Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury (Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Angela Brigid Lansbury, CBE (born 16 October 1925) is a British American actress and singer in theatre, television and films. Her career has spanned seven decades and earned an unsurpassed number of performance Tony Awards (tied with Julie Harris and Audra McDonald), with five wins.

Born in East London to actress Moyna MacGill and politician Edgar Lansbury, in 1940 Lansbury moved to New York City, where she studied acting. Moving to Hollywood, Los Angeles in 1942, she signed to MGM and secured her first cinematic roles, in Gaslight (1944) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), earning two Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe Award. She appeared in 11 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 only gained theatrical stardom for her 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 12 seasons until 1996. One of the longest-running detective drama series in television history, she assumed ownership of the series and was executive producer for the final 4 seasons. She also moved into voice work, thereby appearing in animated films like Beauty and the Beast (1991). Since, she has toured prolifically in a variety of international productions, and continued to make occasional cinematic appearances.

Lansbury has won five Tony Awards, six Golden Globes and has 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. In September 2013, it was announced that Lansbury would receive the Honorary Oscar after 70 years work in the motion picture industry.

Early life

Childhood: 1925–1942

Angela Brigid Lansbury was born to an upper middle class family in Poplar, East London, on 16 October 1925. Her mother was the Irish actress Moyna MacGill, who regularly appeared on stage in the West End and who also starred in several films. 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. Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader and prominent pacifist activist George Lansbury, a man she felt "awed" by, considering him "a giant in my youth". Angela had an older half sister, Isolde, who was the offspring of Moyna's previous marriage to Reginald Denham. 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 in Mill Hill, North London; at weekends they would retreat to a farm outside Oxford. Her cousin was the academic and novelist Coral Lansbury, whose son Malcolm Turnbull became a noted Australian politician. Another cousin was the animator, writer and social activist Oliver Postgate.

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When Angela was nine, her father died from stomach cancer; she retreated into playing characters as a coping mechanism.. Facing financial difficulty, her mother became engaged to Leckie Forbes, a Scottish military colonel, and moved into his house in Hampstead, with Angela receiving an education at South Hampstead High School from 1934 until 1939. She nevertheless considered herself largely self-educated, learning from books, theater and cinema. She became a self-professed "complete movie maniac", visiting the cinema regularly and imagining herself as certain characters. In 1940 she 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.

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, 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. 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 a family at East 94th Street. Angela gained a scholarship from the American Theatre Wing allowing her to study at the Feagin School of Drama and Radio, from which she graduated in March 1942, by which time the family had moved to a flat on Morton Street, Greenwich Village.

Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray: 1942–1945

McGill secured work in a Canadian touring production of Celebrity Parade; in Montreal, Angela gained her first theatrical job as a nightclub act at the Samovar Club. Having gained the job by claiming to be 19 when she was 16, her act was co-produced with Arthur Bourbon and consisted of her singing songs by Noël Coward. 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. 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 pay check of $28 a week.

At a party hosted by her mother, Angela met John van Druten, who had recently co-authored a script for a film known as 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. 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.

Her next cinematic appearance was as the boy-crazy Edwina Brown, a minor character in National Velvet (1944), where she appeared alongside Elizabeth Taylor, who became her lifelong friend. 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 critical success, Lansbury's performance once more drew praise, earning her a Golden Globe Award, and she was again nominated for a Best Supporting Acress Nomination at the Academy Awards, losing to Anne Revere, her co-star in National Velvet.

