Angela Lansbury, the British-born actress who became America’s favorite icon for eight decades and spanned three different media outlets, has passed away. She is 96 years old.
“Dame Angela Lansbury’s children are saddened to announce that their mother passed away peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 a.m. today, Tuesday, October 11, 2022, just five days before her 97th birthday,” her family said in a statement.
The tireless Lansbury is known worldwide as Jessica Fletcher, a busybody, best-selling author and amateur killer who presides over the notorious murder-rich town of Cabot Cove, Maine, on the CBS series Murder, She Wrote.
Lansbury completed the tour of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit plays an eccentric middleman, a role that earned her her fifth Tony Award in 2009 (the only actor to have won more was Audra McDonald. That’s the kind of stellar part she played. excellent, mainly because they don’t like her. Lansbury said to SFGate. “I have been an actor for as long as I can remember, ever since I was very young. I never grew out of the ability to play a role, to be someone else. Personally, I’m the most boring thing about walking on two legs.”
Where most performers have only one acting career, Lansbury has three distinct careers.
When she was seventeen and George Cukor chose her as Gaslight, Lansbury was a war immigrant who fled The Blitz with her mother and twin brothers, first to New York and then Los Angeles, where she was supporting her family with a $28 job a week at the cosmetics counter of the Bullock department store. She experienced what she would consider the defining moment of her life when her father died of cancer when she was nine.
“If anything good comes from my father’s early death, it will be driven to mature before my contemporaries,” Lansbury said to Daily mail. “I grew up fast because I had to.”
Play a maid’s cockney army, Gaslight would bring Lansbury the first of three Oscar nominations. It was a remarkable debut performance that shocked even her. “How do I get all that assurance?” she will comment years later. “I have much less assurance now. In those days, I suppose, I was ahead of the trust.”
She will follow Gaslight immediately with National Velvet and Painting by Dorian Gray (a nod to her second Oscar), but Hollywood is perpetually at a loss for how to utilize her unclassifiable combination of intelligence and atypical beauty. George Cukor said, she Gaslight director, “She’s constantly being told the wrong thing.”
She married the late actor and artist Richard Cromwell at the age of 19 and divorced nine months later on the grounds of ‘extreme cruelty’ – it seems the 1940s saying was ‘my husband dated boys’ (including Howard Hughes supposedly). “It baffled me a little bit,” said Lansbury, who remained friends with Cromwell until his death in the 1960s, of the experience.
She found the love of her life almost immediately after her divorce when she began dating Peter Shaw, a failed actor turned executive and agent whom she would marry in 1949, a relationship that lasted until he died of heart failure in 2003. “He was everything to me,” she said. told Daily Mail. “We are partners at work as well as husband and wife and lovers. I don’t know how we ended up in such a long marriage, but the simple truth is that we were devoted to each other.”
She spent most of the ’50s and ’60s making happy homes for Shaw and their two children – Anthony and Deirdre – and less happily, 40s or nearly forgettable movies.
Cursed and blessed with what she calls her ‘inner age,’ – “I started playing the mother in my twenties”, she said – Lansbury is forever being played a lot older than she is. . Hedy Lemar was 16 years older than her when Lansbury played her bigger sister in 1949 Sampson and Delilah. Warren Beatty was only 12 years old when she played his mother in It all falls down; when she played Elvis’ mother in Hawaiian Blue, The king was nine years younger than her. “[Elvis] at the time,” said Lansbury, according to Rob Edelman’s Angela Lansbury: A Life on Stage and Screen. “Between turns, he would smash bricks with his hands.”
However, she’ll go to movie heaven thanks in no small part to her stellar and Oscar-nominated performance as the archetypal mother from hell in John Frankenheimer. Manchurian candidate, The 1962 box office failure became one of the most beloved political thrillers ever made. (It’s no surprise that her “son” in the film, Lawrence Harvey, is only 3 years old.) The series disappeared after the assassination of JFK and was only re-released in theaters in 1988, when Lansbury was in its fourth season. Murder, she wrote.
Modern critics have been amazed. “Words are hard to describe Angela Lansbury’s performance,” Peter Travers wrote. “Lansbury created a modern-day Lady Macbeth with the skills of a witch. It was an incredible performance, engulfed. “
Tired of being treated by studios the way kung-fu Elvis did with bricks, Lansbury turned to Broadway to try his hand at musical theater. “I always imagined that I had a charming voice, but no one allowed me to use it,” she said, singing for the first time with the 1964 musical Sondheim. Anyone Can Whistle. The show failed, but it led to her being cast in the lead role in Mommy, major hit that kicked off her second career as one of the brightest lights to ever hit Broadway.
Almost overnight, she went from a Hollywood that had never been raised to New York. “God damn it, I want all the charm there,” she said Life. “I starved it for years. Lansbury added, “It’s like anything you’ve ever read – the front desk at Sardi’s, it’s like living on another planet. People love you; Everyone loves success and enjoys it as much as you do. “
Lansbury would get a second chance with Sondheim in 1979 when she created Mrs. Lovett in Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, part that she considers one of the best she has ever played. Of course, when the movie version of Mommy, Her role goes to Lucile Ball.
Personal tragedy struck him in the midst of his glory on Broadway when her family’s Malibu home burned down while both of her children were battling drug addiction. (According to Lansbury, her daughter fell into the Manson mob.) She and Shaw moved to Cork, Ireland to regroup and clean up their kids. She has kept a house there since then. “I’m very, very comfortable there,” she told the Irish Post. “I find this to be an extremely warm and intimate place to live. I was left alone there.”
Her third but not final act came when she landed Murder, she wrote, part that made her internationally recognized and a good meme before such things actually existed. (“I killed them, I killed them all!”). She was nominated for an Emmy for each show for 11 seasons, but she never won. “No one in Los Angeles has ever seen it Murder, she wrote,“She told me in 2012, by explaining the moodiness of more than a decade. “It’s a gig for all the others.”
However, it’s not as if she lacks recognition. In 2012, the film industry attempted to correct half-century-old mistakes by awarding her an Honorary Academy Award. A year later, she was restored to her birthplace when Queen Elizabeth named her Commander Dame of the British Empire. But for Lansbury, there are no compliments compared to what she’s experienced every time she gets on stage and connects with an audience. “I’m like a horse racing out of the gate,” she told BBC in 2014. “I was like, ‘Get me out of there!'”
Lansbury added, “Food and drink for an actor is laughter and acceptance. Certain moments when you know something is working and they’re with you – that’s what you work to achieve in your role. We live for it, and if we don’t make it, we’re really worried.”