the project; she commented that she loved "the extraordinary wit and intelligence of his lyrics."[105] She remained in the role for 14 months before being replaced by Dorothy Loudon; it received mixed critical reviews, although earned Lansbury her fourth Tony Award and After Dark magazine's Ruby Award for Broadway Performer of the Year.[106] She returned to the role in October 1980 for a ten-month tour of six U.S. cities; the production was also filmed, and broadcast on the Entertainment Channel.[107] In 1982, she took on the role of an upper middle-class housewife who champions workers' rights in A Little Family Business, a farce set in Baltimore. It debuted at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre before heading on to Broadway's Martin Beck Theatre. It was critically panned and induced protests of racism from the Japanese-American community.[108] That year, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame,[109] and the following year appeared in a Mame revival at Broadway's Gershwin Theatre. Although Lansbury was praised, the show was a commercial flop, with Lansbury noting that "I realized that it's not a show of today. It's a period piece."[110]

"A small number of people have seen me on the stage. [Television] is a chance for me to play to a vast U.S. public, and I think that's a chance you don't pass up... I'm interested in reaching everybody. I don't want to reach just the people who can pay forty-five or fifty dollars for a [theater] seat."

Lansbury worked prolifically in cinema, and 1979 also saw Lansbury appear as Miss Froy in The Lady Vanishes, a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's famous 1938 film.[112] The following year she appeared in The Mirror Crack'd, another film based on an Agatha Christie novel, this time as Miss Marple, a sleuth in 1950s Kent. Lansbury hoped to get away from the depiction of the role made famous by Margaret Rutherford, instead returning to Christie's description of the character; in this she created a precursor to her later role of Jessica Fletcher. She was signed to appear in two sequels as Miss Marple, but these were never made.[113] Lansbury's next film was the animated The Last Unicorn (1982), for which she provided the voice of the witch Mommy Fortuna.[112] Returning to musicals, she starred as Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance (1983), a film based on Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera of the same name, and while filming it in London sang on a recording of The Beggar's Opera.[114] This was followed by an appearance as the grandmother in Gothic fantasy film The Company of Wolves (1984).[115] Lansbury had also begun work for television, appearing in a 1982 television film with Bette Davis titled Little Gloria... Happy at Last.[116] She followed this with an appearance in CBS's The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story (1983), later describing it as "the most unsophisticated thing you can imagine."[116] A BBC television film followed, A Talent for Murder (1984), in which she played a wheelchair-bound mystery writer; although describing it as "a rush job", she agreed to do it to work with co-star Laurence Olivier.[117] Two further miniseries featuring Lansbury appeared in 1984: Lace and The First Olympics: Athens 1896.[118]

Global fame

Murder, She Wrote: 1984–1996

File:Angela Lansbury.jpg
Angela Lansbury in September 1989

In 1983, Lansbury was offered two main television roles, one in a sitcom and the other in a detective series; although her agents advocated the former, Lansbury instead went with the latter.[119] The series, Murder, She Wrote, centred on the character of Jessica Fletcher, a retired school teacher from Cabot Cove, Maine, who becomes a successful detective novelist after her husband's death, also solving murders that she comes across in her travels; Lansbury described the character as "an American Miss Marple."[119] The series had been created by Peter S. Fischer, Richard Levinson, and William Link, who had earlier had success with Columbo, and the role of Jessica Fletcher had been first offered to Jean Stapleton, who had declined it.[120] The pilot episode, "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes", premiered on CBS on September 30, 1984, with the rest of the first season airing on Sundays from 8 to 9 pm. Although critical reviews were mixed, it proved highly popular, with the pilot having a Nielsen rating of 18.9, and the first season being top in its time slot.[121] Designed as inoffensive family viewing, despite its topic the show eschewed depicting violence or gore, following the "whodunit" format rather than those of most contemporary U.S. crime shows; Lansbury herself commented that "best of all, there's no violence. I hate violence."[122]

