CBE (born October 16, 1925) is an English actress and singer in theatre, television and motion pictures, whose career has spanned eight decades. Her first film appearance was in the film 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) 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. 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.
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.
Early lifeLansbury was born in Poplar, London, to Irish-born actress Moyna MacGill and lumber merchant and politician 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 twins Edgar Lansbury and Bruce Lansbury, both producers, and a cousin of the late English animator and puppeteer Oliver Postgate. Her cousin, the academic Coral Lansbury, was the mother of former Australian federal Opposition Leader and republican Malcolm Turnbull.
Her earliest theatrical influences were the teenaged actress 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. She attended South Hampstead High School for Girls, the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art from 1939 to 1940, and the Feagin School of Dramatic Art in New York from 1940 to 1942. Following her father's death from stomach cancer in 1934, 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 Nazi German bombing campaign of London, Lansbury's mother took her children to New York City. When her mother settled in Hollywood following a 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 parties that her mother hosted for British émigré performers in their Laurel Canyon home, Lansbury met the casting director for the upcoming film Gaslight (1944), and he offered her the part of Nancy Oliver, Ingrid Bergman's conniving maid. This was the eighteen-year-old Lansbury's first film role. She was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and the following year gained another nomination for her performance as the doomed Sibyl Vane in the film The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).
TheatreBroadway, Lansbury first appeared in the plays Hotel Paradiso (1957) and A Taste of Honey (1960). Her first musical was the short-lived Anyone Can Whistle (1964) by Stephen Sondheim.
In 1966, she played the title role in the musical Mame, Jerry Herman's musical adaptation of the novel Auntie Mame. Mame opened at the Winter Garden Theater in May 1966, with Stanley Kauffmann writing in The New York Times, "Miss Lansbury is a singing-dancing actress, not a singer or dancer who also acts. ... In this marathon role she has wit, poise, warmth, and a very taking coolth [sic]." Lansbury received her first Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.
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.
In 1973, the first revival of Gypsy opened in London's West End, with Lansbury starring as Rose. In September 1974, the same production opened at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre. Lansbury received her third Tony for her performance in Gypsy. In December 1975, she portrayed Gertrude in the Royal National Theatre, London, production of Hamlet, directed by Peter Hall. During the summer of 1976, she repeated the title role in Mame at The Muny, an outdoor theatre in St. Louis, Missouri. She was a three-week replacement for the role of Anna in the Broadway revival of The King and I, in April 1978.
Lansbury starred as Mrs. Lovett in the original 1979 production of Stephen Sondheim's musical thriller Sweeney Todd. The New York Times reviewer noted that "Her songs ... are awesomely difficult and she does them awesomely well. Her voice is a visible voice; you can follow it amid any confusion". She later played the role in the first U.S. tour, from 1980 to 1981, which was taped for television while playing in Los Angeles and broadcast on September 12, 1982. She won another Tony Award for Actress in a Musical for this role.
Kander and Ebb musical The Visit, but she withdrew from the show before it opened because of her husband's declining health. Lansbury returned to Broadway after an absence of twenty-three years in Deuce, a play by Terrence McNally. The play opened at the Music Box Theatre in May 2007 in a limited run of eighteen weeks. Lansbury received a nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Play for her role.
She played the role of Madame Arcati in the 2009 revival of Blithe Spirit, 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 Tony). Lansbury starred as Madame Armfeldt in the first Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, which opened in December 2009 at the Walter Kerr Theatre. She left the show on June 20, 2010. For this role, she received a 2010 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
Film and televisionappearing in such films as Gaslight (1944), The Harvey Girls (1946), Samson and Delilah (1949) and Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). She had a prominent supporting role in the 1962 film The Manchurian Candidate in which she portrayed the invidious Mrs. Iselin. She received acclaim for her performance, several industry awards and an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Lansbury also starred in several dramas before and during her years of Broadway success, including The World of Henry Orient (1964) and Something for Everyone (1970).
Lansbury received her much coverage in the media because of her popularity from, and association with, Mame on Broadway in the 1960s. She used her fame to benefit humanitarian causes. For example, when appearing as a guest on the Sunday night CBS-TV show What's My Line?, she made a plea for viewers to contribute to the 1966 Muscular Dystrophy Association fund-raising drive, chaired by Jerry Lewis.
Death on the Nile (1978) and then 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 as the singing teapot Mrs. Potts in the 1991 Disney hit, Beauty and the Beast, in which she performed the title song. She reprised this role in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997) and in the video game Kingdom Hearts II (2006). Lansbury made her first theatrical film appearance since The Company of Wolves (1984) as Aunt Adelaide in Nanny McPhee in 2005.
Lansbury starred opposite Laurence Olivier in a BBC adaptation of the Broadway play, A Talent for Murder (1983), which she described as "a rushed job" in which she participated solely to work with Olivier.Afterwards, Lansbury continued to work in the mystery genre and achieved fame 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. She assumed ownership of the series and acted as executive producer for the last 4 seasons. Her brother Bruce became the supervising producer, her son Anthony and step-son David were executive producers, and her husband assisted in running the production company, Corymore Productions. Murder, She Wrote made her one of the highest-paid actresses in the world.
Although she was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, she has never won; nor did she win any of the eighteen Emmy Awards for which she was nominated over a thirty-three-year period. She holds the record for the most Primetime Emmy losses by a performer, Reflecting on this 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. However, she has received the Golden Globe and People's Choice awards for television and film work.
Lansbury co-stars in Mr. Popper's Penguins, opposite Jim Carrey, scheduled for release in August 2011.She is also scheduled to appear in another film, Adaline, playing Katherine Heigl's daughter.
WritingShe has written books including co-authoring, with Mimi Avins, Angela Lansbury's Positive Moves – My Personal Plan for Fitness and Well-Being (1990).
Personal lifeRichard Cromwell when he was 35 and she was 19. Unbeknownst to her, Cromwell was bisexual, and the marriage dissolved after a year, but the two remained friends. In 1949, Lansbury married British-born actor and businessman Peter Shaw. She had two children, Anthony Peter Shaw born 1952, Deidre Angela Shaw born 1953. Shaw was instrumental in guiding and managing Lansbury's career. They were married for 54 years until his death in January 2003.
Lansbury became a naturalized American citizen in 1951. She is the mother of two, stepmother of one, and a grandmother. A fire destroyed the family's Malibu home in September 1970, prompting a move to a rural area of County Cork in Ireland. Her daughter and son-in-law, a chef, are restaurateurs in West Los Angeles. 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.
Lansbury's half-sister Isolde was married to Peter Ustinov for some years, but they divorced in 1946Lansbury and Ustinov appeared together once in Death on the Nile (1978). She is related by marriage to actress Ally Sheedy, ex-wife of her nephew David Lansbury. Both her brothers, twins Bruce and Edgar, are successful theater producers: Edgar 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, a neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, where she supported various philanthropies. She had knee-replacement surgery on July 14, 2005. She also had two hip replacement surgeries. 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.Lansbury's papers are housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.
|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||Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical|
|Prettybelle||Prettybelle Sweet||Boston||February 1971|
|All Over||The Mistress||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 2009 – 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|