Dame Angela Lansbury

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Angela Brigid Lansbury

Birthplace: London, England
Death: LA, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Edgar Lansbury and Charlotte Lillian McIldowie
Wife of Peter Pullen Shaw
Ex-wife of Richard Cromwell
Mother of Private and Private
Sister of William Bruce M. Lansbury; Edgar G. M. Lansbury and Private
Half sister of Isolde Baronin Von Ustinov

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Dame Angela Lansbury


Angela Brigid Lansbury, CBE (born 16 October 1925) is a British actress and singer in theatre, television and films. Her career has spanned eight decades and earned an unsurpassed number of performance Tony Awards (tied with Julie Harris and Audra McDonald), with five wins. Her first film appearance was in the film Gaslight (1944) as a conniving maid, for which she received an Academy Award nomination at the age of eighteen; she earned her second nomination the following year for The Picture of Dorian Gray. Among her other films are The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Beauty and the Beast (1991), and Anastasia (1997).

She expanded her repertoire to Broadway musicals and television in the 1950s and was particularly successful in Broadway productions of Gypsy, Mame and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Lansbury is perhaps best known to modern audiences for her twelve-year run starring as writer and sleuth Jessica Fletcher on the American television series Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996). Her recent roles include Lady Adelaide Stitch in the film Nanny McPhee (2005), Leona Mullen in the 2007 Broadway play Deuce, Madame Arcati in the 2009 Broadway revival of the play Blithe Spirit and Madame Armfeldt in the 2010 Broadway revival of the musical A Little Night Music.

Lansbury has won five Tony Awards, six Golden Globes and has been nominated for numerous other industry awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress on three occasions, and various Primetime Emmy Awards on eighteen occasions.



Honours and awards


A substantial entertainer throughout seven decades, Angela Lansbury hit superstardom as a senior citizen with her memorable portrayal of detective Jessica Fletcher in the long-running murder mystery drama Murder, She Wrote. The program held top viewer ratings in the U.S., the U.K., and Italy, among other countries. She has been a successful and enduring force in almost every area of entertainment. From Broadway to the silver screen, the versatile English-born actress has won four Tonys and has been nominated for three Oscars and ten Emmy Awards. She has also hosted broadcasts of the both the Tony and Emmy Awards. Her fan base spans all ages as young audiences also recognize Ms. Lansbury for her perfect English diction and as the voice behind their favorite animated characters from the feature films The Last Unicorn, Beauty and the Beast, and Anastasia.

She was born on October 16, 1925 in Poplar, London, to Belfast-born actress Moyna MacGill and Edgar Lansbury, a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and former mayor of the London borough of Poplar. Her paternal grandfather was the Labour Party leader George Lansbury. She is the elder sister of producer Edgar Lansbury and a cousin of the late English animator and puppeteer Oliver Postgate (another grandchild of George Lansbury). Her cousin, the academic Coral Lansbury, was the mother of former Australian federal Opposition Leader and noted republican Malcolm Turnbull. She was raised in both the Anglican and Episcopal churches.

Her earliest theatrical influences were the teenage coloratura Deanna Durbin, screen star Irene Dunne, and Lansbury's mother, who encouraged her daughter's ambition by taking her to plays at the Old Vic and removing her from South Hampstead High School for Girls in order to enroll her in the Ritman School of Dancing and later the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.

Following her father's death from stomach cancer, her mother became involved with a Scotsman named Leckie Forbes and the two merged their families under one roof in Hampstead. A former colonel with the British Army in India, Forbes proved to be a jealous and suspicious tyrant who ruled the household with an iron fist. Just prior to the German bombing campaign of London, Lansbury's mother was presented with the opportunity to take her children to North America, and under cover of dark of night they fled from their unhappy home and sailed for Montreal; from there they headed to New York City. When her mother settled in Hollywood following a fund-raising Canadian tour of a Noël Coward play, Lansbury (and later her brothers) joined her there.

Lansbury worked at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles. At one of the frequent parties her mother hosted for British émigré performers in their Laurel Canyon home, she met would-be actor Michael Dyne, who arranged for her to meet Mel Ballerino, the casting director for the upcoming film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ballerino was casting Gaslight (1944) as well, and he offered her the part of Nancy Oliver, Ingrid Bergman's conniving maid, which was her first film role. Appearing with Bergman and Charles Boyer, Lansbury was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and the following year gained another nomination for her heartbreaking performance as the doomed Sibyl Vane, opposite Hurd Hatfield, in the 1945 film The Picture of Dorian Gray.