Lansbury was defensive over Jessica Fletcher, having an input on the costumes that she would wear and rejecting pressure from network executives to put her in a relationship, believing that she should remain a strong single female.[123] When she believed that a scriptwriter had made Jessica do or say things that did not fit her personality, Lansbury ensured that the script was changed.[123] She saw Jessica as a role model for older female viewers, praising her "enormous, universal appeal – that was an accomplishment I never expected in my entire life."[124] Lansbury biographers Rob Edelman and Audrey E. Kupferberg described the series as "a television landmark" in the U.S. for having an older female character as the protagonist, thereby paving the way for later series like The Golden Girls.[125] Lansbury herself noted that "I think it's the first time a show has really been aimed at the middle-aged audience",[126] and although it was most popular among senior citizens, it gradually gained a younger audience; by 1991, a third of viewers were under fifty.[127] It gained continually high ratings throughout most of its run, outdoing rivals in its time slot such as Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories on NBC.[128] In February 1987, a spin-off was produced, The Law & Harry McGraw, although it was short-lived.[129]

"I know why [Murder, She Wrote was a success]. There was never any blood, never any violence. And there was always a satisfying conclusion to a whodunit. The jigsaw was complete. And I loved Jessica's everywoman character. I think that's what made her so acceptable to an across-the-board audience."

Template:Spaced ndash Angela Lansbury, 2014.[130]

As the show went on, Lansbury assumed a larger role behind the scenes.[131] In 1989, her own company, Corymore Productions, began co-producing the show with Universal.[132] Nevertheless, she began to tire of the series, and in particular the long working hours, stating that the 1990–91 season would be the show's last.[133] She changed her mind after being appointed executive producer for the 1992–93 season, something she felt "made it far more interesting to me."[134] For the seventh season, the show's setting relocated to New York City, where Jessica had taken a job teaching criminology at Manhattan University; the move was an attempt to attract younger viewers.[135] Having become a "Sunday-night institution" in the U.S., the show's ratings improved during the early 1990s, becoming a Top Five program.[136] However, CBS executives, hoping to gain a larger audience, moved it to Thursdays at 8:00 pm, opposite NBC's new sitcom, Friends. Lansbury was reportedly angry at the move, believing it ignored the show's core audience.[134] The series ended in 1996.[137] Tom Shales wrote in The Washington Post, "The title of the show's last episode, "Death by Demographics," is in itself something of a protest. 'Murder, She Wrote' is partly a victim of commercial television's mad youth mania."[138] At the time it tied the original Hawaii Five-O as the longest-running detective drama series in television history,[136][139] and the role would prove to be the most successful and prominent of Lansbury's career.[140] Both Five-O and Murder, She Wrote were on for 12 seasons (Five-O from 1968–1980, and Murder, She Wrote from 1984–1996). In 2003, the original Law & Order would surpass both as the longest running detective/cop/crime drama in TV history as it entered into its 13th season. It eventually tied Gunsmoke as the longest lasting drama series in TV history as both were on for 20 seasons (Gunsmoke from 1955–1975, and Law & Order from 1990–2010).

Throughout the run of Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury had continued making appearances in other television films, miniseries, and cinema.[141] In 1986 she appeared as the protagonist's mother in Rage of Angels: The Story Continues,[141] and in 1988 portrayed Nan Moore – the mother of a victim of the real-life Korean Air Lines Flight 007 plane crash – in Shootdown; being a mother herself, she had been "enormously touched by the incident".[142] 1989 saw her featured in The Shell Seekers as an Englishwoman recuperating from a heart attack,[143] and in 1990 she starred in The Love She Sought as an American school teacher who falls in love with a Catholic priest while visiting Ireland; Lansbury thought it "a marvelous woman's story."[144] In Mrs 'Arris Goes to Paris, a film directed by her son and executive produced by her stepson, she portrayed a Cockney woman holidaying in 1950s Paris.[145] Her highest profile cinematic role since The Manchurian Candidate was as the voice of the singing teapot Mrs. Potts in the 1991 Disney animation Beauty and the Beast, an appearance she considered a gift to her 3 grandchildren. Lansbury performed the title song to the film, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song and Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.[146][147] Her Murder, She Wrote fame resulted in her being employed to appear in advertisements and infomercials for Bufferin, MasterCard, and the Beatrix Potter Company.[148] In 1988, she released a video titled Angela Lansbury's Positive Moves: My Personal Plan for Fitness and Well-Being, in which she outlined her personal exercise routine, and in 1990 published a book with the same title co-written with Mimi Avins, which she dedicated to her mother.[149][150]

