Angela Lansbury, the London-born actress who was a top star on stage and television for seven decades, has died at the age of 96.
Born Angela Brigid Lansbury, the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney’s animated film “Beauty and the Beast” and lead role in the musical “Mame” was the daughter of Belfast-born actress Moyna MacGill and her second husband, Edgar Lansbury, a lumber merchant. “A true Irish beauty” is how Lansbury described her mother.
The actress played intrepid novelist Jessica Fletcher for 12 years on CBS’s “Murder, She Wrote.”
Eager to direct her daughter’s future, Moyna took young Angela to plays at London’s Old Vic and enrolled her in a school of arts and dance, until the family, Angela and her younger twin brothers (five years), Edgar and Bruce, who later became successful producers and a half-sister, found themselves almost bankrupt when their father Edgar died in 1934. Angela was 9 years old.
The war only aggravated the family’s situation, so in 1940 the Lansburys moved to New York, where Moyna restarted her acting career and went on tour while Angela cared for her siblings. Having moved her brood to Los Angeles and now working in a store, Moyna helped her daughter do a screen test at MGM, catapulting the 17-year-old to her Oscar-nominated film debut for “Gas light”.
The following year she had another Oscar nomination, this time for the role of singer Sibyl Vane in MGM’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
“I was a young woman looking for glamor and attention, and I really didn’t get it,” Lansbury told People. “So what did I do? I got married at 19.”
She married Richard Cromwell, who turned out to be gay, something Lansbury did not find out about until they separated nine months later. “My first big, big romance. It was a terrible tragedy,” she said, adding that the two remained friends until her death from cancer in 1960.
Shortly after the divorce, she met Peter Shaw, a British actor who would later become a prominent Hollywood agent. They married in London in 1949.
Roles in movies, live television and Broadway followed, including the role of Elvis Presley’s mother in the 1961 hit “Blue Hawaii,” despite the fact that Lansbury was only 10 years older than Elvis. Her role in 1962’s “The Manchurian Candidate” then established Lansbury’s reputation as a character actress, earning her a third Oscar nomination.
He won five Tony Awards. In 2013, the Hollywood Academy awarded her an honorary Oscar for her prolific career.
The actress also had a rough time when her children Anthony (born 1952) and Deirdre (born 1953) used hard drugs. The family moved in 1971 to County Cork, Ireland, which, Lansbury said, “was one of the last places on earth that was fairly drug-free.”
Traveling between Ireland, London and New York for the next decade until the children were sober, Lansbury bounced back professionally in 1978, when she created the iconic role of Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical Sweeney Todd. “.
Lansbury’s path was sealed by the role for which she will probably be best remembered and certainly most loved in “Murder, She Wrote” which put Lansbury at the helm for 256 episodes, earning her an impressive 12 Emmy nominations, though, oddly , I never win.
He also received a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 1996, an American National Medal of the Arts in 1997, a Kennedy Center Honor in 2000, and an award at Windsor Castle by Queen Elizabeth.
Lansbury received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theater in June, marking his sixth Tony Award overall.
The Broadway legend won four Tony Awards between the time she appeared as Mame Dennis in 1966’s “Mame and Mrs. Lovett” and 1979’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” She went on to win a fifth Tony for ” Blithe Spirit” of 2009, his first Tony for his performance in a play.
“It’s been an exceptional life, especially for me,” Lansbury told his teammates as he received the SAG honor. “And the great news is, girls, the opportunities are out there for us of all ages. I mean, look at some of the exquisite work of women in cinema today. I feel absolutely motivated to go ahead and embark on a new race”.
At 92, the actress still had no plans to slow down. After starring in the PBS miniseries “Little Women,” where she worked with Vanessa Caswill, the first director she collaborated with in her 80-year career, Lansbury was asked if the show would be her final act. . “Well, I wouldn’t say it’s my swan song. It’s not the last thing I’m going to do. I’m already doing other things,” said Lansbury, who appeared in 2018’s “Mary Poppins Returns.”