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One of the most enduring, charismatic, and talented actresses around,
Angela Lansbury has found extraordinary success in the worlds of film,
theater, and television. Her career spans more than six decades. She has
won four best actress Tony Awards and has been nominated for the Academy
Award three times and for the Emmy Award a remarkable 16 times. “Is
there no end of things that Angela Lansbury can do?” asks the New
York Times. Lansbury has also been inducted into both the Theater and
the Television Halls of Fame and in 1994 Queen Elizabeth named her a Commander
of the British Empire. She became an American citizen in 1951.
The granddaughter of a British Labour Party leader and the daughter of
a well-known West End star, Lansbury studied drama as a child before she
and her family fled the German blitz and relocated to the United States.
The family eventually settled in Los Angeles where Lansbury landed a seven-year
contract at MGM after George Cukor cast her in Gaslight, a role
that earned her first best supporting Oscar nomination in 1944. She was
nominated again the following year for her work in The Picture of Dorian
Gray and received a Golden Globe Award. Lansbury earned her second
Golden Globe-she has won six altogether-and her third Academy Award nomination
for her electrifying performance in The Manchurian Candidate.
Lansbury worked in Hollywood throughout the 1940s and ‘50s, appearing
in many fondly remembered films such as National Velvet with Elizabeth
Taylor, The Harvey Girls with Judy Garland, and The Long Hot
Summer, opposite Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.
A second career and greater glory awaited her on the East Coast, however.
Lansbury made her Broadway musical debut in Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone
Can Whistle, where she proved to the critics that the stage was where
she belonged. Then in 1966, Lansbury conquered Broadway in Jerry Herman’s
Mame and her brilliant performance as the madcap auntie won her
her first Tony Award. More musicals followed, as did more Tony Awards:
Jerry Herman’s Dear World (1968), the 1974 revival of Gypsy,
and Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (1979). Harold Prince,
who directed Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett, Sweeney’s partner in crime,
called her his favorite actress because of her inventiveness, courage,
By the 1980s, Lansbury was a Hollywood and Broadway veteran adored by
audiences and lauded by the critics. Then at age 59 she became a television
star and she saw her popularity soar to dizzying new heights. “Murder,
She Wrote,” in which Lansbury played Jessica Fletcher, best-selling
mystery writer and amateur sleuth extraordinaire, debuted September 30,
1984, and became the highest-rated drama series on television for a record
nine straight seasons. By the time it went off the air 12 years later,
it had become one of television’s longest-running detective shows.
She was nominated for an Emmy Award every single year.
May 16, 2000, was proclaimed “Angela Lansbury Day” in New York as the New Dramatist’s 51st anniversary luncheon honored the actress. Terrence McNally was one of the many theater greats who paid tribute to the star: “Writers don’t write great parts unless there are great actors to inspire them. The great actor is the true collaborator. Without them, we are nothing; They’re the ones that make us want to write great plays and musicals.” For more than half a century, Angela Lansbury has inspired not just writers, but directors, composers, her fellow actors, and designers-all with whom she’s collaborated-to do their best work. Audiences around the world thank her for it.