On July 5, 1986, she co-hosted (with Kirk Douglas) the New York Philharmonic's tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, which was televised live on ABC Television.[151]

Return to theatre: 1997–present

File:Angela Lansbury in Deuce 2007.jpg
Angela Lansbury in Deuce, New York City, 2007

Following the end of Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury returned to the theatre. Although cast in the lead role in the 2001 Kander and Ebb musical The Visit, she withdrew from the show before it opened because of her husband's declining health.[152] Lansbury returned to Broadway after a 23-year absence in Deuce, a play by Terrence McNally. The play opened at the Music Box Theatre in May 2007 in a limited run of eighteen weeks.[153] Lansbury received a nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play for her role.[85] She followed this with a portrayal of the role of Madame Arcati in the 2009 Broadway revival of Blithe Spirit, at the Shubert Theatre in March 2009. The New York Times praised her performance,[154] for which she won several awards, including the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play (her fifth Tony, tying her with Julie Harris, although all of Harris's wins were as Best Actress).[155] Lansbury then starred as Madame Armfeldt in the first Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, which opened in December 2009 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.[156] She left the show on June 20, 2010. For this role, she received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, but lost to Katie Finneran.[85]

Lansbury starred in the Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man, alongside James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen and Eric McCormack. The show opened at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on April 1, 2012, with Lansbury leaving on July 22, 2012.[157] The play had positive reviews, with critics such as The New York Times[158] and Variety[159] giving positive reviews for Lansbury's performance as Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge, chair of the party's Women's Division. For her role in this production Lansbury was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play. Lansbury reprised her role as The Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia in the reading of a new musical based on the 1997 Fox Animation Studios feature film Anastasia during the week of July 23, 2012.[160]

Lansbury reprised the role of Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997) and in the video game Kingdom Hearts II (2006). Lansbury made her first theatrical film appearance since 1984 as Aunt Adelaide in Nanny McPhee in 2005.[citation needed] Lansbury co-starred in Mr. Popper's Penguins, opposite Jim Carrey, released in June 2011.[161] In November 2012, she hosted the PBS Thanksgiving special Downton Abbey Revisited, a documentary retrospective of the Downton Abbey television series.[162]

File:AngelaLansbury 2009.jpg
Signing autographs for fans after performing in Blithe Spirit, 2009

Lansbury and James Earl Jones starred in an Australian tour of Driving Miss Daisy, beginning at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane on February 5, 2013. The tour also visited Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, finishing in June 2013.[163]

On November 16, 2013, she received an Academy Honorary Award for her lifetime achievement at the Governors Awards.[164][165]

In 2014, she reprised her 2009 Tony-winning Broadway performance as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit in London's West End, her first London stage appearance in nearly 40 years. Previews ran from March 1, 2014 with the formal opening night on March 18. The show played a limited 15-week engagement at the Gielgud Theatre until June 7, 2014.[166][167] Discussing the character, she asserted: "I love her. She's completely off-the-wall but utterly secure in her own convictions."[4] In April 2014, she made an appearance at The Angela Lansbury Film Festival in Poplar, a screening of some of her most popular films organised by Poplar Film.[168]

Lansbury starred as Madame Arcati in a North American tour of Blithe Spirit from December 2014 to March 2015. The tour included Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington D.C.[169] In April 2015, in her 90th year, she received an Olivier Award as Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Madame Arcati.[170]

