Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury (born 16 October 1925) is an English actress and singer whose career spans over seven decades on stage, screen and television.
Born in London, she moved with her family to New York City in 1940. Her first film roles were in Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), both of which brought her Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress. At age 20, she was (and still is) the youngest actress with two nominations. She went on to extensive work in film, on television and on the stage, eventually earning five Tony Awards (and two nominations), six Golden Globes, another Best Supporting Actress nomination and 19 Emmy Award nominations. In 1994, she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2013, she received an Honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement.
Additional memorable film roles came in National Velvet, The Harvey Girls, Nanny McPhee, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Beauty and the Beast, The Court Jester and The Manchurian Candidate. On Broadway, she won acclaim in Mame, Gypsy and Sweeney Todd. On television, she is best known as the star of Murder, She Wrote. She's the only individual to have an original song written for her from four of Disney's most famous songwriters: "The Age of Not Believing" from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (by The Sherman Brothers) and "Beauty and the Beast" from Beauty and the Beast (by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken).
Her paternal grandfather was British politician George Lansbury, who led the Labour Party in the 1930s. Her first cousin, writer and animator Oliver Postgate, created some of Britain's most beloved children's television programmes ever in the 1950s-70s, including The Saga of Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine, The Clangers and Bagpuss.
Despite being in her 90s, she's still going, folks. The great actor culling of 2016 didn't get her.
Emma Thompson apparently once threw a pie at her and Angela "spent the rest of the day throwing food at people", after bursting out laughing after being hit by said pie.
Her career provides examples of:
- Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Possibly the Trope Maker in State of the Union (1948)
- Career Resurrection: She debuted in Hollywood with a bang, earning Oscar nominations for Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) - and was a critical darling. However MGM miscast her in several films, leading her to break her contract. She struggled in minor roles in several B-movies of decreasing quality. It wasn't until The Reluctant Debutante and The Long Hot Summer that she returned to prominence. And then The Manchurian Candidate solidified her star status.
- Creator Backlash: Says of her early years at MGM - "I kept wanting to play the Jean Arthur roles, and Mr Mayer kept casting me as a series of venal bitches."
- Evil Matriarch: In The Manchurian Candidate. Also The World of Henry Orient, where she's not so much evil, but a hypocrite who's a Jerkass to her troubled daughter.
- Executive Meddling: She fought the network's attempts to put Jessica Fletcher into a relationship, wanting her to remain as a strong single woman.
- Fake American: As Em in The Harvey Girls.
- Grande Dame: In Nanny McPhee.
- Hollywood Old: Frequently cast as characters older than her actual age.
- The Ingenue: In The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).
- Kindly Housekeeper: In Beauty and the Beast.
- Little Old Lady Investigates: Her role on Murder, She Wrote and in The Mirror Crack'd as well as a 1999 Made-for-TV Movie based on the Mrs. Pollifax books.
- Money, Dear Boy: Her reason for being in Blue Hawaii - "I was desperate."
- Non-Singing Voice: She was dubbed by Virginia Rees in The Harvey Girls. This was apparently because her voice was thought to be unsuitable for a lowlife saloon singer.
- Old Shame:
- Described The Purple Mask as the worst movie she ever made.
- She also disowned In the Cool of the Day.
- Playing Against Type: It might surprise younger fans to discover that Lansbury was typecast as bitches and villains for most of her career. Her most famous roles among modern audiences are as Cool Old Lady Mrs Potts in Beauty and the Beast, Magical Nanny Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks and of course spunky detective Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote.
- Playing Gertrude: Due to being Younger Than They Look, Angela was often cast as characters older than she was during The Golden Age of Hollywood."Hollywood made me old before my time."
- Really Gets Around: Anyone who is familiar with Lansbury from Murder She Wrote or her later stage and film work may be startled to watch Gaslight and see a 17-year-old Lansbury as a saucy, slutty housemaid.
- So My Kids Can Watch: She has called her role as Mrs Potts a present to her grandchildren.
- "Sorcerer's Apprentice" Plot: Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
- The Vamp: In Gaslight.
- What Could Have Been:
- She was seriously considered for the title role of Mary Poppins before Julie Andrews was finally cast. She did later star in a similarly magical role as Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which shared a Production Posse with the earlier film. Julie Andrews had also turned down the lead. Additionally, Lansbury did make it into Mary Poppins Returns, as the Balloon Lady.
- She was Bryan Fuller's first choice for the role of Hannibal Lecter's psychiatrist in Hannibal, but she was already committed to a production of Driving Miss Daisy, so the character was rewritten from being an octogenerian to a fortysomething woman when Gillian Anderson was cast.
- In the 80s she was offered two TV roles - a sitcom and a detective series. Obviously she chose the latter.