Later MGM films: 1945–1951

On 27 September 1945, Lansbury married Richard Cromwell, an artist and decorator whose acting career had come to a standstill. Their marriage ended in less than a year when she filed for divorce on 11 September 1946, but they remained friends until his death. 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. Their wedding was held at St. Columba's Church, a Church of Scotland-owned building in London in August 1949, followed by a honeymoon in France. Living in her Malibu home overlooking the ocean, purchased before the wedding, Lansbury played a part in raising Shaw's son from his previous marriage, and in 1951, she became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Following on from the success of Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray, MGM cast Lansbury in 11 further films until her contract with them ended in 1951. Keeping her among their B-list stars, they used her far less than their similar aged actresses; biographers Edelman and Kupferberg believing that the majority of these films were "mediocre", doing little to further her career. This view was echoed by Cukow, who believed Lansbury had been "consistently miscast" by MGM. MGM themselves suffered from the post-war slump in cinema sales, slashing film budgets and the number of staff that they hired as a result; repeatedly being made to portray older characters, typically villainesses, Lansbury was increasingly dissatisfied with working for them, commenting that "I kept wanting to play the Jean Arthur roles, and Mr Mayer kept casting me as a series of venal bitches." 1946 saw Lansbury play her first American character as Em, a honky-tonk saloon singer in Wild West musical The Harvey Girls. She played Mabel Sabre in If Winter Comes (1947), a film that she despised, and then Kay Thorndyke in State of the Union (1948), often considered her strongest role of the period. 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). Turning to radio, in 1948 Lansbury appeared in an audio adaptation of Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage for The NBC University Theatre, and the following year starred in their adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Moving into television, she appeared in a 1950 episode of Robert Montgomery Presents adapted from A.J. Cronin's The Citadel.

Mid Career

The Manchurian Candidate and minor roles: 1952–1965

After the termination of her MGM contract, Lansbury turned to the theatre, joining the touring productions of two former-Broadway plays: Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse's Remains to be Seen and Louis Verneuil's Affairs of State. In a break from touring, in 1952 her first child, Anthony Peter, was born, followed by the 1953 birth of Deirdre Angela. Returning to cinema as a freelance actress, she found herself typecast as an older, maternal figure, appearing in this capacity in most of the films in which she appeared during this period. She obtained minor roles in such films as A Life at Stake (1954) and The Purple Mask (1955), later describing the latter as "the worst movie I ever made". She then played Princess Gwendolyn in 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, the girlfriend of a character played by Orson Welles in The Long Hot Summer (1958), and as the overbearing mother Mabel Claremont in romantic comedy The Reluctant Debutante (1958). Returning to theater, in 1957 she debuted on Broadway at the Henry Miller Theatre in Hotel Paradiso, a French burlesque set in Paris, France that was directed by Peter Glenville. Starring as Marcel Cat, her appearance gained good reviews; she later stated that had she not appeared in the play, her "whole career would have fizzled out." She followed this with an appearance in 1960's Broadway performance of A Taste of Honey directed by Tony Richardson and George Devine. Lansbury played Helen, the mother of main character Josephine, remarking that she gained "a great deal of satisfaction" from the role.

After a well reviewed appearance in the film Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1959) and a minor role in A Breath of Scandal (1960), in Blue Hawaii (1961) she played the conservative mother of a character played by Elvis Presley. Her role as the widow Mavis in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960) drew critical acclaim, as did her appearance in All Fall Down (1962) as the mother Annabella. In 1962 she appeared in The Manchurian Candidate as Eleanor Iselin, the mother of the main character Raymond Shaw, cast for the role by John Frankenheimer. Biographers Ederlman and Kupferberg considered this role "her enduring cinematic triumph", and it earned her her third Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Academy Awards.

She followed this with a performance as the sarcastic wife Sybil Logan in In the Cool of the Day (1963)–a film she renounced as awful–before appearing as the wealthy Isabel Boyd in The World of Henry Orient (1964) and the widow Phyllis in Dear Heart (1964). 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 that the show had been cancelled. She appeared in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), a cinematic biopic of Jesus, but was almost entirely cut from the final edit, following 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). Despite her well received performances in a number of films, "[c]elluloid superstardom" evaded her, and she became increasingly dissatisfied with these minor roles, feeling that none allowed her to explore her potential as an actress. Throughout this period, she continued making appearances on television, and during this period she starred in episodes of Revlon Mirror Theatre, Ford Theatre, and The George Gobel Show, and became a regular on game show Pantomime Quiz.

Mame and theatrical stardom: 1966–1969

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, but she had declined, with Lansbury actively seeking 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. 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. First appearing in Philadelphia and then Boston, Mame opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in May 1966. Reviews of Lansbury's performance were largely positive, and in The New York Times, Stanley Kauffmann wrote that "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."