Personal life

Lansbury describes herself as "an amalgam of British, Irish and American" although throughout her life she has spoken with a British accent.[4] Lansbury has been married twice; first to the actor Richard Cromwell, when she was 19 and Cromwell was 35. Cromwell and Lansbury eloped and were married in a small civil ceremony on September 27, 1945. The marriage ended in divorce in 1946 and they remained friends until his death in 1960.[171] In 1949 she married actor Peter Shaw, and they remained together for 54 years until his death in 2003; she asserted that "We had the perfect relationship. Not many people can say that."[172][173] They had two children, Anthony Peter Shaw (born January 7, 1952) and Deirdre Angela Shaw (born April 26, 1953). Lansbury repeatedly stated her desire to put her children before her career, but ended up leaving them in California when she was working in other parts of the country for long periods.[174]

In the latter part of the 1960s, both Anthony and Deirdre became involved in the growing counterculture movement and started using recreational drugs. Deirdre developed an acquaintance with the Manson family, while Anthony became addicted to cocaine and heroin, giving it up in 1971.[175] Anthony became a television director, and directed 68 episodes of Murder, She Wrote, also marrying and having three children.[172] Deirdre married a chef and together opened a restaurant in West Los Angeles.[176][172] Lansbury's cousins include the Postgate family, including the animator, writer and social activist Oliver Postgate,[177] as well as the academic and novelist Coral Lansbury, whose son Malcolm Turnbull became a noted Australian politician.[178]

As a young actress, Lansbury was a self-professed homebody,[179] commenting that "I love the world of housekeeping."[180] She preferred spending quiet evenings inside with friends to the Hollywood night life.[181] Her hobbies at the time included reading, horse riding, playing tennis, cooking, and playing the piano, also having a keen interest in gardening.[182] In 2014, it was reported that she continued to enjoy gardening, and also enjoyed doing crosswords.[130] She has cited F. Scott Fitzgerald as her favorite author.[183] In early life she had been a chain smoker.[183] She disliked flattery,[184] and had what biographer Martin Gottfried described as "a profound sense of privacy."[185] She is a supporter of the United States Democratic Party and the United Kingdom Labour Party.[168]

In 1976 and 1987 she had cosmetic surgery on her neck to prevent it from broadening with age,[186] although has stated that she has not had surgery to make her face look younger.[130] During the 1990s, she began to suffer from arthritis,[187] in May 1994 had hip replacement surgery,[187] and in 2005 had knee replacement surgery.[188] Throughout her career, Lansbury supported a variety of charities, particularly those such as Abused Wives in Crisis that combatted domestic abuse.[189] In the 1980s, she also began to support a number of charities engaged in the fight against HIV/AIDS.[190]

In September 1970, a fire destroyed her home in Malibu, California, prompting a move to a rural area of County Cork in Ireland.[191] In 1991, she decided to return to County Cork, purchasing land near Ballycotton on which to build a farmhouse.[192] In 2006 she purchased a condominium in New York City at a reported cost of $2 million.[176] In 2014, she had houses in Ireland and Los Angeles, as well as an apartment in Manhattan.[130] Lansbury's papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.[193]

Recognition and legacy

Lansbury's authorized biographer Martin Gottfried described her as "an American icon",[185] with a "practically saintly" public image.[194] She is a gay icon,[195] and has asserted that she is "very proud of the fact", attributing her popularity among the LGB community to her performance in Mame.[74] She has been described as one of Britain's most successful actresses.[196] She has been recognised for her achievements in her native Britain on multiple occasions; in 2002, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) gave Lansbury a Lifetime Achievement Award.[197] Lansbury was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1994,[197] and promoted to Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy.[198][199]

She has been nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but has never won; nor did she win any of the 18 Emmy Awards for which she was nominated over a 33-year period. She holds the record for the most Primetime Emmy losses by a performer.[200] Reflecting on this in 2007, she stated that she was at first "terribly disappointed, but subsequently very glad that [she] did not win", because she believes that she would have otherwise had a less successful career.[201] However, she has received Golden Globe[202] and People's Choice Awards for her television and film work.[203] Lansbury is widely considered as one of the best actresses of all time.[204][205]