In 1945, at the tender age of 19, Lansbury married American actor Richard Cromwell - who was then 35. Unbeknown to her, Cromwell was bisexual and the marriage ended after a year, but the two remained friends.

In 1949, Lansbury married Irish-born actor Peter Shaw. The couple had two children, Anthony and Deirdre as well as David, a son from Shaw’s previous marriage. Shaw was instrumental in guiding and managing Lansbury's career when he made the career move from acting to agenting and producing. Until his death in 2003, Lansbury and Shaw enjoyed one of the longest show business marriages on record.

Treading the boards on Broadway, Lansbury received positive reviews for her first musical Anyone Can Whistle in 1964. Two years later she achieved major success in Mame (1969) which ran for 1,500 performances and earned her a Tony award for Best Leading Actress.

The only blip on the crest of her success was taking the title role in the musical Prettybelle in 1971. After a difficult rehearsal period, the show opened to brutal reviews in Boston and it closed within a week

Most of Lansbury’s subsequent films in the late 1940s and early ‘50s under her MGM contract did not match the quality of character or material as her debut films. She appeared in supporting parts in films such as National Velvet (1944) and The Harvey Girls (1946) and also began to work on live television dramas in the 1960s.

Lansbury’s willingness to play older women worked to her advantage. In many cases, she was less than five years older than her on-screen sons and this led to her being cast in many prominent roles from Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), to the malevolent mother to actor Laurence Harvey’s brainwashed war veteran (who was actually just three years Lansbury’s junior) in The Manchurian Candidate, which earned her a third Oscar nomination. She has since commented that the role was one of her favourites in her career.

By 1970, Lansbury, now in her forties, began a run of film roles to please her fans that tapped her flair for eccentric comedy. Most notably, she earned a Golden Globe nomination in the cult comedy Something For Everyone (1970).

Lansbury’s long association with murder mysteries dramas began with a turn as a besotted romance novelist who becomes involved in a murder on board an Egyptian boat cruise in Death on the Nile (1979), which brought her a National Board of Review award and a BAFTA nomination.

Back on Broadway, Lansbury landed a third Tony award for her performance in the revival of Gypsy (1974) and her fourth Tony for her role in Stephen Sondheim’s gory blockbuster Sweeney Todd (1979). Lansbury recreated the role for a 1982 PBS broadcast of the production, which also brought her a Cable ACE award and an Emmy nomination.

Off-screen, however, Lansbury’s personal life had taken a nose dive. Both of her children had become involved with hard drugs and a fire in 1970 destroyed the Lansbury’s home in Malibu. The fire and worry over the children’s drug involvement prompted a move to Country Cork in Ireland and Lansbury credited the incidents as fate in helping to put her children back on an even path.

Lansbury’s savvy portrayals in the Agatha Christie adaptations helped lay the groundwork for Murder, She Wrote from 1984 to 1996 in which she starred (and later executive produced) as Jessica Fletcher, a mystery novelist with a knack for finding herself in the middle of a murder – and the ability to solve it without the help of police.

Lansbury appeared in all 256 episodes of the series, as well as four television movies (aired between 1997 and 2003), and earned a record 12 Emmy nominations for her performance – one for every season the series was on the air – as well as four Golden Globe Awards - making her one of the highest paid actresses of her time.

The series kept Lansbury exceptionally busy for the better part of the 1980s, but she did manage to appear in several television movies, including the Emmy-nominated adaptation of The Shell Seekers (1989).

Lansbury turned to character voice work in animated films like The Last Unicorn (1982) and as the Dowager Empress in the animated film Anastasia in 1997. Her most famous voice work was the singing teapot Mrs. Potts in the Disney hit Beauty and the Beast (1991). She reprised the role in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997).

After Murder, She Wrote, left the airwaves for its continuous series (one-off TV specials would still appear), Lansbury busied herself with a score of television projects. She also reaped the rewards of a lifetime with a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, an American National Medal of the Arts in 1997, a Kennedy Center Honour in 2000, and was awarded a CBE by the Queen in 1994.

Lansbury returned to the Broadway stage for the first time in more than 25 years in Deuce, in April 2007 and officially opened on 6th May to a limited run of 18 weeks. Lansbury received a Tony nomination in the category of Leading Actress in a Play for her role in this production, but sadly missed out on winning.




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Dame Angela Lansbury's Timeline

October 16, 1925
London, England
LA, California, United States