Early Years In Canada
Born in London in 1925, Angela Lansbury was a teenager when the Second World War broke out. At the start of the Blitz, she was evacuated to Canada, where she lived for a time before eventually moving to New York. She was granted her American citizenship in 1951.
In 1944, Angela Lansbury received her big break when she was cast in a major role in the 1944 film “Gaslight”. Starring alongside Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Charles Boyer, Lansbury had been working at a Los Angeles department store when she landed the role. When she told her boss she was quitting to star in a movie, he tried to get her to stay by offering to match her salary — but rescinded the offer when he discovered it was a whopping $500 a week. Lansbury ultimately landed a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance.
Another Oscar Nod
The following year, Lansbury received her second Academy Award nomination, in the same category, for her role as Sibyl Vane in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. While she didn’t win, she did receive her first Golden Globe for “Dorian Gray”.
The Hollywood Years
Throughout the rest of the 1940s, Angela Lansbury continued to make her mark on the silver screen. Among her roles: sister of Hedy Lamarr’s Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille’s historical hit “Samson and Delilah” (pictured).
The Toast of Broadway
In 1957, Angela Lansbury made her Broadway debut, and went on to appear in numerous hits on the Great White Way. She would continue to fluctuate between stage and screen for the ensuing decades, winning a total of six Tonys — her most recent in 2009 for “Blythe Spirit” (pictured). Prior to that, she won Tonys for “Sweeney Todd”, “Dear World”, “Mame” and “Gypsy”.
A Political Thriller
The year 1962 brought Angela Lansbury one of her most acclaimed roles, playing the manipulative mother of a military veteran (Laurence Harvey) who’d been brainwashed to be a covert Communist assassin in "The Manchurian Candidate". Lansbury received an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe for her performance. Oddly enough, Lansbury was only three years older than her onscreen son.
Entertaining A New Generation
In 1971, Angela Lansbury stepped away from the dark roles that kept winning her Oscar nominations to star in Disney’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”, a mix of animation and live action. Lansbury earned a Golden Globe nomination and the fandom of a whole new generation of children.
After a decade of ping-ponging between film and Broadway, Angela Lansbury was pushing 60 when she took on a television role that would ultimately define her career: mystery writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote”. The series, which ran from 1984 until 1996, was regularly in the top 10, and won Lansbury four Golden Globe wins and a whopping 12 Emmy nominations (but no wins).
She reprised the role in several “Murder, She Wrote” TV movies throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.
A Disney Return
In 1991, while still starring in her long-running TV series, Angela Lansbury provided the voice of enchanted teapot Mrs. Potts in Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast” and singing the title song.
After the end of “Murder, She Wrote”, Angela Lansbury kept as busy as ever. Among her many roles: an Emmy-nominated performance in the 2004 TV movie “The Blackwater Lightship”; starring in a 2014 stage production of “Driving Miss Daisy” opposite James Earl Jones; portraying Aunt March in a 2017 “Little Women” miniseries; and roles in both “Nanny McPhee” and “Mary Poppins Returns” (pictured).
An Honourary Oscar
Nominated three times over the course of her career, Angela Lansbury was finally recognized by Oscar in 2013 when she received an honourary Academy Award. Discussing her Oscar, Lansbury noted that “Murder, She Wrote” received 18 Emmy nominations — with not a single win.
"You do start to get a bit of a chip on your shoulder, even though you don't want to, because you see the same people getting the award, year after year," she said. "They deserve it, but it amazed me that we were overlooked for so long. I was so proud of that show. After all those nominations, and no wins, to have that fella on my mantelpiece gives me a big kick.”
In 2014, Angela Lansbury was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II, who made her a Dame. "To meet the Queen under these circumstances is a rare and lovely occasion," said Dame Angela.
A Fortunate Life
Reflecting on celebrating her 95th birthday, Angela Lansbury expressed gratitude for the amazing journey on which her life had taken her. “What a fortunate life I’ve had the pleasure to be part of, doing the thing I most enjoy – acting and entertaining great audiences all over the world,” she said.