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Angela Brigid Lansbury, CBE (born 16 October 1925) is an English actress and singer whose career has spanned seven decades. Her first film appearance was in Gaslight (1944), for which she received an Academy Award nomination as a malevolent maid, and she expanded her repertoire to Broadwaymarker and television in the 1950s. Respected for her versatility, Lansbury has won five Tony Awards, six Golden Globes, and has been nominated for numerous other industry awards, including eighteen Emmy Awards.

Some of her films include The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) and Beauty and the Beast (1991) and she was successful in such Broadway productions as Blithe Spirit, Gypsy, Mame, and Sweeney Todd. Lansbury is more recently known for her role as mystery writer Jessica Fletcher on the U.S. television series Murder, She Wrote, in which she starred from 1984 to 1996.

Early life

Lansbury was born in Poplar, Londonmarker, Englandmarker, to Belfastmarker-born actress Moyna MacGill and Edgar Lansbury, a politician and prominent businessman. Her paternal grandfather was the controversial Labour Party leader George Lansbury. She is the older sister of producer Edgar Lansbury and a cousin of the late English animator and puppeteer Oliver Postgate (another grandchild of George Lansbury). Her cousin, the academic Coral Lansbury, was the mother of former Australian federal Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

Her earliest theatrical influences were the teenage coloratura Deanna Durbin, screen star Irene Dunne, and Lansbury's mother, who encouraged her daughter's ambition by taking her to plays at the Old Vicmarker and removing her from South Hampstead High School for Girlsmarker in order to enroll her in the Ritman School of Dancing and later the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art.

Following her father's death from stomach cancer, her mother became involved with a Scotsmanmarker named Leckie Forbes, and the two merged their families under one roof in Hampsteadmarker. A former colonel with the British Army in Indiamarker, Forbes proved to be a jealous and suspicious tyrant who ruled the household with an iron hand. Just prior to the German bombing campaign of Londonmarker, Lansbury's mother was presented with the opportunity to take her children to North America, and under cover of dark of night they fled from their unhappy home and sailed for Montrealmarker; from there they headed to New York Citymarker. When her mother settled in Hollywoodmarker following a fund-raising Canadianmarker tour of a Noel Coward play, Lansbury (and later her brothers) joined her there.

Lansbury worked at the Bullocks Wilshiremarker department store in Los Angelesmarker. At one of the frequent parties her mother hosted for British émigré performers in their Laurel Canyonmarker home, she met would-be actor Michael Dyne, who arranged for her to meet Mel Ballerino, the casting director for the upcoming film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Ballerino was casting Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, as well, and he offered her the role of the impertinent and slightly malevolent maid, Nancy. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her 1944 film debut and the following year garnered another nomination for her portrayal of Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray.



On Broadwaymarker, Lansbury received good reviews from her first musical outing, the short-lived 1964 Stephen Sondheim musical Anyone Can Whistle, which co-starred Lee Remick. In 1966, she was offered the title role in what would become the enormously successful Mame, Jerry Herman's musical adaptation of the novel and subsequent film Auntie Mame, which had starred Rosalind Russell. Mame opened at the Winter Garden Theatermarker in May 1966 and Lansbury received the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Additionally, Lansbury's recording of the play's song "We Need a Little Christmas" has become widely popular, and receives substantial airplay around Christmastime every year. Lansbury won additional Tony Awards for Dear World (1969), the first Broadway revival of Gypsy (1974), and her English music hall turn as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd (1979).

Signing autographs for fans after performing in Blithe Spirit, 2009.
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 Boston, where it closed within a week. In 1982, a recording of the show was released by Varese Sarabande which included most of the original cast, and Lansbury's 11 o'clock number "When I'm Drunk, I'm Beautiful" along with "You Never Looked Better", a song removed early in the run.

She had been announced for the lead role in the Kander-Ebb musical The Visit, to open on Broadway in 2001, but withdrew from the show before it opened because of her husband's declining health.

