Golden Age Hollywood star Angela Lansbury dies at 96
Three-time Oscar nominee and five-time Tony Award winner Dame Angela Lansbury died at 96, only five days before her 97th birthday. Her family announced that Lansbury died in her sleep at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at her home in Los Angeles.
“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,” the statement read.
A long and illustrious career
Lansbury was notably a star from the beginning of her career, receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress in her first film role as the young maid Nancy in George Cukor’s Gaslight (1944).
This is how Angela Lansbury wanted fans to remember her. pic.twitter.com/N5QbKlMla1
— Playbill (@playbill) October 11, 2022
The actress would later go on to receive two more Oscar nominations for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), with the latter role being Laurence Harvey’s manipulative mother. Lansbury often played characters much older than she was, with Harvey only a few years younger than her.
However, Lansbury’s career truly took off in 1966 when her role in a production of Mame led her to become a Broadway superstar, earning her the first of her eventual four Tonys for Best Actress in a Musical. Lansbury would later earn the other three wins for her portrayals of Rose in the 1974 revival of Gypsy; Mrs. Lovett in the original 1979 production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd; and Madame Arcati in the 2009 revival of Blithe Spirit.
She would later earn a fifth Tony in June this year, this time for Lifetime Achievement.
Rest In Peace, Angela Lansbury… pic.twitter.com/HQruGJ2nVC
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) October 11, 2022ADVERTISEMENT
Murder, She Wrote
In the early 1980s, Lansbury was approached by Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link to star in Murder, She Wrote, which would go on to become one of her most recognizable roles.
Interestingly, the actress originally had no interest in playing the character.
“I couldn’t imagine I would ever want to do television,” Lansbury said in a 1985 interview with The New York Times. “But the year 1983 rolled around, and Broadway was not forthcoming, so I took a part in a miniseries, Gertrude Whitney in Little Gloria, Happy at Last.”
However, a good sense of intuition led the actress to take the role.
“I began to sense that the television audience was very receptive to me, and I decided I should stop flirting and shut the door or say to my agents, ‘I’m ready to think series,’” Lansbury stated.
BREAKING: Dame Angela Lansbury, legendary "Murder, She Wrote" actress, just passed away at age 96.
RIP, Legend. pic.twitter.com/dmNABg3zsG
— BrooklynDad_Defiant!☮️ (@mmpadellan) October 11, 2022
At age 59, Lansbury took the leading role in the crime drama television series, starring as the widowed Jessica, a retired English teacher, mystery writer, and amateur detective living in the coastal town of Cabot Cove, Maine. Lansbury became a rare sight as a woman who carried her own television series.
Murder, She Wrote would run for two years, becoming massive ratings hit on Sunday nights. Despite this, the show only won two Emmys despite being nominated forty-one times.
Of her role, Lansbury stated, “What appealed to me about Jessica Fletcher is that I could do what I do best and [play someone I have had little chance to play — a sincere, down-to-earth woman.”
“Mostly, I’ve played very spectacular bitches. Jessica has extreme sincerity, compassion, and extraordinary intuition. I’m not like her. My imagination runs riot,” Lansbury added. “I’m not a pragmatist. Jessica is.”
Lansbury was born Angela Brigid Lansbury on Oct. 16, 1925, in London. Her father was a timber merchant, and her mother was a theatre actress, though her father passed away when she was nine.
She began acting at a young age, participating in school plays at Hampstead School for Girls and studying for a year at drama school. She also passed with honors at the Royal Academy of Music.
RIP, Dame Angela Lansbury. pic.twitter.com/SBpnNE0mYM
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) October 12, 2022
After the outbreak of World War II, Lansbury moved to the United States. She came with her mother and her younger twin brothers, Bruce and Edgar.
Later, Lansbury would attend the Feagin Schol of Dramatic Art in New York City, graduating in 1942. She would spend much of her early post-graduate life auditioning for nightclub appearances.
Eventually, Lansbury would earn a six-week engagement from the Samovar Club in Montreal for her songs and imitations of comic actress Beatrice Lillie. Funnily, the entertainer lied about her age while auditioning. This would mark the beginning of an incredible decades-long career.
Over the course of her life, Lansbury would play notable roles such as Elvia Presley’s mom in Blue Hawaii (1961), a cold-hearted parent in The World of Henry Orient (1964), the English witch Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and as Mrs. Potts in the Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast (1991).
The actress would also star in two films based on Agatha Cristie’s books: Death on the Nile (1978) and The Mirror Crack’d (1980).
Dame Angela Lansbury, a beloved actress known for her roles in Murder She Wrote and Beauty and the Beast, has died at the age of 96. pic.twitter.com/wNi02kdRW4
— IGN (@IGN) October 11, 2022
Lansbury’s relationships and family
Lansbury was married twice – first at 19, marrying the then-37-year-old Richard Cromwell. However, this marriage lasted less than a year, with Lansbury later discovering that Cromwell was gay. Her second marriage was in 1949 at the age of 24, when she wed Peter Shaw. The two were together until his death in 2003 and had two children.
In addition to her brother Edgar, Lansbury is survived by her children Anthony, Deirdre, and David; her grandchildren Peter, Katherine, and Ian; and five great-grandchildren. A private family ceremony will be held at a date to be determined.