Angela Lansbury: Wikis


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Angela Lansbury

Lansbury in 1989
Born Angela Brigid Lansbury
16 October 1925 (1925-10-16) (age 84)
London, England, UK
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1944–present
Spouse(s) Richard Cromwell (1945–1946)
Peter Shaw (1949–2003 - his death)

Angela Brigid Lansbury, CBE (born 16 October 1925) is an English actress and singer whose career has spanned eight decades. Her first film appearance was in Gaslight (1944) as a malevolent maid, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. Among her other films are The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and Beauty and the Beast (1991)

She expanded her repertoire to Broadway and television in the 1950s, and she was successful in Broadway productions of Gypsy, Mame, and Sweeney Todd. Lansbury is more recently known for her role as mystery writer Jessica Fletcher on the U.S. television series Murder, She Wrote, in which she starred from 1984 to 1996, and in a Broadway revival of Blithe Spirit as Madame Arcati.

Respected for her versatility, 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 eighteen Emmy Awards.


Early life

Lansbury was born in Poplar, London, England,[1] to Belfast-born actress Moyna MacGill and Edgar Lansbury, a politician and prominent businessman. Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader George Lansbury. She is the elder sister of producer Edgar Lansbury and a cousin of the late English animator and puppeteer Oliver Postgate (another grandchild of George Lansbury). Her cousin, the academic Coral Lansbury, was the mother of former Australian federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

Her earliest theatrical influences were the teenage coloratura Deanna Durbin, screen star Irene Dunne, and Lansbury's mother, who encouraged her daughter's ambition by taking her to plays at the Old Vic and removing her from South Hampstead High School for Girls in order to enroll her in the Ritman School of Dancing and later the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art.

Following her father's death from stomach cancer, her mother became involved with a Scotsman named Leckie Forbes, and the two merged their families under one roof in Hampstead. A former colonel with the British Army in India, Forbes proved to be a jealous and suspicious tyrant who ruled the household with an iron hand. Just prior to the German bombing campaign of London, Lansbury's mother was presented with the opportunity to take her children to North America, and under cover of dark of night they fled from their unhappy home and sailed for Montreal; from there they headed to New York City. When her mother settled in Hollywood following a fund-raising Canadian tour of a Noel Coward play, Lansbury (and later her brothers) joined her there.

Lansbury worked at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles. At one of the frequent parties her mother hosted for British émigré performers in their Laurel Canyon home, she met would-be actor Michael Dyne, who arranged for her to meet Mel Ballerino, the casting director for the upcoming film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ballerino was casting Gaslight (1944) as well, and he offered her the part of Nancy, the impertinent and slightly malevolent maid, which was her first film role. Appearing with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, Lansbury was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and the following year gained another nomination for her portrayal of Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray.



Angela Lansbury in Deuce, New York City, 2007

On Broadway, Lansbury received good reviews from her first musical outing, the short-lived 1964 Stephen Sondheim musical Anyone Can Whistle, which co-starred Lee Remick. In 1966, she was offered the title role in what would become the enormously successful Mame, Jerry Herman's musical adaptation of the novel and subsequent film Auntie Mame, which had starred Rosalind Russell. Mame opened at the Winter Garden Theater in May 1966 and Lansbury received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Additionally, Lansbury's recording of the play's song "We Need a Little Christmas" has become widely popular, and receives substantial airplay each Christmas. Lansbury won her second Tony Award for her performance in Dear World (1969).

In May 1973, the first revival of Gypsy opened in London's West End and played for 300 performances. Lansbury played Rose, the infamous stage mother (originated on Broadway by Ethel Merman). In September 1974, the same production opened at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre. Lansbury received her third Tony for her performance in Gypsy. In her acceptance speech, she thanked Ethel Merman for creating the role of Rose in the 1959 Broadway premiere.

Lansbury starred as Mrs. Lovett in the original 1979 production of Stephen Sondheim's musical thriller Sweeney Todd. She starred opposite Len Cariou who played the title role, and later played the role in the first U.S. tour (1982) which was recorded for television while playing in Los Angeles. She won another Tony Award for her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett, and stated that this is the role that she would most like to be remembered for.

Signing autographs for fans after performing in Blithe Spirit, 2009.

In 1971, Lansbury was cast in the title role in the musical Prettybelle. After a difficult rehearsal period, the show opened to brutal reviews in Boston, where it closed within a week. In 1982, a recording of the show was released by Varese Sarabande which included most of the original cast, and Lansbury's 11 o'clock number "When I'm Drunk, I'm Beautiful" along with "You Never Looked Better", a song removed early in the run.

