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Mame, Mrs Potts, Mrs. Lovett and Jessica Fletcher Will Forever Live In Our Mind as Angela Lansbury Passes Away

Mame, Mrs Potts, Mrs. Lovett and Jessica Fletcher Will Forever Live In Our Mind as Angela Lansbury Passes Away

One of the first musicals, I remember seeing was Angela Lansbury in Mame at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I was enthralled and thus became my life long love affair with the brilliantly talented Ms. Lansbury.

Angela (she told me to call her that), was perhaps best known for playing the beloved mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher on CBS’ Murder, She Wrote. She played the role for over the 12 years the series ran. Today she passed away at 96, just five days shy of her 97th birthday,

Angela was the daughter of Belfast-born actress Moyna MacGill and Edgar Lansbury. Angela was taken to plays at London’s Old Vic and enrolled in a school for the arts and dance. Her twin brothers, Edgar and Bruce, later became successful producers. When her father died and war hit in the 1940’s the Lansburys moved to New York and then Los Angeles. Still working as an actress her mother helped land her daughter a screen test at MGM. The 17-year-old was cast in  1944 thriller Gaslight and wasOscar-nominated. The next year had her playing Elizabeth Taylor older sister in  National Velvet and another Oscar nomination, for The Picture of Dorian Gray,

In the film Gaslight

At 19 she got married to leading man Richard Cromwell, who turned out to be gay. The two remained friends until his death from cancer in 1960. Shortly after being divorce, she met Peter Shaw, a British actor who became a prominent Hollywood agent. They were married in London in 1949, with her mother serving as the matron of honor.


Film, live TV roles and Broadway followed, including the role of Elvis Presley’s mother in the 1961 hit, Blue Hawaii. Then she became the scariest of all mothers in the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate. Angela was now well established as formidable character actress. She earned a third Oscar nomination for this iconic role.

Richard Kiley and Angela Lansbury with their Tony Awards (1966)

In 1957 on Broadway Hotel Paradiso, A Taste of Honey and Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle. A year later, Mame, and a Tony award. The there was Dear World (Tony Award), Gypsy (Tony Award), The King and I and A Little Family Business

Two of her children became addicted to drugs and in 1971 the family move to County Cork, Ireland. Lansbury commuted between Ireland, London and New York until her children were clean.


In 1978, she created Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim Sweeney Todd, winning another Tony.

Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirt

In 1984, Murder, She Wrote making Lansbury a household name. She earned 12 Emmy nominations. She actually was nominated 18 times and yet no win. She did receive a 1996 Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, a 1997 American National Medal of the Arts, a 2000 Kennedy Center Honor, and, in a 2014 ceremony at Windsor Castle, was officially made Dame Angela by Queen Elizabeth while she was playing the spiritualist Madame Arcati in a London production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, which later came to Broadway, winning her another Tony Award.

Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury photo Genevieve Rafter Keddy

Also on Broadway Deuce, A Little Night Music and Gore Vidal’s The Best Man.

In 1997 she started working for Disney Bedknobs and Broomsticks was the first. In 1991 she voiced the character of Mrs. Potts and won the hearts of children everywhere. Then in 1997 she voice the Dowager Empress in Anastasia. Her final Disney performance was in Mary Poppins Returns in 2018, portraying the unnamed Balloon Lady. All together Ms. Lansbury appeared in over 100 film and Television show.

In 2003 her husband Peter Shaw died of heart failure.

In 2017 at 92, the had starred in PBS’s Little Women miniseries where she worked with director Vanessa Caswill, the first female director she’d collaborated with in her 80-year career.

In 2019 Ms. Lansbury was honored by The League of Professional Theatre Women.

Ms. Lansbury is survived by her three children, Anthony, Deirdre and David, her three grandchildren, Peter, Katherine and Ian, five great grandchildren and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury. Our hearts and prayers go out to them.

First we lost Stephen Sondheim now Ms. Lansbury. Musical theatre is in mourning.

Broadway

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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