Angela Lansbury of Murder, She Wrote and More Dies Aged 96
(NEXSTAR) – Angela Lansbury, the beloved actress who starred in “Murder, She Wrote” and various Broadway shows, has died, her family confirmed in a statement to multiple outlets. She was 96.
Lansbury’s family said she “died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles” on Tuesday. She would have been 97 years old on Sunday October 16.
The London-born actress is known for numerous roles, including the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s animated film Beauty and the Beast, Elvis Presley’s mother in Blue Hawaii, the PBS miniseries Little Women and Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, she wrote.”
According to her IMDb page, her more recent roles have included appearances in Buttons, A New Musical Film, Mary Poppins Returns, and The Grinch, all of which were released in 2018.
Lansbury has won five Tony Awards for her Broadway performances and a lifetime achievement award. She received supporting actress Oscar nominations for two of her first three films, Gaslight (1945) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1946), and was nominated again in 1962 for The Manchurian Candidate and her deadly portrayal of a communist agent and the mother of the title character.
Her fame came in middle age when she became a New York theater hit, winning Tony Awards for “Mame” (1966), “Dear World” (1969), “Gypsy” (1975) and “Sweeney Todd” (1979). . .
But Lansbury’s greatest fame began in 1984 when she launched Murder, She Wrote on CBS. Loosely based on Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, the series centers on Jessica Fletcher, a middle-aged widow and former substitute school teacher who lives in the coastal village of Cabot Cove, Maine. She had become known as a crime writer and amateur detective.
Despite receiving 12 nominations for her starring role in Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury never received an Emmy. However, she was inducted into the TV Hall of Fame in 1996.
Additional television work earned her a total of 18 Emmy nominations, but she never won one. She holds the record for most Golden Globe nominations, winning Best Actress in a Television Series and most Emmy nominations for Lead Actress in a Drama Series.
In 2014, Queen Elizabeth II made Lansbury a dame in honor of her achievements as an actress, reports Sky News.
When she was born in London on October 16, 1925, she was given the name Angela Brigid Lansbury. Her family was distinguished: a grandfather, the fiery head of the Labor Party; her father owner of a veneer factory; her mother a successful actress, Moyna MacGill.
The Depression forced her father’s factory into bankruptcy, and the family lived for a number of years on the money her mother had saved from her theater career. Angela suffered a devastating blow when her beloved father died in 1935. The tragedy forced her to become self-employed — “almost a surrogate husband for my mother.”
When England was threatened by German bombing raids in 1940, Moyna Lansbury fought her way through the bureaucracy and fought for passage to America for her family. With the help of two foster families, they settled in New York and lived on $150 a month. At 16, to supplement her income, Angela got a job at a Montreal nightclub doing impersonations and songs.
Moyna moved to Hollywood with the family in hopes of finding work as an actress. Otherwise, she and Angela wrapped packages and sold clothes at a department store. An actor friend suggested that Angela would be ideal for the role of Sybil Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray, which was being prepared at MGM. She tested, and studio boss Louis B. Mayer commanded, “Sign the girl!”
She was just 19 when her first film, Gaslight, earned her an Oscar nomination, but MGM didn’t know what to do with the new signing. She has appeared as Elizabeth Taylor’s older sister in National Velvet, Judy Garland’s nemesis in The Harvey Girls, Walter Pidgeon’s spiteful wife in If Winter Comes, Queen Anne in The Three Musketeers.
Tired of playing roles twice her age, she left MGM to work freelance, but the results were similar: mother to Warren Beatty in All Fall Down, to Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii , by Carroll Baker in “Harlow,” and by Laurence Harvey in “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which she memorably manipulates her son and helps start a killing spree.
In the mid-1940s, Lansbury had a disastrous nine-month marriage to Richard Cromwell, a soulful young star of the 1930s. In 1949 she married Peter Shaw, a British man who had an acting contract with MGM, and then became a studio manager and agent. He took over the role of manager of Lansbury. They had two children, Peter and Deirdre; he had a son David from a previous marriage.
The 1950s were a troubled time for the Shaws. Angela’s career slowed; her mother died after a battle with cancer; Peter underwent hip surgery; the kids were on drugs; The family home in Malibu burned to the ground.
Lansbury later said of the fire: “It’s like cutting off a branch, a big, lush branch of your life, and putting a seal on it so it doesn’t bleed. That’s what one does. That’s how the human mind deals with these things. You have to pick up the shards and move on.”
Tired of 20 years of typecasting, Lansbury tried her luck on Broadway. Their first two shows – Anyone Can Whistle and Hotel Paradiso (with Bert Lahr) – flopped.
Then came “Mom”. Rosalind Russell declined to reprise her classic role as Patrick Dennis’ dizzying aunt in a musical version. So did Mary Martin and Ethel Merman. Others Considered: Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, Beatrice Lillie, Judy Garland. Composer Jerry Herman chose Lansbury.
The opening on May 24, 1966 was a sensation. One critic wondered that “the film’s battered, clumsy old Harridan with a snake pit for a mouth” might turn out to be “the liveliest lady since Carol Channing in ‘Hello, Dolly.'”
Following her Sweeney Todd triumph, Lansbury returned to Hollywood to try television. She was offered a sitcom starring Charles Durning or Murder, She Wrote. The producers wanted Jean Stapleton, who declined. Lansbury accepted.
During the series’ long run, she managed to star in TV movies, host Emmy and Tony shows, and even provide the voice for a Disney animated film. She played Mrs. Potts in “Beauty and the Beast” and sang the theme song. “It was really a breakthrough for me,” she said of her young following. “It introduced me to a generation I possibly could not have had contact with.”
In 2000, Lansbury pulled out of a proposed Broadway musical, The Visit, because she needed to help her husband recover from heart surgery. “The kind of commitment that’s required of an artist carrying a multi-million dollar production has to be 100%,” she said in a letter to producers.
Her husband died in 2003.
In 2012, she returned to Broadway in a revival of The Best Man, sharing a stage with James Earl Jones, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack, Michael McKean and Kerry Butler. She also recently starred in Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee and with Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s penguins.”
At the 2022 Tony Awards, Len Cariou – her “Sweeney Todd” co-star – accepted the lifetime Tony presented to Lansbury. “There’s nobody I’d rather have a cutthroat business with,” Cariou said.
In 1990, Lansbury philosophized, “I’ve withdrawn from my career at times. For what reason? Home. Home is the counterweight to work.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
https://www.wane.com/entertainment-news/angela-lansbury-of-murder-she-wrote-and-more-dies-at-96-reports/ Angela Lansbury of Murder, She Wrote and More Dies Aged 96