She had been announced for the lead role in the Kander-Ebb musical The Visit, to open on Broadway in 2001, but withdrew from the show before it opened because of her husband's declining health.[2]

Lansbury returned to Broadway for the first time in twenty-three years in Deuce, a play by Terrence McNally, co-starring Marian Seldes. The play opened at the Music Box Theatre in May 2007 in a limited run of eighteen weeks. Lansbury received a Tony Award nomination in the category of Best Leading Actress in a Play for her role in this production. In October 2008, she was cast as Madame Arcati in the revival of Blithe Spirit, which opened at the Shubert Theatre in March 2009. The New York Times praised her performance,[3] for which she won numerous awards, including the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play (her fifth win).[4]

Lansbury currently stars as Madame Armfeldt alongside Catherine Zeta Jones in the first Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, which opened on December 13, 2009 at the Walter Kerr Theatre.[5]

Film and television

Lansbury in a scene from MGM's Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), one of her earliest film appearances.

Lansbury has enjoyed a long and varied career, often in roles older than her actual age, appearing in such films as The Harvey Girls (1946) (when she was 19 and playing a much older character), Samson and Delilah (1949) and Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). She appeared on the NBC drama The Eleventh Hour as Alvera Dunlear in the 1963 episode "Something Crazy's Going on in the Back Room" and had a prominent supporting role in the film The Manchurian Candidate (1962) in which she portrayed the invidious Mrs. Iselin. She received acclaim for her performance as Mrs. Iselin and received several industry awards. (Lucille Ball had been considered for the role; a decade later, Ball coincidentally landed the title role in the film version of Mame, the role Lansbury had created on Broadway.) On CNN's Larry King Live, Lansbury said that her character in The Manchurian Candidate was her favorite of her many film roles.[6] Lansbury also starred in several dramas before and during her Broadway success, including The World of Henry Orient (1964) and Something for Everyone (1970).

Lansbury's popularity from and association with Mame on Broadway in the 1960s had her very much in demand everywhere in the media. Ever the humanitarian, she used her fame as an opportunity to benefit others wherever possible. For example, when appearing as a mystery guest on the popular Sunday night CBS-TV show What's My Line?, she made an impassioned plea for viewers to contribute to the 1966 Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraising drive, chaired by Jerry Lewis.

Lansbury in the trailer for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

After many years performing on Broadway and in the West End, Lansbury returned to film in Death on the Nile (1978), and portrayed Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980). She began doing character voice work shortly thereafter in animated films such as The Last Unicorn (1982) and Anastasia (1997); her most famous voice work is the singing teapot Mrs. Potts in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast (1991), in which she performed the title song. She reprised the role for its midquel and the video game Kingdom Hearts II (2006). Lansbury made her first theatrical film appearance since The Company of Wolves (1984) as great aunt Adelaide in Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee in 2005.

Lansbury has won every Tony Award for which she has been nominated except the nomination for Deuce in 2007, but has not been the recipient of an Academy Award or an Emmy Award. She has been thrice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; she reflected on these losses in 2007 and 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.[7] Lansbury has received eighteen Emmy Award nominations, and holds the record for the most losses by a performer,[8] twelve of which as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. However, she has received several other prominent awards, including the Golden Globe, and is tied with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep for most Golden Globe Award wins with six each.[9]

In 1983, Lansbury starred opposite Laurence Olivier in a BBC adaptation of the Broadway play A Talent for Murder, which she described as "a rushed job" in which she participated solely to work with Olivier.[9] Subsequent to this performance, Lansbury continued to work in the mystery genre, and achieved fame greater than at any other time in her career as mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher on the U.S. television series Murder, She Wrote (1984—1996). It became one of the longest-running detective drama series in television history and made her one of the highest paid actresses in the world. She assumed ownership of the series in 1991 and acted as executive producer from that season onward.

Personal life

Lansbury with her children in 1957.

In 1945, Lansbury married American actor Richard Cromwell when he was 35 and she was 19. Unbeknownst to her, Cromwell was bisexual[10] (some sources suggest he was gay), and the marriage dissolved after a year, but the two remained friends.

In 1949, Lansbury married British-born actor and businessman Peter Shaw, who was a former boyfriend of Joan Crawford. Shaw was instrumental in guiding and managing Lansbury's career. They were married for 54 years until his death in January 2003.

