Sunday, June 5, 2011

Angela Lansbury

Angela Brigid Lansbury, 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 life

Lansbury 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.[citation needed] 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).



Angela Lansbury in Deuce, New York City, New York, 2007
On Broadway, 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.

Signing autographs for fans after performing in Blithe Spirit, 2009.
She had been cast in the lead role in the 2001 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 television

Lansbury in a scene from MGM's Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), one of her earliest film appearances.
Lansbury has enjoyed a long and varied career, sometimes in roles older than her actual age, appearing 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.

Lansbury in the trailer for The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
After many years performing mostly on the stage, Lansbury returned to film in 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.


She has written books including co-authoring, with Mimi Avins, Angela Lansbury's Positive Moves – My Personal Plan for Fitness and Well-Being (1990).

Personal life

Lansbury with her children in 1957.
In 1945, Lansbury married American actor Richard 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.

Year Title Role Notes
1944 Gaslight Nancy Oliver Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1944 National Velvet Edwina Brown
1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray Sibyl Vane Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1946 The Harvey Girls Em
1946 The Hoodlum Saint Dusty Millard
1946 Till the Clouds Roll By London Specialty performs "How'd You Like to Spoon with Me?" by Jerome Kern
1947 The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Clotilde de Marelle
1947 If Winter Comes Mabel Sabre
1948 State of the Union Kay Thorndyke
1948 The Three Musketeers Queen Anne
1948 Tenth Avenue Angel Susan Bratten
1949 The Red Danube Audrey Quail
1949 Samson and Delilah Semadar
1951 Kind Lady Mrs. Edwards
1952 Mutiny Leslie
1953 Remains to Be Seen Valeska Chauvel
1954 A Life at Stake Doris Hillman
1955 The Purple Mask Madame Valentine
1955 A Lawless Street Tally Dickinsen
1956 The Court Jester Princess Gwendolyn
1956 Please Murder Me Myra Leeds
1958 The Long, Hot Summer Minnie Littlejohn
1958 The Reluctant Debutante Mabel Claremont
1959 Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Pearl
1960 The Dark at the Top of the Stairs Mavis Pruitt
1960 A Breath of Scandal Countess Lina
1961 Blue Hawaii Sarah Lee Gates
1962 Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Marguerite Laurier voice (uncredited)
1962 All Fall Down Annabell Willart National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress (also for The Manchurian Candidate)
1962 The Manchurian Candidate Mrs. Iselin Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress (also for All Fall Down)
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
1963 In the Cool of the Day Sybil Logan
1964 The World of Henry Orient Isabel Boyd
1964 Dear Heart Phyllis
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Claudia
1965 The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Lady Blystone
1965 Harlow Mama Jean Bello
1966 Mister Buddwing Gloria
1970 Something for Everyone Countess Herthe von Ornstein Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1971 Bedknobs and Broomsticks Miss Eglantine Price Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1978 Death on the Nile Salome Otterbourne National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
1979 The Lady Vanishes Miss Froy
1980 The Mirror Crack'd Miss Jane Marple Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
1982 The Last Unicorn Mommy Fortuna voice
1983 The Pirates of Penzance Ruth
1984 Ingrid Herself
1984 The Company of Wolves Granny
1991 Beauty and the Beast Mrs. Potts voice
1997 Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Mrs. Potts voice; direct-to-video midquel
1997 Anastasia Dowager Empress Marie voice
1999 Fantasia 2000 Herself - Hostess segment Firebird Suite - 1919 Version
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Herself
2005 Nanny McPhee Great Aunt Adelaide
2011 Mr. Popper's Penguins Mrs. Van Gundy
Production Role Venue Dates Notes
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
Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Eleventh Hour Alvera Dunlear
1982 Little Gloria... Happy at Last Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Nominated—Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
1983 The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story Amanda Fenwick Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1983 Sweeney Todd Mrs. Nellie Lovett CableACE Award for Actress in a Theatrical or Musical Program
Nominated—Emmy Award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program
1984 A Talent for Murder Ann Royce McClain
1984 Lace Aunt Hortense Boutin
1984–1996 Murder, She Wrote Jessica Fletcher Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1985, 1987, 1990, 1992)
Nominated—Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Drama Series (1985–1996)
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995)
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series (1995)
1986 Rage of Angels: The Story Continues Marchesa Allabrandi
1988 Shootdown Nan Moore
1989 The Shell Seekers Penelope Keeling
1990 The Love She Sought Agatha McGee
1992 Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris Mrs. Ada Harris
1992 The Grand Opening of Disneyland Paris Herself
1996 Mrs. Santa Claus Mrs. Santa Claus
1997 Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest Jessica Fletcher
1999 The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax Mrs. Emily Pollifax
2000 Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For Jessica Fletcher
2001 Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man Jessica Fletcher / Sarah McCullough
2003 Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle Jessica Fletcher
2004 The Blackwater Lightship Dora Nominated—Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury and
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Eleanor Duvall 2 parts on sister shows
Nominated—Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress – Drama Series
2008 Heidi 4 Paws Grandmamma voice

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