Lansbury returned to Broadway for the first time in twenty-three years in Deuce, a play by Terrence McNally, co-starring Marian Seldes. The play opened at the Music Box Theatre in May 2007 in a limited run of eighteen weeks. Lansbury received a Tony Award nomination in the category of Best Leading Actress in a Play for her role in this production. In October 2008, she was cast as Madame Arcati in the revival of Blithe Spirit, which opened at the Shubert Theatremarker 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 win).

Lansbury will star as Madame Armfeldt in the first Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, which is scheduled to open in December 2009.

Film and television

Lansbury has enjoyed a long and varied career, often in roles older than her actual age, appearing in such films as Samson and Delilah (1949) and Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). She appeared on the NBC drama The Eleventh Hour as Alvera Dunlear in the 1963 episode "Something Crazy's Going on in the Back Room" and had a prominent supporting role in the film The Manchurian Candidate (1962) in which she portrayed the invidious Mrs. Iselin. She received acclaim for her performance as Mrs. Iselin and received several industry awards. (Lucille Ball had been considered for the role; a decade later, Ball coincidentally landed the title role in the film version of Mame, the role Lansbury had created on Broadway.) On CNN's Larry King Live, Lansbury said that her character in The Manchurian Candidate was her favorite of her many film roles. Lansbury also starred in several dramas before and during her Broadway success, including The World of Henry Orient (1964) and Something for Everyone (1970).

Lansbury's popularity from and association with Mame on Broadway in the 1960s had her very much in demand everywhere in the media. Ever the humanitarian, she used her fame as an opportunity to benefit others wherever possible. For example, when appearing as a mystery guest on the popular Sunday night CBS-TV show What's My Line?, she made an impassioned plea for viewers to contribute to the 1966 Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraising drive, chaired by Jerry Lewis.

After many years performing on Broadway and in the West End, Lansbury returned to film in Death on the Nile (1978), and portrayed Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980). She began doing character voice work shortly thereafter in animated films such as The Last Unicorn (1982) and Anastasia (1997); her most famous voice work is the singing teapot Mrs. Potts in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast (1991), in which she performed the title song. She reprised the role for its midquel and the video game Kingdom Hearts II (2006). Lansbury made her first theatrical film appearance since The Company of Wolves (1984) as great aunt Adelaide in Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee in 2005.

Lansbury has won every Tony Award for which she has been nominated except the nomination for Deuce in 2007, but has not been the recipient of an Academy Award or an Emmy Award. She has been thrice nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress; she reflected on these losses in 2007 and 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. Lansbury has received eighteen Emmy Award nominations, and holds the record for the most losses by a performer, twelve of which as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. However, she has received several other prominent awards, including the Golden Globe, and is tied with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep for most Golden Globe Award wins with six each.

In 1983, Lansbury starred opposite Laurence Olivier in a BBC adaptation of the Broadway play A Talent for Murder, which she described as "a rushed job" in which she solely participated to work with Olivier. Subsequent to this performance, Lansbury continued to work in the mystery genre, and achieved fame greater than at any other time in her career 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 and made her one of the highest paid actresses in the world. She assumed ownership of the series in 1991 and acted as executive producer from that season onward.


In 1994, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom appointed her a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.


Lansbury was named a Disney Legend in 1995. She received a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, Kennedy Center Honors in 2000, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker.

She has received additional recognition:
  • The New Dramatists Lifetime Achievement Award on May 16, 2000.
  • The Acting Company's First Lifetime Achievement Award on November 11, 2002.
  • The Actor's Fund of America Lifetime Achievement on October 30, 2004.
  • The degree Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa from the University of Miamimarker on May 9, 2008. She was also the guest speaker at the commencement ceremony.
  • George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement, UCLA Spring Sing.

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 Britishmarker-born actor and businessman Peter Shaw, who was a former boyfriend of Joan Crawford. Shaw was instrumental in guiding and managing Lansbury's career. Until his death in January 2003, they enjoyed one of the longest show-business marriages on record.

