Angela Brigid Lansbury, CBE (born 16 October 1925) is an English actress and singer whose career has spanned seven decades. Her first film appearance was in Gaslight (1944) as a conniving maid, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. Among her other films are The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).
She expanded her repertoire to Broadway and television in the 1950s and was particularly successful in Broadway productions of Gypsy, Mame and Sweeney Todd. Lansbury is perhaps best known for her role as writer Jessica Fletcher on the U.S. television series Murder, She Wrote, in which she starred from 1984 to 1996. Her recent roles include Lady Adelaide Stitch in the 2005 film Nanny McPhee, Leona Mullen in the 2007 Broadway play Deuce, Madame Arcati in the 2009 Broadway revival of the play Blithe Spirit (2009) and Madame Armfeldt in the 2010 Broadway revival of the musical A Little Night Music.
Respected for her versatility, 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 eighteen Emmy Awards.
Angela Brigid Lansbury was born 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 Noel 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 version of Oscar Wilde's classic, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
On Broadway, Lansbury received good reviews from her first musical outing, the short-lived 1964 Stephen Sondheim musical Anyone Can Whistle, which co-starred Lee Remick. In 1966, she was offered the title role in what would become the enormously successful Mame, Jerry Herman's musical adaptation of the novel and subsequent film Auntie Mame, which had starred Rosalind Russell. Mame opened at the Winter Garden Theater in May 1966 and Lansbury received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Additionally, Lansbury's recording of the play's song "We Need a Little Christmas" has become widely popular, and receives substantial airplay each Christmas. Lansbury won her second Tony Award for her performance in Dear World (1969). In 1971, Lansbury was cast in the title role in the musical Prettybelle. After a difficult rehearsal period, the show opened to brutal reviews in tryouts in Boston, where it closed within a week. In 1982, a recording of the show was released by Varèse Sarabande which included most of the original cast, and Lansbury's 11 o'clock number "When I'm Drunk, I'm Beautiful" along with "You Never Looked Better", a song removed early in the run.
In May 1973, the first revival of Gypsy opened in London's West End and played for 300 performances. Lansbury played Rose, the infamous stage mother. In September 1974, the same production opened at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre. Lansbury received her third Tony for her performance in Gypsy. In her acceptance speech, she thanked Ethel Merman for creating the role of Rose in the original 1959 production.
In December 1975 she portrayed Gertrude in the National Theatre, London, production of Hamlet, directed by Peter Hall. During the summer of 1976, she starred as Mame Dennis in a production of Mame at The Muny, an outdoor theatre in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri.
Lansbury starred as Mrs. Lovett in the original 1979 production of Stephen Sondheim's musical thriller Sweeney Todd. She starred opposite Len Cariou who played the title role, and later played the role in the first U.S. tour (1982) which was recorded for television while playing in Los Angeles. She won another Tony Award for her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett.
She had been announced for the lead role in the Kander and Ebb musical The Visit, to open on Broadway in 2001, but withdrew from the show before it opened because of her husband's declining health.
Lansbury returned to Broadway for the first time in twenty-three years in Deuce, a play by Terrence McNally, co-starring Marian Seldes. The play opened at the Music Box Theatre in May 2007 in a limited run of eighteen weeks. Lansbury received a Tony Award nomination in the category of Best Leading Actress in a Play for her role.
In October 2008, she was cast as Madame Arcati in the revival of Blithe Spirit, which opened at the Shubert Theatre in March 2009. The New York Times praised her performance, for which she won numerous awards, including the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play (her fifth win).
Lansbury last starred as Madame Armfeldt with Catherine Zeta Jones in the first Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, which opened on December 13, 2009 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. She left the show on June 20, 2010. For her performance as Madame Armfeldt, Lansbury received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in A Musical.