Year Title Role Notes
1944 Gaslight Nancy Oliver Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1944 National Velvet Edwina Brown
1945 Picture of Dorian Gray, TheThe Picture of Dorian Gray Sibyl Vane Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1946 Harvey Girls, TheThe Harvey Girls Em
1946 Hoodlum Saint, TheThe Hoodlum Saint Dusty Millard
1946 Till the Clouds Roll By London Specialty
1947 Private Affairs of Bel Ami, TheThe Private Affairs of Bel Ami Clotilde de Marelle
1947 If Winter Comes Mabel Sabre
1948 State of the Union Kay Thorndyke
1948 Three Musketeers, TheThe Three Musketeers Queen Anne of Austria
1948 Tenth Avenue Angel Susan Bratten
1949 Red Danube, TheThe Red Danube Audrey Quail
1949 Samson and Delilah Semadar
1951 Kind Lady Mrs. Edwards
1952 Mutiny Leslie
1953 Remains to Be Seen Valeska Chauvel
1954 Life at Stake, AA Life at Stake Doris Hillman
1955 Purple Mask, TheThe Purple Mask Madame Valentine
1955 Lawless Street, AA Lawless Street Tally Dickinsen
1956 Court Jester, TheThe Court Jester Princess Gwendolyn
1956 Please Murder Me Myra Leeds
1958 Long, Hot Summer, TheThe Long, Hot Summer Minnie Littlejohn
1958 The Reluctant Debutante Mabel Claremont
1959 Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Pearl
1960 Dark at the Top of the Stairs, TheThe Dark at the Top of the Stairs Mavis Pruitt
1960 Breath of Scandal, AA Breath of Scandal Countess Lina
1961 Blue Hawaii Sarah Lee Gates
1962 Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Marguerite Laurier Voice (uncredited)
1962 All Fall Down Annabell Willart National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress (also for The Manchurian Candidate)
1962 Manchurian Candidate, TheThe Manchurian Candidate Mrs. Iselin Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress (also for All Fall Down)
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—Golden Laurel – Top Female Supporting Performance
1963 In the Cool of the Day Sybil Logan
1964 World of Henry Orient, TheThe World of Henry Orient Isabel Boyd
1964 Dear Heart Phyllis
1965 Greatest Story Ever Told, TheThe Greatest Story Ever Told Claudia Procula
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Lady Blystone
1965 Harlow Mama Jean Bello
1966 Mister Buddwing Gloria
1970 Something for Everyone Countess Herthe von Ornstein Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1971 Bedknobs and Broomsticks Miss Eglantine Price Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1975 The First Christmas Narrator Television movie
1978 Death on the Nile Salome Otterbourne National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1979 Lady Vanishes, TheThe Lady Vanishes Miss Froy
1980 Mirror Crack'd, TheThe Mirror Crack'd Miss Jane Marple Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1982 Last Unicorn, TheThe Last Unicorn Mommy Fortuna Voice
1982 Little Gloria... Happy at Last Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Television movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
1983 Pirates of Penzance, TheThe Pirates of Penzance Ruth
1983 Gift of Love: A Christmas Story, TheThe Gift of Love: A Christmas Story Amanda Fenwick Television movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1984 Ingrid Herself
1984 Talent for Murder, AA Talent for Murder Ann Royce McClain Television movie
1984 Lace Aunt Hortense Boutin Television movie
1984 Company of Wolves, TheThe Company of Wolves Granny
1986 Rage of Angels: The Story Continues Marchesa Allabrandi Television movie
1988 Shootdown Nan Moore Television movie
1989 Shell Seekers, TheThe Shell Seekers Penelope Keeling Television movie
1990 Love She Sought, TheThe Love She Sought Television movie
1990 A Green Journey Agatha McGee
1991 Beauty and the Beast Mrs. Potts Voice
1992 Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris Mrs. Ada Harris Television movie
1996 Mrs. Santa Claus Mrs. Santa Claus Television movie
1997 Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest Jessica Fletcher Television movie
1997 The Enchanted Christmas Mrs. Potts Voice
1997 Anastasia Dowager Empress Marie Voice
Nominated—Annie Award for Outstanding Voice Acting by a Female in an Animated Film
1999 Fantasia 2000 Herself – Hostess
1999 Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, TheThe Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax Mrs. Emily Pollifax Television movie
2000 Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For Jessica Fletcher Television movie
2001 Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man Jessica Fletcher Television movie
2002 Beauty and the Beast Mrs. Potts Voice
Nominated—Special Edition film
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age Herself
2003 Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle Jessica Fletcher Television movie
2003 The Joy of Christmas Narrator Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert Special
2004 The Blackwater Lightship Dora Television movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
2005 Nanny McPhee Great Aunt Adelaide
2008 Heidi 4 Paws Grandmamma Voice
2011 Mr. Popper's Penguins Mrs. Van Gundy