Lansbury is the mother of two, stepmother of one, and a grandmother several times over. In an interview with Barbara Walters, Lansbury revealed a firestorm that destroyed the family's Malibumarker home in September 1970 was a blessing in disguise, as it prompted a move to a rural area of County Corkmarker in Irelandmarker, where her children were separated from the hard drugs with which they had been experimenting. Her daughter had also been briefly involved with the Manson Family. Her son Anthony Shaw, after a brief fling with acting, became producer/director of Murder, She Wrote and presently is a television executive and director. Her only daughter Deirdre and son-in-law, a chef, are restaurateurs in West Los Angeles.

Lansbury was related to Peter Ustinov by her half-sister Isolde's marriage to the Britishmarker actor (they divorced in 1946). The two former in-laws appeared together professionally once in Death on the Nile (1978). Lansbury is related by marriage to actress Ally Sheedy, wife of her nephew David Lansbury. Both her brothers, twins Bruce and Edgar, are successful theater producers: Edgar Lansbury, Jr. 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.

She had knee replacement surgery on 14 July 2005.

Lansbury is also a vegetarian and a longtime animals rights activist.

Lansbury was a long-time resident of Brentwood, Californiamarker, and supported various philanthropic groups in Southern California. In 2006, Lansbury moved to New York City, purchasing a condominium at a reported cost of $2 million. The following year, she returned to Broadway in Deuce.

Lansbury's papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston Universitymarker.



Year Film Role Notes
1944 Gaslight Nancy Oliver Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress
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
The Hoodlum Saint Dusty Millard
Till the Clouds Roll By London Specialty
1947 The Private Affairs of Bel Ami Clotilde de Marelle
If Winter Comes Mabel Sabre
1948 State of the Union Kay Thorndyke
The Three Musketeers Queen Anne
Tenth Avenue Angel Susan Bratten
1949 The Red Danube Audrey Quail
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
A Lawless Street Tally Dickinsen
1956 The Court Jester Princess Gwendolyn
Please Murder Me Myra Leeds
1958 The Long, Hot Summer Minnie Littlejohn
The Reluctant Debutante Mabel Claremont
1959 Summer of the Seventeenth Doll Pearl
1960 The Dark at the Top of the Stairs Mavis Pruitt
A Breath of Scandal Countess Lina
1961 Blue Hawaii Sarah Lee Gates
1962 Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Marguerite Laurier voice (uncredited)
All Fall Down Annabell Willart National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress (also for The Manchurian Candidate)
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
Dear Heart Phyllis
1965 The Greatest Story Ever Told Claudia
The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders Lady Blystone
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
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
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


Production Role Venue Dates Notes
Hotel Paradiso Broadwaymarker 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 (through 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 Bostonmarker February 1971
All Over West Endmarker 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 West End 1975 – 1976
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 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 – 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


Year Film Role Notes
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
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
Lace Aunt Hortense Boutin
19841996 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

1986 Rage of Angels: The Story Continues Marchesa Allabrandi
1989 The Shell Seekers Penelope Keeling
1990 The Love She Sought Agatha McGee
1992 Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris Mrs. Ada Harris
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

Honorary awards


  1. Interview with Angela Lansbury at Irish Film Institute 9 July 2006
  2. London Gazette: no. 53696, page 26. Accessed 3 May 2009.
  3. Green, Jesse. "Surprising Herself, a Class Act Returns",The New York Times, April 29, 2007
  4. archives list
  5. Calta, Lewis.New York Times, "Theatre: 3 Cast Changes Made in 'Taste of Honey'", 17 May 1961, p. 43
  6. Windeler, Robert.New York Times, "Angela Lansbury a Hit in Coast 'Mame'", 29 June 1968, p. 19 "She played it [Mame] SanFrancisco for seven weeks... The show is here also for a seven- week run...In September, Miss Lansbury will be involved with 'Dear World' "
  7. "Sweeney Todd listing, Original Broadway production, cast notes; 1980 National Touring Production."


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