Film and television
Lansbury has enjoyed a long and varied career, often in roles older than her actual age, appearing in such films as Gaslight (1944), Samson and Delilah (1949) and Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). She appeared on the NBC drama The Eleventh Hour as Alvera Dunlear in the 1963 episode "Something Crazy's Going on in the Back Room" and had a prominent supporting role in the film The Manchurian Candidate (1962) in which she portrayed the invidious Mrs. Iselin. She received acclaim for her performance and received several industry awards, as well as an Academy Award nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category. (Lucille Ball had been considered for the role; a decade later, Ball coincidentally landed the title role in the film version of Mame, the role Lansbury had created on Broadway.) Lansbury also starred in several dramas before and during her Broadway success, including The World of Henry Orient (1964) and Something for Everyone (1970).
Lansbury's popularity from and association with Mame on Broadway in the 1960s had her very much in demand everywhere in the media. Ever the humanitarian, she used her fame as an opportunity to benefit others wherever possible. For example, when appearing as a mystery guest on the popular Sunday night CBS-TV show What's My Line?, she made an impassioned plea for viewers to contribute to the 1966 Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraising drive, chaired by Jerry Lewis.
After many years performing in professional theatre, Lansbury returned to film in Death on the Nile (1978), and portrayed Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980). She began doing character voice work in the years that followed in animated films such as The Last Unicorn (1982) and Anastasia (1997), and her most famous voice work is arguably as the singing teapot Mrs. Potts in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast (1991), in which she performed the title song. She reprised the role for its midquel and in the video game Kingdom Hearts II (2006). Lansbury made her first theatrical film appearance since The Company of Wolves (1984) as great aunt Adelaide in Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee in 2005.
Lansbury has won five of the seven Tony Awards for which she has been nominated, but has not won an Academy Award or an Emmy Award. She has been thrice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; reflecting on these losses in 2007, she stated that she was at first "terribly disappointed, but subsequently very glad that [she] did not win" because she believes that she would have otherwise had a less successful career. Lansbury has received eighteen Emmy Award nominations over a thirty-three-year period, and holds the record for the most losses by a performer, twelve of which as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. However, she has received the Golden Globe and People's Choice awards.
In 1983, Lansbury starred opposite Laurence Olivier in a BBC adaptation of the Broadway play, A Talent for Murder, which she described as "a rushed job" in which she participated solely to work with Olivier. Subsequent to this performance, Lansbury continued to work in the mystery genre, and achieved fame greater than at any other time in her career as mystery novelist Jessica Fletcher on the U.S. television series Murder, She Wrote (1984—1996). It became one of the longest-running detective drama series in television history and made her one of the highest paid actresses in the world. She assumed ownership of the series in 1991 and acted as executive producer from that season onward.
In 1945, Lansbury married American actor Richard Cromwell when he was 35 and she was 19. Unbeknownst to her, Cromwell was bisexual (some sources suggest he was gay), and the marriage dissolved after a year, but the two remained friends.
In 1949, Lansbury married British-born actor and businessman Peter Shaw, who was a former boyfriend of Joan Crawford. Shaw was instrumental in guiding and managing Lansbury's career. They were married for 54 years until his death in January 2003.
Lansbury is the mother of two, stepmother of one, and a grandmother several times over. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Lansbury revealed a firestorm that destroyed the family's Malibu home in September 1970 was a blessing in disguise, as it prompted a move to a rural area of County Cork in Ireland, where her children were separated from the hard drugs with which they had been experimenting. Her daughter, Deirdre, had reportedly been briefly involved with the Manson Family. Her son Anthony Shaw, after a brief fling with acting, became producer/director of Murder, She Wrote and currently is a television executive and director. Her daughter and son-in-law, a chef, are restaurateurs in West Los Angeles.
Lansbury's half-sister Isolde was married to Peter Ustinov for some years but divorced in 1946. Lansbury and her former in-law Ustinov appeared together professionally once in Death on the Nile (1978). Lansbury is related by marriage to actress Ally Sheedy, wife of her nephew David Lansbury. Both her brothers, twins Bruce and Edgar, are successful theater producers: Edgar Lansbury, Jr. was instrumental in bringing Godspell to Broadway and Bruce Lansbury was a television producer for such shows as The Wild Wild West and Mission: Impossible.
