Throughout her over 70 years in showbusiness, Angela Lansbury has made an indelible mark on television, film, and the stage. Since the talented singer-actress turns 95 this week, we thought it was a great time to celebrate her career.
Lansbury was born on October 16, 1925 in Poplar, a neighborhood in the East End of London. Her mother Moyna MacGill was a stage actress and her father Edward Lansbury was a politician. Her father died when she was 9 and the family relocated to Ireland during her preteens where she attended acting school.
In 1940 her family immigrated to the US and she got a scholarship to study drama at the Lucy Fagan School in New York City. Her mother got a job with a Canadian production and told Lansbury to move to Los Angeles where she worked in a department store while trying to get work as an actress.
Lansbury appeared in 1944’s Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, playing Nancy the maid, earning an Academy Award nomination for Supporting Actress. A year later she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar for playing dance hall lady Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Other early major supporting roles included National Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor and The Harvey Girls with Judy Garland. In ’63 she was in The Manchurian Candidate, earning her third Oscar nomination. Through the ‘60s she was in Blue Hawaii with Elvis Presley, The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Something for Everyone.
She spent the ‘70s working in theater, film, and TV. She was part of the live-action/part animated Disney musical Bedknobs and Broomsticks starring as the witch Miss Price. She also played Mrs. Salome Otterbourne in the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.
In ’84 Lansbury began starring in the mystery TV show Murder, She Wrote as clever sleuth Jessica Fletcher. She earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series every year from 1985 to 1996. She was nominated for Golden Globes almost every year of the show’s production and won three. Eventually, Lansbury added production duties to her position at the show. After it ended, she appeared in Murder, She Wrote specials.
Outside of the show, she had notable voice acting roles in the ‘90s. First, in 1991, she voiced Mrs. Potts in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, singing the title track and “Be Our Guest.” Six years later she voiced the Dowager Empress Marie in the animated feature Anastasia.
Lansbury had a notable appearance on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit earning another Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In 2014 she received an honorary Academy Award for cinematic achievements, and she played the Balloon Lady in 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns.
Lansbury is also well known for her work on stage, beginning with her Broadway debut in 1957’s Hotel Pardiso.
A few years later she appeared in A Taste of Honey and Stephen Sondheim’s musical Anyone Can Whistle. Lansbury had a powerful voice, which landed her the titular role in the musical Mame, then she landed a part in Dear World and as Mama Rose in Gypsy. In 1979 she starred in Sweeney Todd as Mrs. Lovett, the smitten homicidal pie maker. During this period, Lansbury won four Tony Awards for her performances.
She returned to Broadway in 2007 to play a former tennis pro in Deuce. Two years later she was in the revival of Blithe Spirit as Madame Arcati, earning another Tony award. This achievement gave her a fifth Tony award, a record shared with Julie Harris and surpassed only by Audra McDonald. Also in 2009 she played Madame Armfeldt in the revival of A Little Night Music and in 2012 she took the lead role in the Gore Vidal satire The Best Man.