One of the great acting legends of stage, film, and television has left us. Angela Lansbury has passed away, just five days shy of her 97th birthday. According to her family, Lansbury died peacefully in her sleep on October 11. She is survived by her three children, Anthony, Deirdre, and David, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury. Although many know her mainly from her years as Jessica Fletcher on the hit TV series Murder, She Wrote, her career was varied and long, covering nearly eight decades.
Angela Lansbury was born in the U.K. in 1925, but her family moved to the United States in 1940 to escape the Blitz. Her mother was an actress, and she decided to follow in her footsteps. Despite being married twice, she always kept her birth surname due to her acting career. By age 20 she was starring in Hollywood movies like The Picture of Dorian Gray, which earned her an Oscar nomination. She had a contract with MGM, the biggest studio in Hollywood’s Golden Age. Although not a major star during this period, she worked steadily for years, earning another Oscar nomination for The Manchurian Candidate in 1962.
Superstardom finally came for Lansbury when she played the lead role of Mame on Broadway. This began a long and fruitful career on stage. Notable stage roles for her during the ’60s and ’70s included The King and I, Gypsy, and originating the role of Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She won a total of six Tony awards for her stage work, and also hosted the Tony Awards five times. In 1971, she starred in Bedknobs and Broomsticks for Disney, leading to a long association with the company. This included lending her voice to many fireworks shows and special presentations at the various theme parks.
Of course, to most American audiences, Lansbury will always be most famous for her role as the mystery novelist and detective Jessica Fletcher in the long-running series Murder, She Wrote. From 1984 to 1996, the show was on one of television’s biggest hits. And it earned her a whopping 18 Emmy nominations. Right in the middle of the Jessica Fletcher years, Lansbury voiced Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast, another major Disney film that would introduce her to a whole new audience — children. That Disney relationship would continue with roles in Fantasia 2000, Nanny McPhee, and Mary Poppins Returns in 2018.
Lansbury returned to the stage in the 21st century, although nearly eighty years of age at that point. She starred in Driving Miss Daisy on stage with James Earl Jones in 2013. Her last major stage appearance was three years ago, when she acted in The Importance of Being Earnest in 2019. Thanks to the role of Mame, Lansbury became a gay icon, and she cherished her LGBTQ fans, and spent decades contributing to many AIDS charities. Angela Lansbury was the definition of a “life well lived,” and her iconic roles have ensured she will always be remembered.