Lansbury was a long-time resident of Brentwood, California, where she supported various philanthropies. In 2006, she moved to New York City, purchasing a condominium at a reported cost of $2 million. The following year, she returned to Broadway in Deuce, opposite Marian Seldes.
|Hotel Paradiso||Marcelle (Madame Cot)||Broadway||April – July 1957|
|A Taste of Honey||Helen||Broadway||October 1960 – May 1961|
|Anyone Can Whistle||Cora Hoover Hooper||Broadway||April 1964||musical debut|
|Mame||Mame Dennis||Broadway||May 1966 – March 1968 (to August 1968 on tour)||Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical|
|Dear World||Countess Aurelia||Broadway||February 1969 – May 1969|
|Prettybelle||Prettybelle Sweet||Boston||February 1971|
|All Over||West End||1972|
|Gypsy||Mama Rose Hovick||West End;
|May 1973 – March 1974;
September 1974 – January 1975
|Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical|
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
|Hamlet||Gertrude||West End||1975–1976||National Theatre Company, Old Vic Theatre & Lyttleton Theatre|
|The King and I||Anna Leonowens||Broadway||April 1978||Nominated — Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical|
|Sweeney Todd||Mrs. Nellie Lovett||Broadway||March 1979 – March 1980
(including U.S. tour from October 1980 – August 1981)
|Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical|
Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical
|A Little Family Business||Lillian||Broadway||December 1982|
|Mame||Mame Dennis||Broadway||July – August 1983||revival|
|Deuce||Leona Mullen||Broadway||April – August 2007||Nominated — Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play|
|Blithe Spirit||Madame Arcati||Broadway||March – July 2009||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play|
Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play
|A Little Night Music||Madame Armfeldt||Broadway||December 2009 - June 2010||Nominated — Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical|
Honors and awards
- 1966 - Best Actress in a Musical for Mame
- 1969 - Best Actress in a Musical for Dear World
- 1975 - Best Actress in a Musical for Gypsy
- 1979 - Best Actress in a Musical for Sweeney Todd
- 2009 - Best Featured Actress in a Play for Blithe Spirit
In addition, she was nominated in 2007 for her leading role in the play Deuce for the Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play and in 2010 for her featured role in the revival of the musical A Little Night Music for the Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.
Lansbury's additional recognition includes:
- Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year (1968)
- Lansbury was named a Disney Legend in 1995
- Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award (1996)
- Television Critics Association Awards — Career Achievement Award (1996)
- The New Dramatists Lifetime Achievement Award on May 16, 2000.
- The Acting Company's First Lifetime Achievement Award on November 11, 2002.
- BAFTA Awards — Britannia Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2003
- The Actor's Fund of America Lifetime Achievement on October 30, 2004.
- The degree Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from the University of Miami on May 9, 2008. She was also the guest speaker at the commencement ceremony.
- George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing.
- Drama League Awards — The Unique Contribution to the Theatre Award (2009)
- Drama League Honors, February 8, 2010
- Signature Theatre Sondheim Award, April 12, 2010 
- Honorary Chairman of the American Theatre Wing, named on June 13, 2010
- (no author). "Praise and Scorn for London 'Hamlet'", The New York Times, December 24, 1975, p.12
- Jones, Kenneth (2000-07-20). "Angela Lansbury Withdraws From The Visit; Producers Seek Alternatives". Playbill.
- Brantley, Ben (2009-03-16). "The Medium as the Messenger". The New York Times.
- Viagas, Robert (2009-06-07). "Lansbury Wins Fifth Tony; Ties Harris for Most Acting Honors". Retrieved 2009-06-23.
- Gans, Andrew (2009-09-22). "Zeta-Jones, Lansbury, Hanson, Lazar, Davie Set for Broadway's Night Music Revival". Playbill.
