Charlotte Lillian McIldowie

11a, Brim Hill, Hampstead,London. N.2., England

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Charlotte Lillian McIldowie

Also Known As: "Moyna Macgill"
Birthdate: (80)
Birthplace: Belfast, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland
Death: November 25, 1975 (80)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William McIIdowie and Elizabeth Jane McIldowie
Wife of Edgar Lansbury
Ex-wife of Reginald Denham
Mother of Isolde Denham; Angela Brigid Lansbury; William Bruce M. Lansbury; Edgar G. M. Lansbury and <private> Lansbury

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Charlotte Lillian McIldowie

Moyna Macgill (10 December 1895 – 25 November 1975) was an Irish stage and film actress and the mother of actress Angela Lansbury and producers Edgar Lansbury and Bruce Lansbury.

Life and career


Born as Charlotte Lillian McIldowie in Belfast, she was the daughter of a wealthy solicitor who also worked as a director of the Belfast Opera, a position that sparked her interest in theatrics. She was still a teen when she was noticed riding the London Underground by director George Pearson, who cast her in several of his films. In 1918, she made her stage debut in the play Love in a Cottage at the West End's Globe Theatre.

Encouraged by Gerald du Maurier to change her name to Moyna Macgill (which invariably was misspelled as "MacGill" or "McGill", and on at least one occasion, the film Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven, as "Magill"), she became a leading actress of the day, appearing in light comedies, melodramas, and classics opposite Herbert Marshall, John Gielgud, and Basil Rathbone, among others.

Twenty-six-year old Macgill was married with a three-year-old daughter, Isolde (who later married Sir Peter Ustinov), when she became involved romantically with Edgar Lansbury, a socialist politician, who was son of the well-known popular Labour politician George Lansbury. Her husband, actor Reginald Denham, named Lansbury as co-respondent when he filed for divorce. A year after it was finalized, Macgill and Lansbury married and with Isolde settled into a garden flat in London's Regent's Park.

Macgill temporarily set aside her career following the birth of daughter Angela and twin sons Edgar, Jr., and Bruce (both went on to become Broadway producers, but Bruce is better known for his work on television, such as the series The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, and his sister's Murder She Wrote), although music and dance were prevalent in their upbringing. When they moved into a larger house in suburban Mill Hill, she turned their home into a salon for actors, writers, directors, musicians, and artists, all of whom left an impression on young Angela and were instrumental in directing her interests towards acting.

Angela Lansbury would become a popular stage and film actress in her own right, starring in her own television series in the 1980s, after a string of successful musicals spanning between the 1940s and 1960s.

In 1935, Edgar Lansbury died of stomach cancer, a year after publishing a biography of his father George. Macgill began an affair with Scotsman Leckie Forbes, a former colonel with the British Army in India. The two moved their respective families to a house in Hampstead, but Macgill soon discovered Forbes' military career had made him a staunch disciplinarian who ruled the household like a tyrant. When the opportunity to take her children to America presented itself just prior to The Blitz, she spirited them away under cover of night. She never spoke to Forbes again.

In New York City, Macgill was unable to work in movies or on the stage, not having a work visa, and she took to presenting dramatic readings at private schools for income. In 1942, she was invited to join a troupe that was rehearsing Noël Coward's Tonight at 8:30 for a touring production designed to raise funds for the Royal Canadian Air Force. She accepted, and when the company finished the run in Vancouver, she headed to Hollywood to seek work there. She soon sent for Angela, and eventually the twins, and the family settled in Laurel Canyon.

Her career in Hollywood consisted largely of small character parts in films and on television. Among her more notable film credits are Frenchman's Creek and The Picture of Dorian Gray (which co-starred her daughter Angela). In later years she made guest appearances on such television series as Studio One, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Kildare, Mister Ed, I Dream of Jeannie and My Favorite Martian.

She died of throat cancer in Los Angeles, just a few weeks shy of her 80th birthday.

Selected filmography

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Charlotte Lillian McIldowie's Timeline

October 10, 1895
Belfast, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland
Age 24
October 16, 1925
Age 30
London, England
Age 29
5 Regent'S Pk Ter.,Hampstead, London. N.W.1. England
January 12, 1930
Age 34
London, England
January 12, 1930
Age 34
London, England
Age 38
7. Weymouth Av., Mill Hill, London., N.W.7. England
Age 40
11a, Brim Hill, Hampstead,London. N.2., England
Age 41
11a, Brim Hill, Hampstead,London. N.2., England