Prolific star of stage and screen Angela Lansbury has died. “The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 AM today, Tuesday, October 11, 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday,” her family shared in a statement obtained by Deadline. “In addition to her three children, Anthony, Deirdre and David, she is survived by three grandchildren, Peter, Katherine and Ian, plus five great grandchildren and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury. She was proceeded in death by her husband of 53 years, Peter Shaw. A private family ceremony will be held at a date to be determined.”
Born in England, Angela Lansbury fled the country for America as World War II progressed. While still a teenager, she was contracted by MGM, and received an Academy Award nomination for her screen debut as the surly young maid in the 1944 Ingrid Bergman movie Gaslight. She received another nomination the following year for playing Sybil Vane in The Picture Of Dorian Gray.
Through the years, sharp-eyed MGM fans could spot Lansbury in such disparate roles as Elizabeth Taylor’s sister in National Velvet and a dance-hall girl in the Judy Garland vehicle The Harvey Girls. She appeared in the William Faulkner epic The Long, Hot Summer and even the 1961 Elvis Presley movie Blue Hawaii playing the singer’s mother, even though she was only 35 at the time.
Just a year after Blue Hawaii, she inhabited one of her most iconic roles: Communist conspirator Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin, who helped mold her own son into a potential presidential assassin in The Manchurian Candidate. Such was Lansbury’s skill that she was only a few years older than Laurence Harvey, who played her son, yet was wholly convincing as his manipulative matriarch. She received another Oscar nomination, and won the Golden Globe for the role. During the 1960s, she also appeared in TV series like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and blockbusters like The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Throughout her career she balanced her TV and film work with stage work, from classic Shakespearian dramas like Hamlet to musicals like Gypsy, in which she played Mama Rose. When she took on the role of Mame in 1966, it was her first actual lead; she was 41. Some stage roles were captured for the screen, such as in the Broadway production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, portraying Mrs. Lovett. She won five Tony awards (tied with Julie Harris and bested only by Audra MacDonald) and hosted the ceremony herself five times, more than any other host.
In 1971 she created her own Julie Andrews-type of benevolent, magical caregiver in the hit Disney film Bedknobs & Broomsticks. But her most iconic role arrived in the ’80s; when offered both a sitcom and a detective series, she wisely chose the latter, and the rest is TV history. Most American TV viewers know Lansbury as the intrepid Jessica Fletcher, homespun detective of the unusually crime-laden small town of Cabot Cove, Maine. The series ran for 12 years, from 1984 to 1996, followed by a few TV movies. Lansbury was nominated for a Best Actress Emmy 12 times for the role, never winning; she also received 10 Golden Globe nominations as Jessica Fletcher, winning three times.
After Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury’s next iconic turn came as the voice of the teapot, Mrs. Potts, in the Disney classic Beauty & The Beast. Although she was also Emmy nominated for a later role on Law & Order, she didn’t win. As she also received an honorary Oscar in 2014, as well as a Grammy for the Beauty & The Beast soundtrack, she was only a hair away from becoming an EGOT winner.
Angela Lansbury was married twice. Her marriage to first husband Richard Cromwell only lasted a year; she found out he was gay after the marriage ended, and they remained good friends. Her second marriage, to Peter Shaw, lasted 53 years until his death in 2003. They had two children: Deidre Shaw, who is a writer and producer on Jane The Virgin and Anthony Pullen Shaw, who worked with his mother on Murder, She Wrote, as did David Shaw, Peter Shaw’s son by his first marriage.
Even in her ’90s, Lansbury scarcely slowed down: In recent years she has shown up as the Balloon Lady in Mary Poppins Returns, the voice of the mayor in The Grinch, and Aunt March in the Little Women mini-series. Her final role will be in the forthcoming Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Rest in peace to a showbusiness legend.