Angela Lansbury Dies at 96 (Murder She Wrote)

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Written By Sristi Dumre

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Actress Angela Lansbury passed away on Tuesday at her Los Angeles home, her family revealed in a statement obtained by Variety. During her 75-year career, Lansbury enjoyed successes in musical theater, film, and television. She was 96 years old, five days short of turning 97.

She was a three-time Oscar nominee, the winner of seven Tony Awards, and the Emmy actress with the most nominations (12) for her performance in “Murder, She Wrote.”

Even though Lansbury was celebrated in theater and film, television was where she found the most success. On CBS’ “Murder, She Wrote,” Jessica Fletcher, a flinty crime-solving mystery author, was one of the characters she filled in for Jean Stapleton in 1984. The series ran for 12 successful seasons and became Sunday night appointment TV for its viewers. For her performance, the actress won four Golden Globe Awards. In four telematics between 1997 and 2003, she played the part again.

John Van Druten, a playwright and screenwriter, discovered Lansbury when she was still in her teens. For her debut performance as the cunning Cockney maid opposite Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in George Cukor’s 1944 suspense movie “Gaslight,” Lansbury received an Academy Award nomination for best-supporting actress.

Her quick rise to fame was later described as “a Cinderella narrative” by director Cukor. Even though she was only 17 and had no prior experience, she was already professional on the first day of shooting. She changed into this tiny housemaid; even her face appeared to alter. All of a sudden, I was seeing actual movie acting.

With her third film, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945), she was once again nominated for an Oscar for best-supporting actress. She won the prize for her portrayal of the tragic music hall artist Sibyl Vane in the adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s horror story.

After signing a deal with MGM, Lansbury starred in a number of prestigious films, including “Till the Clouds Roll By” (1946), “State of the Union” (1948), and “The Three Musketeers” (1948). In ’50s dramas like “The Long, Hot Summer” (1958) and “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” she made notable cameos.

With her specialization in stern matriarchs, Lansbury demonstrated a rare ability to play older than her years. She portrayed the mother of 26-year-old Elvis Presley in the 1961 film “Blue Hawaii” when she was 36 years old. She played the evil mother of indoctrinated ex-serviceman Laurence Harvey the next year in the Cold War thriller “The Manchurian Candidate” directed by John Frankenheimer, who was only three years her junior. For the performance, she received her third Oscar nomination for best-supporting actress.

In 1957, Lansbury made her Broadway debut in the French comedy “Hotel Paradiso” and received favorable reviews for the drama “A Taste of Honey” by Shelagh Delaney (1960). She made an appearance in “Anyone Can Whistle” by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim in 1964. Only nine performances later, the tuner was a swift failure, but it would be the

Two years later, she played the lead in “Mame,” the musical adaption of Patrick Dennis’ autobiographical book about his life with his opulent, eccentric aunt (written by Jerry Herman, Jerome Lawrence, and Robert E. Lee). (It served as Rosalind Russell’s breakout vehicle in a 1958 film.) With only a two-week break, Lansbury performed in the long-running hit for over two years and won the Tony Award for outstanding actress in a musical.

Tim Gray of Variety wrote in 2019 on Angela Lansbury’s career that “Murder, She Wrote” “relied on Lansbury’s knowledge, integrity, and warmth, which no actress can duplicate.” The sitcom relied entirely on Lansbury, despite the brilliant mystery plots and numerous guest stars each week, which is why people flocked to it.

Awards for lifetime achievement from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (1997) and the Screen Actors Guild (2013 honorary Oscar) were among Lansbury’s late-career honors (2003). In 2014, Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire was bestowed upon her by Queen Elizabeth II.

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