Following her recent passing at the age of ninety-six, we must pay tribute to the superb and beloved actress and singer Angela Lansbury. Anyone born in the 80s grew up with Murder She Wrote and, of course, the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast.
Her legacy will likely endure forever as new generations of kids fall in love with Mrs Potts, the kindly enchanted teapot in the movie. She is reported to have said that her role was her gift to her three grandchildren, and what a gift it is. She also appeared in another childrens' favourite earlier in her career, Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Dame Angela was born Angela Brigid Lansbury on the 16th of October 1925. She was born in St Pancras, an upper-class area of London. Her father was a British politician, Edgar Lansbury, and her mother was a Northern Irish actress named Moyna McGill. Although not a superstar, Moyna appeared in many movies and tv shows. More importantly she turned their London home into a salon for actors, directors, producers and musicians. Their presence partly sparked Angela's interest in acting.
Dame Angela also had twin brothers Edgar Jr. and Bruce, both of who followed their mother and sister into the entertainment industry. However they stayed behind the camera as producers. Bruce worked closely with his sister on her biggest show, Murder She Wrote.
Sadly, in addition to her mother's salon, Dame Angela was drawn to acting as a way of handling her grief following the death of her father from stomach cancer when she was only nine. She chose to retreat into other characters as an escape from her pain.
At the age of fifteen she enrolled at the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art in Kensington where she studied acting. However, later that year, following the death of the childrens' grandfather and the start of the Blitz, their mother moved the family to New York. Dame Angela got a scholarship to the Feagin School of Drama and Radio. She appeared onstage in Oscar Wilde's Lady Windemere's Fan.
Work for both Dame Angela and her mother was patchy over the next few years. At one point, after the family moved to LA, they whole family was supported by her salary at a department store after her mother, who also worked there, was fired.
Then, in 1944, she met John van Druten at one of her mother's parties. He believed she'd be perfect for the role of the maid in a film he co-authored, Gaslight. Angela was hired although she needed to be chaperoned as she was only seventeen. On the strength of her performance, Dame Angela got an agent and a contract with MGM paying $500 per week.
Gaslight had thrust her into Hollywood's spotlight with her perfomance being highly praised. In the years that followed, Dame Angela fame grew and she appeared in over fifty movies and fifty tv series. Her movies included The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Three Musketeers, The Manchuria Candidate, Death on The Nile and Nanny McPhee. Her tv credits in addition to Murder She Wrote include Law and Order, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, and Magnum PI.
Dame Angela has won numerous awards for her acting, she was nominated for three Oscars but did not win. She did receive an honarary Oscar. Incredibly she was nominated for eighteen Emmys but never won. She did win six Tonys and the Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the Laurence Olivier awards.
Dame Angela married briefly when she was twenty to American actor Richard Crowell. Sadly he was gay and the marriage lasted less than a year. However they remained friends. In 1949 she married producer Peter Shaw and the pair had two children, Anthony Peter born in 1951 and Deirdre Ann born in 1952. At the time of her death Dame Angela had three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Although nothing can ever replace her in their lives her roles on screen must be a comfort to them. One particularly beautiful performance is when she sang Beauty and the Beast for the movie's twenty-fifth anniversary. If you've never seen it watch now and take a moment to remember this amazing actor.