Lansbury received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, 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." 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. 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. That year, Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Club elected her "Woman of the Year." When the film production 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". 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.

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. 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. In 1982, a recording of the show was released by Varèse Sarabande.

Ireland and Gypsy: 1970–1978

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. 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), in the same year also appearing 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. 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. They purchased a rural house in County Cork, Republic of Ireland, and took Anthony there to recover from his drug addiction after he quit using cocaine and heroin in 1971. He subsequently enrolled in the Webster-Douglas School, his mother's alma mater, and became a professional actor, before moving into television directing. 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.

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. This was followed by a revival of Mame, which was then touring the United States, 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; 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's high society, having dinners held in her honour. 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. After several months' break, Gypsy then toured throughout the country again in the summer of 1975.

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. 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. Her next theatrical appearance was in two one-act plays by Edward Albee, Counting the Ways and Listening, performed side-by-side at the Harford Stage Company in Connecticut. Reviews of the production were mixed, although Lansbury was again singled out for praise. This was followed by another revival tour of Gypsy. 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. 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's award for Best Supporting Actress of 1978.

Sweeney Todd and continued cinematic work: 1979–1984

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." She remained in the role for 14 months before being replaced by Dorothy London; 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. 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. 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, although it was critically panned and induced protests of racism from the Japanese-American community. That year, she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame, while 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 its not a show of today. Its a period piece."

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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. 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. Lansbury's next film was the animated The Last Unicorn (1982), for which she provided the voice of the witch Mommy Fortuna. 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. This was followed by an appearance as the grandmother in Gothic fantasy film The Company of Wolves (1984). Lansbury had also begun work for television, appearing in a 1982 television film with Bette Davis titled Little Gloria... Happy at Last. 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." 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. Two further miniseries featuring Lansbury appeared in 1984: Lace and The First Olympics: Athens 1896.

Global fame

Murder, She Wrote: 1984–1996

In 1983, Lansbury was offered two key 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. The series, Murder, She Wrote, centered around 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." 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. The pilot episode, "The Murder of Sherlock Holmes", premiered on CBS on 30 September 1984, with the rest of the first season airing on Sundays from 8 to 9pm. 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. 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."

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. 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. 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." Lansbury biographers Rob Edelman and Audrey E. Kupferburg 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. Lansbury herself noted that "I think its the first time a show has really been aimed at the middle-aged audience", and although it was most popular among senior citizens, it gradually gained a younger audience; by 1991, a third of viewers were under fifty. It gained continually high ratings throughout most of its run, outdoing rivals in its time-slot such as Stephen Spielberg's Amazing Stories on NBC. In February 1987, a spin-off was produced, The Law & Harry McGraw, although it was short lived.

As the show went on, Lansbury assumed a larger role behind the scenes. In 1989, her own company, Corymore Productions, began co-producing the show with Universal. 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. She changed her mind after being appointed executive producer for the 1992–93 season, something she felt "made it far more interesting to me." 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. Having become a "Sunday-night institution" in the US, the show's ratings improved during the early 1990s, becoming a Top Five program. 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.. The series ended in 1996. At the time it was the longest-running detective drama series in television history, and the role would prove to be the most successful and prominent of Lansbury's career.

Throughout the run of Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury had continued making appearances in other television films, miniseries, and cinema. In 1986 she appeared as the protagonist's mother in Rage of Angels: The Story Continues, 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". 1989 saw her feature in The Shell Seekers as an Englishwoman recuperating from a heart attack, while 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." 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. 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. Her Murder, She Wrote fame resulted in her being employed to appear in adverts and infomercials for Bufferin, MasterCard, and the Beatrix Potter Company. In 1988, she released a VHS 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.

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.

Return to theatre: 1997–

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. 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. Lansbury received a nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play for her role. 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, 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). 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. 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.

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. The play had positive reviews, with critics such as The New York Times and Variety 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.