Lansbury is the mother of two, stepmother of one, and a grandmother several times over. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Lansbury revealed a firestorm that destroyed the family's Malibu home in September 1970 was a blessing in disguise, as it prompted a move to a rural area of County Cork in Ireland, where her children were separated from the hard drugs with which they had been experimenting. Her daughter had also been briefly involved with the Manson Family. Her son Anthony Shaw, after a brief fling with acting, became producer/director of Murder, She Wrote and presently is a television executive and director. Her only daughter Deirdre and son-in-law, a chef, are restaurateurs in West Los Angeles.

Lansbury's half-sister Isolde was married to Peter Ustinov for some years but divorced in 1946. Lansbury and her former in-law Ustinov appeared together professionally once in Death on the Nile (1978). Lansbury is related by marriage to actress Ally Sheedy, wife of her nephew David Lansbury. Both her brothers, twins Bruce and Edgar, are successful theater producers: Edgar Lansbury, Jr. was instrumental in bringing Godspell to Broadway and Bruce Lansbury was a television producer for such shows as The Wild Wild West and Mission: Impossible.

She had knee replacement surgery on 14 July 2005.[11]

Lansbury was a long-time resident of Brentwood, California, and supported various philanthropic groups in Southern California. In 2006, Lansbury moved to New York City, purchasing a condominium at a reported cost of $2 million. The following year, she returned to Broadway in Deuce.[12]

Lansbury's papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.[13]



Year Film Role Notes
1944 Gaslight Nancy Oliver Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
National Velvet Edwina Brown
1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray Sibyl Vane Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1946 The Harvey Girls Em
The Hoodlum Saint Dusty Millard
Till the Clouds Roll By London Specialty
1947 The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Clotilde de Marelle
If Winter Comes Mabel Sabre
1948 State of the Union Kay Thorndyke
The Three Musketeers Queen Anne
Tenth Avenue Angel Susan Bratten
1949 The Red Danube Audrey Quail
Samson and Delilah Semadar
1951 Kind Lady Mrs. Edwards
1952 Mutiny Leslie
1953 Remains to Be Seen Valeska Chauvel
1954 A Life at Stake Doris Hillman
1955 The Purple Mask Madame Valentine
A Lawless Street Tally Dickinsen
1956 The Court Jester Princess Gwendolyn
Please Murder Me Myra Leeds
1958 The Long, Hot Summer Minnie Littlejohn
The Reluctant Debutante Mabel Claremont
1959 Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Pearl
1960 The Dark at the Top of the Stairs Mavis Pruitt
A Breath of Scandal Countess Lina
1961 Blue Hawaii Sarah Lee Gates
1962 Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Marguerite Laurier voice (uncredited)
All Fall Down Annabell Willart National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress (also for The Manchurian Candidate)
The 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
1963 In the Cool of the Day Sybil Logan
1964 The World of Henry Orient Isabel Boyd
Dear Heart Phyllis
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Claudia
The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Lady Blystone
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 Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
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 The Lady Vanishes Miss Froy
1980 The Mirror Crack'd Miss Jane Marple Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actress
1982 The Last Unicorn Mommy Fortuna voice
1983 The Pirates of Penzance Ruth
1984 Ingrid Herself
The Company of Wolves Granny
1991 Beauty and the Beast Mrs. Potts voice
1997 Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Mrs. Potts voice; direct-to-video midquel
Anastasia Dowager Empress Marie voice
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


Production Role Venue Dates Notes
Hotel Paradiso Broadway April – July 1957
A Taste of Honey Helen Broadway October 1960 – May 1961[14]
Anyone Can Whistle Cora Hoover Hooper Broadway April 1964 musical debut
Mame Mame Dennis Broadway May 1966 – March 1968 (through August 1968 on tour)[15] 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 West End 1972
Gypsy Mama Rose Hovick West End;
May 1973 – March 1974;
September 1974 – January 1975
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
Hamlet West End 1975–1976
The King and I 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
(including U.S. tour from October 1980 – August 1981)[16]
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
A Little Family Business Broadway December 1982
Mame Mame Dennis Broadway July – August 1983 revival
Deuce Leona Mullen Broadway April – August 2007 Nominated — Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play
Blithe Spirit Madame Arcati Broadway March – July 2009 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
Drama League Awards — The Distinguished Performance Award, 2009 (Nominated)
A Little Night Music Madame Armfeldt Broadway December 2009[5]


