Legendary Hollywood star Angela Lansbury has passed away at the age of 96.
“The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 AM today, Tuesday, October 11, 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday,” her family said in a statement to People magazine.
“In addition to her three children, Anthony, Deirdre and David, she is survived by three grandchildren, Peter, Katherine and Ian, plus five great-grandchildren and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury,” the statement added. “She was proceeded in death by her husband of 53 years, Peter Shaw. A private family ceremony will be held at a date to be determined.”
Lansbury, star of “Murder, She Wrote,” earned six Golden Globes and 18 Emmy nominations as well as an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures. She also received a National Medal of Arts and a Kennedy Center Honor.
Angela Brigid Lansbury was born on Oct. 16, 1925, in London, U.K. She was the daughter of Belfast-born actress Moyna MacGill and her second husband, lumber merchant Edgar Lansbury. She was introduced to the theatre world at London’s Old Vic. As a child, her mother enrolled her in a school for the arts and dance, but when Lansbury was just nine, in 1934, her father died unexpectedly.
When her mother kicked off her acting career in the 1940s, Lansbury and her family headed to New York. The family eventually traveled to Los Angeles where MacGill helped her daughter land a screen test at MGM. Lansbury made her movie debut in 1944’s “Gaslight,” at just 17 years old. The role earned her an Oscar nomination. She went on to play Elizabeth Taylor’s sister in “National Velvet” that year.
She earned another Oscar nomination the very next year, thanks to 1945’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” At 19, Lansbury married leading man Richard Cromwell, but they separated just nine months later after Lansbury learned the actor was gay. The two remained friends until his death in 1960 from cancer.
In 1949, Lansbury married Peter Shaw, a British actor who later became a Hollywood agent, in London. Lansbury kept busy pursuing a thriving career both on the big screen, on television and on the stage. She played Elvis Presley’s mother in 1961’s “Blue Hawaii” despite the actress being just 10 years older than the singer.
In 1962, she played Laurence Harvey’s mother in “The Manchurian Candidate.” For this role, she was three years older than her on-screen son. It earned Lansbury her third Oscar nomination.
Meanwhile, Lansbury made her Broadway debut in 1957 in “Hotel Paradiso,” striking stardom after winning Tonys for “Mame” in 1966, “Dear World” in 1969, “Gypsy” in 1974, “Sweeney Todd” in 1979 and “Blithe Spirit” in 2009. Some of her other Broadway credits include “A Little Night Music,” “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man” and “Anyone Can Whistle.”
She earned another Tony nomination in 2007 in Terrence McNally’s “Deuce,” playing a scrappy, brash former tennis star, reflecting with another ex-star as she watches a modern-day match from the stands. She collected her fifth Tony, in 2009, for best featured actress in a revival of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” and in 2015 won an Olivier Award in the role.
Lansbury was a celebrated character actress in Hollywood. Her most iconic role is that of Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote,” which premiered in 1984. Lansbury starred in 256 episodes and earned 12 Emmy nominations.
The series, based loosely on Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, centered on Jessica Fletcher, a middle-aged widow and former substitute school teacher living in the seaside village of Cabot Cove, Maine. She had achieved notice as a mystery novelist and amateur sleuth.
Lansbury found that the first season of the series was exhausting, remarking in an interview, “I was shocked when I learned that I had to work 12-15 hours a day, relentlessly, day in, day out. I had to lay down the law at one point and say `Look, I can’t do these shows in seven days; it will have to be eight days.’”
Despite the long days and hundreds of pages of dialogue to memorize, Lansbury maintained a steady pace. She was pleased that Jessica Fletcher served as an inspiration for older women.
“Women in motion pictures have always had a difficult time being role models for other women,” she observed. “They’ve always been considered glamorous in their jobs.”
“Murder, She Wrote” stayed high in the ratings through its 11th year, but was canceled after CBS, seeking a younger audience for Sunday night, shifted the series to a less favorable midweek slot, and ratings for the show plummeted.
Although she earned 18 Emmy nominations for her role in “Murder, She Wrote,” she never won one. She holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations and wins for best actress in a television drama series and the most Emmy nominations for lead actress in a drama series.
Lansbury continued to pursue roles on television and Broadway after “Murder, She Wrote.” In 2014, she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle.
At 92, Lansbury was still leading a successful acting career, starring in the PBS miniseries “Little Women,” and playing the Balloon Lady in 2018’s “Mary Poppins Returns.”
In a 2008 Associated Press interview, Lansbury said she still welcomed the right script but did not want to play “old, decrepit women,” she said.
“I want women my age to be represented the way they are, which is vital, productive members of society,” said Lansbury. “I’m astonished at the amount of stuff I managed to pack into the years that I have been in the business. And I’m still here!”
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