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. Lansbury co-starred in Mr. Popper's Penguins, opposite Jim Carrey, released in June 2011. She is also scheduled to appear in another film, Adaline. In November 2012, she hosted the PBS Thanksgiving special "Downton Abbey Revisited", a documentary retrospective of the Downton Abbey television series.

Lansbury and her The Best Man co-star James Earl Jones will star in an Australian tour of Driving Miss Daisy, beginning at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane on February 5, 2013. The tour will also visit Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, finishing in June 2013.

Personal life

Lansbury was 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. In 1949 she married actor Peter Shaw, and they remained together for 54 years until his death in 2003. 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 of time. In the latter part of the 1960s, both Anthony and Deirdre became involved in the growing counterculture movement, becoming recreational drug users. Deirdre developed an acquaintance with the Manson family, while Thomas became addicted to cocaine and heroin, giving it up in 1971. Her daughter and son-in-law, a chef, are restaurateurs in West Los Angeles.

As a young actress, Lansbury was a self-professed home body, commenting that "I love the world of housekeeping." She preferred spending quiet evenings inside with friends to the Hollywood night life. Her hobbies included reading, horse riding, playing tennis, cooking, and playing the piano, also having a keen interest in gardening. In 1976 and 1987 she had cosmetic surgery on her neck to prevent it broadening with age. During the 1990s, she began to suffer from arthritis, in May 1994 had hip replacement surgery, and in 2005 had knee replacement surgery. Throughout her career, Lansbury supported a variety of charities, particularly those such as Abused Wives in Crisis that combatted domestic abuse. In the 1980s, she also began to support a number of charities engaged in the fight against the HIV/AIDS virus.

In September 1970, a fire destroyed her home in Malibu, California, prompting a move to a rural area of County Cork in Ireland. Lansbury is a long-time resident of Brentwood, a neighbourhood of Los Angeles, California, where she supported various philanthropies. In 1991, she decided to return to County Cork, purchasing land near Churchtown on which to build a farmhouse. In 2006 she moved to New York City, purchasing a condominium at a reported cost of $2 million. Lansbury's papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

Recognition and legacy

In 1992, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) gave Lansbury a Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1994 she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.

Although she was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, she 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, 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. However, she has received Golden Globe and People's Choice awards for her television and film work.


Year Film Role Notes
1944 Gaslight Nancy Oliver nominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1944 National Velvet Edwina Brown