- "Lansbury Pleased Not to Have Won Oscars". Contactmusic.com. 2009-10-23.
- "Can Emmy's biggest loser Bill Maher ever win?". Los Angeles Times. 2009-07-20. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- Vermilve, Jerry (2000). The Complete Films of Laurence Olivier. Citadel Press. ISBN 0806513020.
- Morgan Falconer "Angela Lansbury - life after Murder", The Times, 28 April 2008
- "Angela Lansbury to Have Knee Surgery". Playbill. 2005-07-12. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- Green, Jesse."Surprising Herself, a Class Act Returns", The New York Times, April 29, 2007
- Lansbury papers archives list
- Calta, Lewis.New York Times, "Theatre: 3 Cast Changes Made in 'Taste of Honey'", 17 May 1961, p. 43
- Windeler, Robert.New York Times, "Angela Lansbury a Hit in Coast 'Mame'", 29 June 1968, p. 19 "She played it [Mame]...in San Francisco for seven weeks... The show is here also for a seven- week run...In September, Miss Lansbury will be involved with 'Dear World' "
- "Lansbury Biography" filmreference.com, etrieved June 6, 2010
- "Sweeney Todd listing, Original Broadway production, cast notes; 1980 National Touring Production." sondheimguide.com
- [Tony Awards Legacy Facts and Trivia",tonyawards.com, accessed February 7, 2010
- "Tony Awards, Search Past Winners, Actress (Play), 2007" tonyawards.com, retrieved May 2, 2010
- Gans, Andrew and Jones, Kenneth."2010 Tony Nominations Announced; Fela! and La Cage Top List" playbill.com, May 4, 2010
- "Tony Awards, Who's Nominated? - Performance, 2010" tonyawards.com, retrieved May 2, 2010
- London Gazette: no. 53696, page 26. Accessed 3 May 2009.
- Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts
- Ehren, Christine and Simonson, Robert and Lefkowitz, David."Lansbury Lauded, Blast! Blares at Kennedy Center Honors on CBS, Dec. 27", playbill.com, December 27, 2000
- Harris, Michael."Angela Lansbury"Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1999, retrieved April 23, 2010
- Simonson, Robert (2000-05-06). "Cronkite, Bacall & Sondheim Pay Tribute To Lansbury at New Dramatists, 16 May". Playbill.
- "Angela Lansbury to Receive Acting Company's Lifetime Achievement Award". Playbill. 2002-10-28.
- Allen, Morgan (2004-11-01). "PHOTO CALL: Depp and Lansbury Honored by Actor's Fund at October 30 Gala". Playbill.
- "Award-winning actress Angela Lansbury addresses Theatre Arts students". University of Miami. 2008-05-08. Retrieved 2009-10-23.
- "Calendar & Events: Spring Sing: Gershwin Award". UCLA.
- Ross, Blake."About Last Night: Celebrating Angela Lansbury, With Zeta-Jones, Cariou, Garber, Peters and More", playbill.com, February 9, 2010
- Jones, Kenneth."Garber, Mazzie, Danieley and More Celebrate Lansbury in DC Gala April 12". playbill.com, April 12, 2010
- Gans, Andrew."Angela Lansbury Named First Honorary Chairman of American Theatre Wing" playbill.com, June 13, 2010
- Gottfried, Martin (1999). Balancing Act: The Authorized Biography of Angela Lansbury. New York: Little, Brown & Company. ISBN 0-316-32225-3.
|40x40px||Wikimedia Commons has media related to Angela Lansbury.|
- REDIRECT Template:IMDb name
- Angela Lansbury at the TCM Movie Database
- Angela Lansbury at TV.com
- Angela Lansbury Archive of American Television Interview recorded 15 September 1998
- Angela Lansbury on American Theatre Wing's Downstage Center
- Angela Lansbury Collection at Boston University
- 2009 interview with Angela Lansbury by The Sondheim Review
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