Year Title Role Notes
1950 Robert Montgomery Presents Christine Manson Episode: "The Citadel"
1950 Lux Video Theatre Leslie Episode: "That Wonderful Night"
1952 Lux Video Theatre Lucy Landor Episode: "Operation Weekend"
1952 Lux Video Theatre Tina Rafferty Episode: "Stone's Throw"
1953 Robert Montgomery Presents Rosie Episode: "Cakes and Ale"
1953 The Revlon Mirror Theater Joan Dexter Episode: "Dreams Never Lie"
1953 Ford Television Theatre Lola Walker Episode: "The Ming Lama"
1953 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Florie Episode: "Storm Swept"
1954 Your Show of Shows Unknown Episode: "5.15"
1954 Lux Video Theatre Elsa Episode: "A Chair for a Lady"
1954 General Electric True Theater Daphne Rutledge Episode: "The Crime of Daphne Rutledge"
1954 Four Star Playhouse Joan Robinson Episode: "A String of Beads"
1955 Fireside Theater Brenda Jarvis Episode: "The Indiscreet Mrs. Jarvis"
1955 Four Star Playhouse Mrs. Hallerton Episode: "Madeira! Madeira!"
1955 Stage 7 Vanessa Peters Episode: "Billy and the Bride"
1955 The Star and the Story Mrs. Jane Pritchard Episode: "The Treasure"
1955–1956 Celebrity Playhouse Unknown 2 episodes
1956 Chevron Hall of Stars Unknown Episode: "Crisis in Kansas"
1956 The Star and the Story Unknown Episode: "The Force of Circumstance"
1956 Front Row Center Joyce Episode: "Instant of Truth"
1956 Screen Directors Playhouse Vera Wayne Episode: "Claire"
1956 Studio 57 Katy Episode: "The Rarest Stamp"
1956 Studio 57 Flossie Norris Episode: "The Brown Leather Case"
1956 Climax! Justina Episode: "Bury Me Later"
1957 Undercurrent Deborah Episode: "Deborah"
1957 Climax! Judith Beresford Episode: "The Devil's Brood"
1958 Playhouse 90 Victoria Atkins Episode: "Verdict of Three"
1959 Playhouse 90 Hazel Wills Episode: "The Grey Nurse Said Nothing"
1963 Eleventh Hour, TheThe Eleventh Hour Alvera Dunlear Episode: "Something Crazy's Going on in the Back Room"
1965 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Elfie von Donck Episode: "The Deadly Toys Affair"
1965 The Trials of O'Brien Celeste Thurlow Episode: "Leave It to Me"
1984 The First Olympics: Athens 1896 Alice Garrett Episode: "Part 1"
1984–96 Murder, She Wrote Jessica Fletcher 264 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1985, 1987, 1990, 1992)
People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Performer in a New Television Series (shared with Phylicia Rashad)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1986, 1988–89, 1991, 1993, 1995)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1985–96)
Nominated—People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Television Performer (1986–94)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
1986 Magnum, P.I. Jessica Fletcher Episode: "Novel Connection"
2002 Touched by an Angel Lady Berrington Episode: "For All the Tea in China"
2005 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Eleanor Duvall Episode: "Night"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury Eleanor Duvall Episode: "Day"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Hotel Paradiso Marcelle (Madame Cot)
1960–1961 Taste of Honey, AA Taste of Honey Helen
1964 Anyone Can Whistle Cora Hoover Hooper
1966–1968 Mame Mame Dennis[206] Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
1969 Dear World Countess Aurelia Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
1971 Prettybelle Prettybelle Sweet
1972 All Over The Mistress
1973–1975 Gypsy Rose Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
1975–1976 Hamlet Gertrude[207][208]
1978 King and I, TheThe King and I Anna Leonowens Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
1979–1980 Sweeney Todd Mrs. Nellie Lovett[209] Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
1982 Little Family Business, AA Little Family Business Lillian[210]
1983 Mame Mame Dennis
2007 Deuce Leona Mullen Nominated—Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play
2009 Blithe Spirit Madame Arcati Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
2009–2010 Little Night Music, AA Little Night Music Madame Armfeldt Nominated—Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical
2012 The Best Man Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge Nominated—Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
2013 Driving Miss Daisy Daisy Werthan
2014–2015 Blithe Spirit Madame Arcati Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role


