Angela Lansbury, Broadway icon and star of ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ dies

Angela Lansbury, the actress and singer who conquered cinema, theater and television, passed away on Tuesday. She was 96 years old.

Lansbury died at his home in Los Angeles, his family said in a statement. She was five days short of her 97th birthday.

Born October 16, 1925, in London, the daughter of politician Edgar Lansbury and Irish actress Moyna Macgill, Lansbury moved to New York City as a teenager before going to Hollywood.

MGM honcho Louis B. Mayer caught wind of her playing sassy housemaid Nancy Oliver in the 1944 thriller “Gaslight.” Lansbury’s critically praised performance helped secure her first Academy Award nomination at the age of 19.

The following year, she was nominated again in the Best Supporting Actress category as bartender Sibyl Vane in “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Despite the two losses, Lansbury remains the record holder as the youngest two-time nominated actress in Oscar history.

Other notable early roles were in 1945’s “National Velvet,” playing Elizabeth Taylor’s older sister, and in the 1946 musical “The Harvey Girls,” which co-starred Judy Garland.

After a hiatus in his career during the 1950s, he appeared in forgettable movies like “The Purple Mask” and “Please Murder Me!” she played Elvis Presley’s mother in 1961’s “Blue Hawaii.” But the following year, she bounced back with two John Frankenheimer movies. First it was “All Fall Down,” in which she plays Warren Beatty’s overbearing mother, and then “The Manchurian Candidate.”

As Eleanor Iselin, the cold-blooded mother of sleeper agent Laurence Harvey, she received her third Oscar nomination for the role, but lost to Patty Duke for “The Miracle Worker.”

Lansbury would later embark on a stage career, making her Broadway musical debut in “Anyone Can Whistle.” The Arthur Laurents-Stephen Sondheim production ran for only nine performances in 1964, but “Hello, Dolly!” Composer Jerry Herman spotted Lansbury and thought she was the perfect choice for his upcoming musical version of Rosalind Russell’s 1958 comedy “Auntie Mame.”

Jul 27, 1949: British actress Angela Lansbury with Peter Shaw on arrival at London Airport ahead of their wedding. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Russell declined to reprise the role for Broadway. Those being considered for the title character reportedly included Ann Sothern, Lucille Ball, and Mary Martin, who Lansbury said dropped out late.

“He had to prove that he really could be the big star and he had never done that. I never got a chance to really be the star of the show,” Lansbury recalled in an interview on “Mame.” “He had to be this larger-than-life person and he’s never done that before.”

The show was a critical and box office success, running for more than three and a half years and 1,508 showings.

Featuring the show’s iconic tunes, “Bosom Buddies” and “We Need a Little Christmas,” the musical won three Tony Awards, including for Lansbury and co-star Bea Arthur.

After “Mame”, he joined Herman’s musical adaptation of Jean Giraudoux’s play “The Madwoman of Chaillot”. As the mad Countess Aurelia, Lansbury won her second Tony in 1969.

She returned to the big screen as the would-be witch Eglantine Price in the 1971 Disney classic Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The film received five Academy Award nominations, winning one for Best Special Visual Effects.

Lansbury claimed a third Tony in 1975 as Mama Rose in “Gypsy,” and a fourth four years later as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

In 2009, she won her fifth Tony Award, her first for a play, for her comedic performance as the mad medium Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit.”

Approaching 60, Lansbury actively sought the security of steady work on television series. After initially receiving unsatisfying roles, including as a maid, Lansbury was given the script for “Murder, She Wrote.”

Kennedy Center Honorees actress Angela Lansbury (R) and actor/director Clint Eastwood (L) during the Kennedy Center Honors Gala hosted by the US Secretary of State in Washington, DC, December 2 from 2000.

She was immediately drawn to the character of Jessica Fletcher, a widowed English teacher from Maine who begins a career as a mystery novelist and amateur detective.

The CBS mystery series was an instant hit from its debut in 1984. During its 12-year run, it finished in the Top 10 of Nielsen ratings an incredible eight times, peaking at No. 3 during its second season.

“He used to come on set on Monday mornings and say, ‘We’re number 1; we are number 2; we are number 3 ′”, recalled Lansbury in an interview. “You know, it was a given, we were so successful. It was an incredible experience.”

Lansbury was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series a record 12 times, not winning each year, though she did pick up four Golden Globe Awards for her performance.

“Murder, She Wrote” was also nominated three times for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series.

Lansbury is survived by her two children, son Anthony and daughter Deirdre during her 53-year marriage to producer Peter Shaw, and stepson David from Shaw’s previous marriage.

-Translation by José Luis Sánchez Pando/TCA

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Angela Lansbury, Broadway icon and star of ‘Murder, She Wrote,’ dies