The Kennedy Center

Angela Lansbury


Angela Lansbury
(actress, born October 16, 1925, in London, England) 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. In 1994 Queen Elizabeth named her a Commander of the British Empire and bestowed the title Dame on her in 2014. 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, and discipline.

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.
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