Year Program Episode Notes
1952 Theatre Guild on the Air "Dear Brutus" [211]

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2005 Kingdom Hearts II Mrs. Potts Voice-over


Lansbury, Angela; Avins, Mimi (1990). Angela Lansbury's Positive Moves – My Personal Plan for Fitness and Well-Being. New York City: Delacorte Press. ISBN 978-0-385-30223-4.

Awards and nominations

Year Award Nominated work Result
1944 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Gaslight Nominated
1945 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress The Picture of Dorian Gray Nominated
1945 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture The Picture of Dorian Gray Won
1962 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress The Manchurian Candidate Nominated
1962 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture The Manchurian Candidate Won
1962 Golden Laurel Award for Top Supporting Actress The Manchurian Candidate Nominated
1962 National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actress The Manchurian Candidate Won
1966 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical Mame Won
1969 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical Dear World Won
1970 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Something for Everyone Nominated
1971 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Bedknobs and Broomsticks Nominated
1975 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical Gypsy: A Musical Fable Won
1978 BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role Death on the Nile Nominated
1978 National Board of Review for Best Supporting Actress Death on the Nile Won
1979 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical Sweeney Todd Won
1981 Saturn Award for Best Actress The Mirror Crack'd Nominated
1983 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Little Gloria... Happy at Last Nominated
1985 Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program Sweeney Todd Nominated
1983 CableACE Award for Actress in a Theatrical or Musical Production Sweeney Todd Won
1983 Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story Nominated
1984 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Won
1985 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1985 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1986 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1986 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Won
1987 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1987 Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program The 41st Annual Tony Awards Nominated
1987 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1988 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1988 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1989 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1989 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Won
1990 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1990 Emmy Award for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Music Program The 43rd Tony Awards Nominated
1990 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1991 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1991 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Won
1992 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1992 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1992 American Television Award for Best Actress in a Dramatic Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1993 Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children Beauty and the Beast Won
1993 Grammy Award for Album of the Year Beauty and the Beast Nominated
1993 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1994 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1994 Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1994 Screen Actor's Guild Award for Outstanding Female Actor in a Drama Series Murder, She Wrote Nominated
1996 Online Television Award for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie Mrs. Santa Claus Nominated
1997 Annie Award Nominee for Outstanding Female Voice-Over Performance Anastasia Nominated
1997 Online Film Award for Best Voice-Over Performance Anastasia Nominated
1997 Online Television Award for Best Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest Nominated
2001 Online Television Award for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Nominated
2001 Online Television Award for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series Touched by an Angel Nominated
2003 Online Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or Movie The Blackwater Lightship Nominated
2004 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie The Blackwater Lightship Nominated
2004 Golden Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie The Blackwater Lightship Nominated
2004 TV Land Award for Favorite Private Eye Murder, She Wrote Won
2005 Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Law & Order: Trial by Jury Nominated
2006 TV Land Award for Favorite Lady Gumshoe Murder, She Wrote Won
2007 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play Deuce Nominated
2009 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play Blithe Spirit Won
2010 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical A Little Night Music Nominated
2013 Honorary Academy Award N/A Won
2015 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role Blithe Spirit Won

