Angela Lansbury Dead: ‘Murder, She Wrote’ Star Dies At 96

There will never be another Angela Lansbury. The iconic actress — who captivated audiences’ hearts and minds for over eight decades — passed away at the age of 96.

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Image Credit: Universal Television / Everett Collection

One of the most revered names in theater, film, and television has passed away. Dame Angela Lansbury — best known for her work in such iconic movies as The Manchurian Candidate and Gaslight, as well as in the television show Murder, She Wrotedied on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 96 years old, bringing an end to a career that spanned more than 80 years. “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 said in a statement to NBC News.

Born Angela Brigid Lansbury on Oct. 16, 1925, in Regent’s Park, Central London, Angela’s love for acting came out of the loss of her father, who died from stomach cancer when she was nine-years-old. “Looking back, I think that was the defining moment of my life. Nothing before or since has ever affected me so deeply,” she told the Daily Mail in 2014. “It also altered the shape of my life. I lost interest in my schoolwork although I was never very academic. I became something of a dreamer, lost in my grief. In time, I became much more interested in acting, following the example of my mother.”

Angela’s career spanned decades (AP/Shutterstock)

Following her father’s death, Angela’s mother, Irish actress Moyna Macgill, took her four children to America. As a teen, Angela was introduced to director George Cukor, who cast her as a cockney maid in his new movie, 1944’s Gaslight. It launched her to stardom, as she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The next year, she would win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, as well as land another Oscar nomination. However, she would quickly find herself trapped within the studio system, one that forced her into playing roles that did nothing to better her career.

“Looking back I used up a lot of valuable years in making lousy movies at MGM, and let’s face it, they were not great or suitable parts for me,” she told the LA Times in 2014. “I did it because I had to. I needed the money. After all there was family involved, but I was always longing for theater.”

It was Angelas’s Golden Globe-winning performance in 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate that turned her toward musical theatre, as her villainous portrayal of Mrs. Iselin was so profound, she worried about getting typecast. “You can’t live down a part like that,” she said. “I decided, ‘Forget it. I’m going to sing now. I’m going to make you happy by singing.'”

It’s good that she did. She won a total of five Tony Awards – including four Best Actress In A Musical awards for her roles in Mame, Dear World, Gypsy, and the 1979 production of Sweeney Todd. Her voice also became synonymous with one of Disney’s biggest animated films, as she performed the titular song to 1991’s Beauty and the Beast.

Murder she wrote
Angela Lansbury starred on ‘Murder, She Wrote’ for 12 years (Photo: Universal Television / Everett Collection)

Angela’s career was predominantly based on the stage or in Hollywood until Sept. 20, 1984, when Murder, She Wrote premiered on CBS. For twelve seasons, Angela’s mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher captivated audiences. Her work on the series earned her ten Golden Globe nominations and 12 Emmy nods. She holds the record for most Globe nods and wins for Best Actress in a television drama, and the most Emmy Nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series.

“I didn’t want her to be a character—I wanted her to be every woman,” she told Parade in 2018. “I think that’s what gave her the longevity. Every woman could connect with her, and every man could. She was a strong, real woman, and men like that in women. … It’s OK with me [if she is her legacy]. She’s a character known worldwide. She speaks every language; she’s in every country. She seems to be a universal woman that the world really likes, accepts and recognizes me for. That, I would say, was my most far-reaching role in my theatrical life.”

Angela continued starring on stage and screen well into her 90s. She appeared in the 2018 movies Mary Poppins Returns and Buttons, A New Musical Film. Her last on-stage performance was in London’s West End as Lady Bracknell in a special one-night-only performance of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Angela was married twice: first to Richard Cromwell, then to Peter Shaw. They remained together for 54 years until his death in 2003. She was a stepmother to his son, David, from Peter’s prior marriage. They had two children of their own — Anthony Peter and Deirdre Ann.

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