Year Film Role Notes
1982 Little Gloria... Happy at Last Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Nominated — Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1983 The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story Amanda Fenwick Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
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 A Talent for Murder Ann Royce McClain
Lace Aunt Hortense Boutin
19841996 Murder, She Wrote Jessica Fletcher Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1985, 1987, 1990, 1992)
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 Rage of Angels: The Story Continues Marchesa Allabrandi
1988 Shootdown Nan Moore
1989 The Shell Seekers Penelope Keeling
1990 The Love She Sought Agatha McGee
1992 Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris Mrs. Ada Harris
1992 The Grand Opening of Euro Disney Herself
1996 Mrs. Santa Claus Mrs. Santa Claus
1997 Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest Jessica Fletcher
1999 The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax 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
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

Honors and awards

Tony Awards

Lansbury has won five Tony Awards, more than any performer. (Although Julie Harris has won 6 Tony Awards, one is a Special Tony Award).[17]

Lansbury's wins were in:

  • 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

She was nominated in 2007 for her leading role in the play Deuce.

Honorary awards

In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom appointed her a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.[18]

In 1997, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[19]

She received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2000.[20]

She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Honorary recognition

Lansbury's additional recognition includes:


  1. ^ "Discover Tower Hamlets - Area guides - Poplar". Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  2. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2000-07-20). "Angela Lansbury Withdraws From The Visit; Producers Seek Alternatives". Playbill. 
  3. ^ Brantley, Ben (2009-03-16). "The Medium as the Messenger". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ Viagas, Robert (2009-06-07). "Lansbury Wins Fifth Tony; Ties Harris for Most Acting Honors". Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  5. ^ a b Gans, Andrew (2009-09-22). "Zeta-Jones, Lansbury, Hanson, Lazar, Davie Set for Broadway's Night Music Revival". Playbill. 
  6. ^ Interview with Angela Lansbury at Irish Film Institute 9 July 2006
  7. ^ "Lansbury Pleased Not to Have Won Oscars". 2009-10-23. 
  8. ^ "Can Emmy's biggest loser Bill Maher ever win?". Los Angeles Times. 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  9. ^ a b Vermilve, Jerry (2000). The Complete Films of Laurence Olivier. Citadel Press. ISBN 0806513020. 
  10. ^ Morgan Falconer "Angela Lansbury - life after Murder", The Times, 28 April 2008
  11. ^ "Angela Lansbury to Have Knee Surgery". Playbill. 2005-07-12. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  12. ^ Green, Jesse."Surprising Herself, a Class Act Returns",The New York Times, April 29, 2007
  13. ^ archives list
  14. ^ Calta, Lewis.New York Times, "Theatre: 3 Cast Changes Made in 'Taste of Honey'", 17 May 1961, p. 43
  15. ^ Windeler, Robert.New York Times, "Angela Lansbury a Hit in Coast 'Mame'", 29 June 1968, p. 19 "She played it [Mame] SanFrancisco for seven weeks... The show is here also for a seven- week run...In September, Miss Lansbury will be involved with 'Dear World' "
  16. ^ "Sweeney Todd listing, Original Broadway production, cast notes; 1980 National Touring Production."
  17. ^ [Tony Awards Legacy Facts and Trivia",], accessed February 7, 2010
  18. ^ London Gazette: no. 53696, page 26. Accessed 3 May 2009.
  19. ^ Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts
  20. ^ Ehren, Christine and Simonson, Robert and Lefkowitz, David."Lansbury Lauded, Blast! Blares at Kennedy Center Honors on CBS, Dec. 27",, December 27, 2000
  21. ^ Simonson (2000-05-06). "Cronkite, Bacall & Sondheim Pay Tribute To Lansbury at New Dramatists, 16 May". Playbill. 
  22. ^ "Angela Lansbury to Receive Acting Company's Lifetime Achievement Award". Playbill. 2002-10-28. 
  23. ^ Allen, Morgan (2004-11-01). "PHOTO CALL: Depp and Lansbury Honored by Actor's Fund at October 30 Gala". Playbill. 
  24. ^ "Award-winning actress Angela Lansbury addresses Theatre Arts students". University of Miami. 2008-05-08. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  25. ^ "Calendar & Events: Spring Sing: Gershwin Award". UCLA. 
  26. ^ Ross, Blake."About Last Night: Celebrating Angela Lansbury, With Zeta-Jones, Cariou, Garber, Peters and More",, February 9, 2010


  • Gottfried, Martin (1999). Balancing Act: The Authorized Biography of Angela Lansbury. New York: Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-316-32225-3. 

External links

Simple English

Angela Lansbury (born 1925) is an actress. Lansbury played Jessica Fletcher in the television series Murder, She Wrote.

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