1945 ' Sibyl Vane Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress " Motion Picture
nominated Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1946 ' Em
1946 ' Dusty Millard
1946 Till the Clouds Roll By London Specialty performs "How'd You Like to Spoon with Me?" by Jerome Kern
1947 ' Clotilde de Marelle
1947 If Winter Comes Mabel Sabre
1948 State of the Union Kay Thorndyke
1948 ' Queen Anne of Austria
1948 Tenth Avenue Angel Susan Bratten
1949 ' Audrey Quail
1949 Samson and Delilah Semadar
1951 Kind Lady Mrs. Edwards
1952 Mutiny Leslie
1953 Remains to Be Seen Valeska Chauvel
1954 ' Doris Hillman
1955 ' Madame Valentine
1955 ' Tally Dickinsen
1956 ' Princess Gwendolyn
1956 Please Murder Me Myra Leeds
1958 ' Minnie Littlejohn
1958 The Reluctant Debutante Mabel Claremont
1959 Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Pearl
1960 ' Mavis Pruitt
1960 ' 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 ' 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 ' Isabel Boyd
1964 Dear Heart Phyllis
1965 ' 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
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 ' Miss Froy
1980 ' Miss Jane Marple nominated Saturn Award for Best Actress
1982 ' Mommy Fortuna voice
1983 ' Ruth
1984 Ingrid Herself
1984 ' Granny
1991 Beauty and the Beast Mrs. Potts voice
1997 Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Mrs. Potts voice; direct-to-video midquel
1997 Anastasia Dowager Empress Marie (voice) nominated Outstanding Individual Achievement for Voice Acting by a Female Performer in an Animated Feature Production
1999 Fantasia 2000 Herself " Hostess segment Firebird Suite " 1919 Version
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Herself
2005 Nanny McPhee Great Aunt Adelaide
2011 Mr. Popper's Penguins Mrs. Van Gundy
? Adaline Isabel Coixet pre-production
Year Show Role Notes
1950 Robert Montgomery Presents Christine Manson The Citadel
1950 Lux Video Theatre Leslie That Wonderful Night
1952 Lux Video Theatre Lucy Landor Operation Weekend
1952 Lux Video Theatre Tina Rafferty Stone's Throw
1953 Robert Montgomery Presents Rosie Cakes and Ale
1953 The Revlon Mirror Theater Joan Dexter Dreams Never Lie
1953 Ford Television Theatre Lola Walker The Ming Lama
1953 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Florie Storm Swept
1954 Your Show of Shows 30 January 1954 episode
1954 Lux Video Theatre Elsa A Chair for a Lady
1954 General Electric True Theater Daphne Rutledge The Crime of Daphne Rutledge
1954 Four Star Playhouse Joan Robinson A String of Beads
1955 Fireside Theater Brenda Jarvis The Indiscreet Mrs. Jarvis
1955 Four Star Playhouse Mrs. Hallerton - William's Wife Madeira! Madeira!
1955 Stage 7 Vanessa Peters Billy and the Bride
1955 The Star and the Story Mrs. Jane Pritchard The Treasure
1955 Celebrity Playhouse Empty Arms
1956 Chevron Hall of Stars Crisis in Kansas
1956 The Star and the Story The Force of Circumstance
1956 Celebrity Playhouse Empty Arms
1956 Front Row Center Joyce Instant of Truth
1956 Screen Directors Playhouse Vera Wayne Claire
1956 Studio 57 Katy The Rarest Stamp
1956 Studio 57 Flossie Norris The Brown Leather Case
1956 Climax! Justina Bury Me Later
1957 Undercurrent Deborah Deborah
1957 Climax! Judith Beresford The Devil's Brood
1958 Playhouse 90 Victoria Atkins Verdict of Three
1959 Playhouse 90 Hazel Wills The Grey Nurse Said Nothing
1963 ' Alvera Dunlear Something Crazy's Going on in the Back Room
1965 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Elfie von Donck The Deadly Toys Affair
1965 The Trials of O'Brien Celeste Thurlow Leave It to Me
1975 The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow Narrator (voice)/Sister Theresa (voice) television short film
1982 Little Gloria... Happy at Last Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney nominated Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress " Miniseries or a Movie
1983 ' Amanda Fenwick nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress " Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1983 Sweeney Todd Mrs. Nellie Lovett CableACE Award for Actress in a Theatrical or Musical Program
nominated Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
1984 ' Ann Royce McClain
1984 Lace Aunt Hortense Boutin
1984 The First Olympics: Athens 1896 Alice Garrett television mini-series
1984"1996 Murder, She Wrote Jessica Fletcher Golden Globe Award for Best Actress " Television Series Drama (1985, 1987, 1990, 1992)
People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Performer in a New TV Program (1985) (shared with Phylicia Rash?d)
TV Land Award for Favorite Private Eye (2005)
TV Land Award for Favorite Lady Gumshoe (2007)
nominated Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress " Drama Series (1985"1996)
nominated Golden Globe Award for Best Actress " Television Series Drama (1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995)
nominated Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series (1995)
1986 Magnum, P.I. Jessica Fletcher episode: "Novel Connection"
1986 Rage of Angels: The Story Continues Marchesa Allabrandi
1988 Shootdown Nan Moore
1989 ' Penelope Keeling
1990 ' Agatha McGee
1992 Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris Mrs. Ada Harris
1992 ' Herself
1996 Mrs. Santa Claus Mrs. Santa Claus
1997 Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest Jessica Fletcher
1999 ' Mrs. Emily Pollifax
2000 Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For Jessica Fletcher
2001 Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man Jessica Fletcher / Sarah McCullough
2002 Touched by an Angel Lady Berrington episode: "For All the Tea in China"
2003 Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle Jessica Fletcher
2004 The Blackwater Lightship Dora nominated Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress " Miniseries or a Movie
nominated Satellite Award for Best Actress " Miniseries or Television Film
2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury and
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Eleanor Duvall 2 parts on sister shows
nominated Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress " Drama Series
2008 Heidi 4 Paws Grandmamma voice
2012 Downton Abbey Revisited Host/Herself PBS Thanksgiving special
Production Roles Venue Dates Notes
Hotel Paradiso Marcelle (Madame Cot) Broadway April " July 1957
' Helen Broadway October 1960 " May 1961
Anyone Can Whistle Cora Hoover Hooper Broadway April 1964 musical theatre debut
Mame Mame Dennis Broadway May 1966 " March 1968 (to August 1968 on tour) Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Dear World Countess Aurelia Broadway February 1969 " May 1969 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Prettybelle Prettybelle Sweet Boston February 1971
All Over The Mistress West End 1972 Royal Shakespeare Company
Gypsy Rose West End
May 1973 December 1973
September 1974 " January 1975
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Hamlet Gertrude West End 1975"1976 National Theatre Company, The Old Vic theatre
Counting the Ways by Edward Albee Hartford, Connecticut 1976–1977 Hartford Stage Company
Listening by Edward Albee Hartford, Connecticut 1976–1977 Hartford Stage Company
' Anna Leonowens Broadway April 1978 nominated Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Sweeney Todd Mrs. Nellie Lovett Broadway March 1979 " March 1980
October 1980 " August 1981 (U.S. tour)
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
' Lillian Los Angeles and
Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles
Martin Beck Theatre, New York City
Mame Mame Dennis Broadway July 1983 " August 1983 revival
Deuce Leona Mullen Broadway April 2007 " August 2007 nominated Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play
Blithe Spirit Madame Arcati Broadway March 2009 " July 2009 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
' Madame Armfeldt Broadway December 2009 " June 2010 nominated Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical nominated Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

