The Actors Society Remembers Angela Lansbury
The Actors Society is saddened to hear of the passing of the illustrious Angela Lansbury, who maintained a dominant force on both stage and screen for over seventy-five years.
Acting came naturally to Ms. Lansbury as she was born to both an actress and a politician. She was born on October 16th, 1925, in London to Moyna Macgill and Edgar Lansbury, a timber executive and mayor of the London borough of Poplar. Her grandfather was a prominent member of the Labor Party, serving as its party leader from 1932 to 1934. Tragedy struck at a young age for Angela when her father died, and fearing that London would soon be bombed by the Nazis, her mother sold everything, and they made the trek to New York. She got her first acting gig at sixteen (after lying that she was nineteen), performing at the Samovar Club in Montreal. Her mother then decided to move them out to Hollywood in hopes of securing film work in the rapidly growing industry. At age seventeen, she was under contract with MGM making $500 a week. Her first screen credit, Gaslight (where we get the term gaslighting from), was a smash hit for MGM and secured an Oscar nomination for Lansbury. A bang-up start to a long wonderous career. She would appear in such classics as The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Manchurian Candidate, and Beauty and the Beast. She would grace the stage in such iconic roles as Mame Dennis in Mame, Rose in Gypsy, and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeny Todd. She won five Tony Awards and was nominated for three Oscars, winning an Honorary Oscar in 2014.
Throughout her career, she encountered many Academy Alumni such as Spencer Tracy (Class of 1923) in Frank Capra’s State of the Union, Cecil B. DeMille (Class of 1900), who directed her in the role of Samadar in his Samson and Delilah. She appeared as Queen Anne alongside Frank Morgan’s (Class of 1914) King Louis XIII in The Three Musketeers, and John Ericson (Class of 1948) in Walt Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In 2009 she starred as Madame Arcati alongside Christine Ebersole (Class of 1975) in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, for which she won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress.
The role Ms. Lansbury will probably be remembered most for, however, is Jessica Fletcher in the long-running television show Murder, She Wrote. The show follows professional writer and amateur sleuth Fletcher as she solves crimes. Along its twelve-season, 264-episode run, upwards of twenty alumni appeared on the show (many in more than one episode), including John Karlen (Class of 1958), Anne Francis (Class of 1950), Florence Henderson (Class of 1953), Scott Valentine (Class of 1980), Ron Leibman (Class of 1958), and Constance Towers (Class of 1952), who had taken over the role of Anna in The King and I on Broadway from Lansbury in 1978.
Dame Angela Lansbury died peacefully in her sleep in Los Angeles on October 11th, 2022, at the age of 96.