ANGELA LANSBURY Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Angela Brigid Lansbury                                                           
Born: 16 October 1925 London, England                                                 
Angela Brigid Lansbury, CBE (born October 16, 1925) is an English three-time           
Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-nominated, four-time Tony-winning and six-time           
Golden Globe-winning actress and singer best known for her work in film, her           
award-winning tenures on Broadway in such musicals as Mame, Gypsy, and Sweeney         
Todd, and her performance in the starring role of Jessica Fletcher on the             
American television series Murder, She Wrote. She holds the record for most Emmy       
nominations without winning an award, with eighteen nominations to her name.           
Her multi-faceted career has spanned seven decades, and she is well known for         
her roles on both stage and screen.                                                   
Born in London, Lansbury was the daughter of Belfast-born actress Moyna MacGill       
and Edgar Lansbury, a prominent businessman, and the granddaughter of the former       
Labour Party leader George Lansbury. She is related to the English animator and       
puppeteer Oliver Postgate, as George Lansbury is also his grandfather. Her             
earliest theatrical influences were teen-aged coloratura Deanna Durbin, screen         
star Irene Dunne, and her own mother, who encouraged her daughter's ambition by       
taking her to plays at the Old Vic and removing her from South Hampstead High         
School for Girls in order to enroll her in the Ritman School of Dancing and           
later the Webber-Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art.                           
After her father's death of stomach cancer, her mother became involved with a         
Scotsman named Leckie Forbes, and the two merged their families under one roof         
in Hampstead. A former colonel with the British Army in India, 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 London, Lansbury's mother was             
presented with the opportunity to take her children to America, and under cover       
of dark of night they fled from their unhappy home and sailed for Montreal, from       
there they headed to New York City. When her mother settled in Hollywood               
following a fund-raising Canadian tour of a Noel Coward play, she (and later her       
brothers) joined her there.                                                           
Lansbury worked at the Bullocks Wilshire department store in Los Angeles. At one       
of the frequent parties her mother hosted for British emigrĂ© performers in their     
Laurel Canyon 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         
for her portrayal of Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945 film).             
On Broadway, Lansbury received good reviews from her first musical outing, the         
short-lived 1964 Stephen Sondheim musical Anyone Can Whistle, which co-starred         
Lee Remick. Two years later, she was offered what proved to be the biggest             
triumph of her theatrical career, the title role in Mame, Jerry Herman's musical       
adaptation of the novel and subsequent film Auntie Mame, which had starred             
Rosalind Russell. Opening at the Winter Garden Theater on May 24, 1966, Mame ran       
for 1508 performances. Lansbury's portrayal, opposite Bea Arthur as Vera Charles,     
earned her the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She and Arthur       
became life-long friends. In addition, Lansbury's version of one of the play's         
songs, "We Need A Little Christmas", became the definitive version and has             
received substantial radio air-play around Christmas time every year since its         
Lansbury won additional Tony Awards for Dear World (1969), the first Broadway         
revival of Gypsy (1974), and her English music hall turn as affection-starved         
meat pie entrepreneur Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim's ballad opera Sweeney           
Todd (1979). In a television interview with Robert Osborne on Turner Classic           
Movies aired in August 2006, Lansbury stated that, theatrically, she feels she         
would "most like to be remembered for this role." She also stated that this           
production was also a triumph and a comeback of sorts for Sondheim, whom she           
She also is a two-time winner of the Sarah Siddons Award (1975 and 1981) for           
dramatic achievement in Chicago theatre.                                               
In 1971, Lansbury accepted the title role in the Jule Styne – Bob Merrill           
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 that was cut early in the run.                       
Lansbury returned to the Broadway stage for the first time in more than 25 years       
in Deuce, a play by Terrence McNally, co-starring with Marian Seldes. The play         
previewed at the Music Box Theatre on April 11, 2007, and opened on May 6, 2007       
in a limited run of 18 weeks. Lansbury received a Tony nomination in the               
category of Leading Actress in a Play for her role in this production, but did         
not win the Tony that year.                                                           
Lansbury has enjoyed a long and varied career, mainly as a film actress in roles       
generally older than her actual age, appearing in everything from Samson and           
Delilah (1949) to Disney's Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). Her notable credits       
include The Manchurian Candidate (1962) in which she played Mrs. Iselin, the           
cold-blooded mother of a war veteran brainwashed into becoming a Communist             
assassin. She won much critical praise for her performance, and received her           
third Oscar nomination. (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's popularity from and association with Mame on Broadway in the '60s 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 guest panelist 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 focused on the theatre, Lansbury returned to film, playing           
Salome Otterbourne in Death on the Nile (1978). She was somewhat less successful       
as Agatha Christie's Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980).                         
Lansbury then turned to character voice work in animated films like The Last           
Unicorn (1982) and as the Dowager Empress in the animated film Anastasia in 1997.     
Her most famous voice work was the singing teapot Mrs. Potts in the Disney hit         
Beauty and the Beast (1991), who performed the Oscar-winning title song written       
by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. She reprised the role in "Beauty and the Beast:     
The Enchanted Christmas" (1997), and again in the Disney/Square-Enix video game       
Kingdom Hearts II in 2006. In the same year, she appeared in Nanny McPhee as           
great aunt Adelaide.                                                                   
While Lansbury has won every Tony for which she's been nominated, with the             
exception of her nomination for Deuce in 2007, she was less successful with the       
Oscars and Emmys. The Oscar has always eluded her, and Lansbury holds the record       
for the most primetime Emmy nominations (twelve) as Best Actress without a             
single win. Yet, she is the recipient of several other prominent awards,               
including the People's Choice and Golden Globe.                                       
Lansbury found her biggest success and a worldwide following as Jessica Fletcher       
in the long-running television series, Murder, She Wrote (1984 - 1996), which         
was one of the longest running detective drama series in US TV history and made       
her one of the highest paid actresses in the world.                                   
In 1983 Lansbury starred opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in a BBC adaptation of         
the Broadway play A Talent For Murder. According to The Complete Films of             
Laurence Olivier (Author Jerry Vermilye, Publisher Citadel), Lansbury later           
stated that the production was "a rushed job", and her only reason for                 
participating, was the opportunity to work/team up with Sir Laurence Olivier.         
In the early 1990s, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom appointed her a           
Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She 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 Fame.