The Best Man Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge Broadway April 2012 July 2012 nominated Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Driving Miss Daisy Daisy Werthan Australia February 2013 June 2013 Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth


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.

Honours and awards

Tony Awards

Lansbury has won five Tony Awards, tying Julie Harris and Audra McDonald for the most any performer has received (although Harris won six Tony Awards, one was a Special Tony Award):

  • 1966 " Best Actress in a Musical for Mame
  • 1969 " Best Actress in a Musical for Dear World
  • 1975 " Best Actress in a Musical for Gypsy
  • 1979 " Best Actress in a Musical for Sweeney Todd
  • 2009 " Best Featured Actress in a Play for Blithe Spirit
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 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.

Awards and recognition

  • 1968 Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year
  • 1988 George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing
  • 1994 Queen Elizabeth II appointed her a Commander of the Order of the British Empire "for services to the dramatic arts"
  • 1995 given the Disney Legend award
  • 1996 awarded the Women in Film [[Women_in_Film_Crystal_+_Lucy_Awards#THE_LUCY_AWARD|Lucy Award]] in recognition of her excellence and innovation in her creative works that have enhanced the perception of women through the medium of television.
  • 1996 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award
  • 1996 Television Critics Association Career Achievement Award
  • 1997 awarded the National Medal of Arts
  • 2000 Kennedy Center Honors Awards recipient
  • 2000 The New Dramatists Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2002 The Acting Company's First Lifetime Achievement Award
  • 2003 awarded the Britannia Award for Lifetime Achievement by the British Academy Film Awards
  • 2004 The Actors Fund of America Lifetime Achievement
  • 2008 bestowed a Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa degree from the University of Miami; she was also the guest speaker at the commencement ceremony
  • 2009 Drama League Award " The Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award
  • 2010 Drama League Honors
  • 2010 Signature Theatre Sondheim Award
  • 2010 Honorary Chairman of the American Theatre Wing

Lansbury has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame 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)

She has been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

See also

  • List of American film actresses
  • List of American television actresses
  • List of British actors and actresses
  • List of people from Hampstead
  • List of people from Los Angeles
  • List of people from Malibu, California
  • List of people from New York City
  • List of people from Tower Hamlets
  • List of television producers
  • List of women writers

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Angela Lansbury". Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions this article may contain.

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