Tony Awards

Lansbury has won five Tony Awards, tying Julie Harris and surpassed only by Audra McDonald with six wins for the most any performer has received (although Harris won six Tony Awards, one was a Special Tony Award):[212]

In addition, she was nominated in 2007 for her leading role in the play Deuce for the Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play[213] and in 2010 for her featured role in the revival of the musical A Little Night Music for the Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.[214][215]

Emmy Awards

Lansbury has been nominated for eighteen Emmy awards without a win, including twelve consecutive nominations for every season of Murder, She Wrote.

Academy Awards

Lansbury has been nominated for three Academy Awards.

Golden Globe Awards

Lansbury has been nominated for fifteen Golden Globes, winning six times.

  • 1945 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for The Picture of Dorian GrayWon
  • 1962 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture for The Manchurian CandidateWon
  • 1970 – Best Actress in a Leading Role – Musical Or Comedy for Something for Everyone
  • 1971 – Best Actress in a Leading Role – Musical Or Comedy for Bedknobs and Broomsticks
  • 1984 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story
  • 1985 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She WroteWon
  • 1986 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She Wrote
  • 1987 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She WroteWon
  • 1988 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She Wrote
  • 1989 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She Wrote
  • 1990 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She WroteWon
  • 1991 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She Wrote
  • 1992 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She WroteWon
  • 1993 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She Wrote
  • 1995 – Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama for Murder, She Wrote[218]

Awards and recognition

Lansbury has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of FameTemplate:Spaced ndash one for film (north side of the 6600 block of Hollywood Boulevard) and one for television (west side of the 1500 block of Vine Street)[238]

In 1982, Lansbury was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.[239] She has also been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, an honor she earned in 1996.[240]

See also



  1. ^ a b Interview with Mark Lawson, 'Front Row', BBC Radio 4, February 3, 2014; "I want to make one thing clear: I was not born in Poplar, that's not true, I was born in Regent's Park, so I wasn't born in the East End, I wish I could say I had been. Certainly my antecedents were: my grandfather, my father." (mins 3–4)
  2. ^ Bonanno 1987, p. 3; Edelman & Kupferberg 1996, p. 3.
  3. ^ Edelman & Kupferberg 1996, p. 3.
  4. ^ a b c d Selby 2014, p. 4.
  5. ^ Bonanno 1987, pp. 3–4; Edelman & Kupferberg 1996, pp. 5–10; Gottfried 1999, p. 8.
  6. ^ Bonanno 1987, p. 4; Edelman & Kupferberg 1996, p. 3.
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Bonanno, Margaret Wander (1987). Angela Lansbury: A Biography. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312005610. 
Edelman, Rob; Kupferberg, Audrey E. (1996). Angela Lansbury: A Life on Stage and Screen. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Corporation. ISBN 978-1559723275. 
Gottfried, Martin (1999). Balancing Act: The Authorized Biography of Angela Lansbury. New York: Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-316-32225-3. 
Kennedy, Maev (January 23, 2014). "Angela Lansbury admits Murder, She Wrote will always haunt her". The Guardian. 
Richardson, Lydia (January 25, 2014). "'I'm Proud To Be A Gay Icon!': Angela Lansbury Opens Up in New Interview". Entertainment Wise. 
Selby, John (March 8, 2014). "How death, divorce and drugs have shaped my life". Daily Mail Weekend. pp. 4–6. 

External links

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