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|Dame Angela Lansbury|
Lansbury in January 2013
|Born||Angela Brigid Lansbury|
16 October 1925
Regent's Park, London, England
|Occupation||Actress, singer, producer, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Richard Cromwell (1945–46, div.)|
Peter Shaw (1949–2003, his death)
|Children||Anthony Peter Shaw (born 1952)|
Deirdre Angela Shaw (born 1953)
|Dame Angela Lansbury|
Lansbury in January 2013
|Born||Angela Brigid Lansbury|
16 October 1925
Regent's Park, London, England
|Occupation||Actress, singer, producer, writer|
|Spouse(s)||Richard Cromwell (1945–46, div.)|
Peter Shaw (1949–2003, his death)
|Children||Anthony Peter Shaw (born 1952)|
Deirdre Angela Shaw (born 1953)
Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, DBE (born 16 October 1925) is a British-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), National Velvet, and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), earning 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 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 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 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 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. On November 16, 2013, Lansbury received an Honorary Oscar after seventy years' work in the motion picture industry.
Angela Brigid Lansbury was born to an upper middle class family on 16 October 1925. Although her birthplace has often been claimed to be Poplar, East London, 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. Her mother was Belfast-born Irish actress Moyna MacGill (born Charlotte Lillian McIldowie), who regularly appeared on stage in the West End and who 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 anti-war 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, Mill Hill, North London; at weekends they would retreat to a farm in Berrick Salome, Oxfordshire.
When Lansbury was nine, her father died from stomach cancer; she retreated into playing characters as a coping mechanism. In 2014, Lansbury described this event as "the defining moment of my life. Nothing before or since has affected me so deeply." 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. 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. Keen on playing the piano, she briefly studied music at the Ritman School of Dancing, and then 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 his family at their home by Lake Mahopac. 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 Windemere's Fan. She graduated in March 1942, by which time the family had moved to a flat on Morton Street, Greenwich Village.
McGill 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. 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. Befriending a group of gay men, Angela became privy to the city's underground gay scene, and with her mother attended lectures by the spiritual guru Krishnamurti, at one of these meeting Aldous Huxley.
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 and adopting "Angela Lansbury" as her stage name. 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 film 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 Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, losing to Anne Revere, her co-star in National Velvet.
On 27 September 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 of turning straight. The 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. They were intent on getting married back in Britain, but the Church of England refused to marry two divorcees, so instead they wed 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 at Rustic Canyon, purchased before the wedding, in 1951, the couple each became naturalized U.S. citizens, albeit retaining dual nationality.
Following on from the success of Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray, MGM cast Lansbury in 11 further films until her contract with MGM ended in 1952. Keeping her among their B-list stars, it used her far 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. This view was echoed by Cukow, who believed Lansbury had been "consistently miscast" by MGM. MGM 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 MGM, 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 the Wild West musical The Harvey Girls. She appeared in The Hoodlum Saint (1946), Till the Clouds Roll By (1947), If Winter Comes (1947) – a film that she 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). 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 NBC University Theatre, and the following year she 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.
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. She was pregnant with Shaw's child, and that year her son Anthony was born. 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. In April 1953, her daughter Deirdre Angela Shaw was born. 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.
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. 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". 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).
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." 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 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.
After a well-reviewed appearance in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (1959) and a minor role in A Breath of Scandal (1960), she appeared in 1961's Blue Hawaii as the conservative mother of the character played by Elvis Presley. 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. In 1962 she appeared in the Cold War chiller The Manchurian Candidate as Eleanor Iselin, cast for the role by John Frankenheimer. Biographers Edelman and Kupferberg considered this role "her enduring cinematic triumph", for which she received her third Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination.
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). Her first appearance in a theatrical musical was the short-lived Anyone Can Whistle (1964), written by Arthur Laurents and Steven 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 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). 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.
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. 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." 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."
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 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.
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), 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. 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 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. 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 Hartford 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.
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 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. 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. 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, 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."
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.
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. The series, Murder, She Wrote, centered 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." 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. 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. Lansbury herself noted that "I think it's 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 featured 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.
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. In November 2012, she hosted the PBS Thanksgiving special Downton Abbey Revisited, a documentary retrospective of the Downton Abbey television series.
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.
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 is scheduled to play a limited 15-week engagement at the Gielgud Theatre until June 7, 2014. Discussing this character, she asserted: "I love her. She's completely off-the-wall but utterly secure in her own convictions." 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.
Lansbury describes herself as "an amalgam of British, Irish and American" although throughout her life has spoken with a British accent. 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. 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." 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.
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. Anthony became a television director, and directed 68 episodes of Murder, She Wrote, also marrying and having three children. Deirdre married a chef and together opened a restaurant in West Los Angeles. Lansbury's cousins include the animator, writer and social activist Oliver Postgate, as well as the academic and novelist Coral Lansbury, whose son Malcolm Turnbull became a noted Australian politician.
As a young actress, Lansbury was a self-professed homebody, commenting that "I love the world of housekeeping." She preferred spending quiet evenings inside with friends to the Hollywood night life. Her hobbies at the time included reading, horse riding, playing tennis, cooking, and playing the piano, also having a keen interest in gardening. In 2014, it was reported that she continued to enjoy gardening, and also enjoyed doing crosswords. She disliked flattery, and had what biographer Martin Gottfried described as "a profound sense of privacy." She is a supporter of the U.S. Democratic Party and the U.K. Labour Party.
In 1976 and 1987 she had cosmetic surgery on her neck to prevent it from broadening with age, although has stated that she has not had surgery to make her face look younger. 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. In 1991, she decided to return to County Cork, purchasing land near Churchtown on which to build a farmhouse. In 2006 she purchased a condominium in New York City at a reported cost of $2 million. In 2014, she had houses in Ireland and Los Angeles, as well as an apartment in Manhattan. Lansbury's papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.
Lansbury's authorized biographer Martin Gottfried described her as "an American icon", with a "practically saintly" public image. She is a Disney and children's icon, and has asserted that she is "very proud of the fact", attributing her popularity among children to her roles in Beauty and the Beast and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She has been described as one of Britain's most successful actresses. 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. Lansbury was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1994, 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.
She was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, but 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.
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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||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||Agatha McGee||Television movie|
|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|
|2003||Broadway: The Golden Age||Herself|
|2003||Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle||Jessica Fletcher||Television movie|
|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|
|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||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"|
|1978||M*A*S*H||Field Nurse Marshall||Episode: "Tea and Empathy"|
|1984||The First Olympics: Athens 1896||Alice Garrett||Episode: "Part 1"|
|1984–1996||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
|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||Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical|
|1969||Dear World||Countess Aurelia||Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical|
|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
|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||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|
|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||Blithe Spirit||Madame Arcati|
|2005||Kingdom Hearts II||Mrs. Potts||Voice-over|
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.
Lansbury has been nominated for eighteen Emmy awards without a win, including twelve consecutive nominations for every season of Murder, She Wrote.
Lansbury has been nominated for three Academy Awards.
Lansbury has been nominated for fifteen Golden Globes, winning six times.
|This section of a biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
In 1982, Lansbury was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. She has also been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, an honor she earned in 1996.
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