One of the most enduring, versatile, and hard-working actresses around, Angela Lansbury has made indelible impressions in the worlds of film, theatre, and TV. The granddaughter of the British Labour Party’s leader and daughter of a well-known actress, she studied drama as a child before being evacuated to the United States during the German blitz.
At 17, her very first Hollywood role — as the Cockney maid in Gaslight — won her an Oscar nomination and a seven-year M-G-M contract. She was nominated again the next year, for The Picture of Dorian Gray. She was usually cast in supporting character parts, and often played overbearing older women (“venal bitches,” she calls them). She was most effective as the chilling mother in The Manchurian Candidate, in 1962, for which she won another Academy nomination.
In the late ’60s, Lansbury’s Malibu house burned down and she moved her family to Ireland, this also coincided with the fact that her daughter had become caught up with Charles Manson as one of his followers. She returned to the States in triumph to show off her musical gifts on Broadway, where she became a four-time Tony winner. She’s also hosted numerous Tony and Emmy Award telecasts.
Twelve years as sleuth Jessica Fletcher on the hit series Murder, She Wrote made Lansbury a TV superstar at 70, and she perpetuated her popularity with audiences of all ages by lending her noteworthy diction to the animated features, Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Anastasia (1997).
I just stopped playing bitches on wheels and peoples’ mothers. I have only a few more years to kick up my heels! – Angela Lansbury, 1986