One of Broadway’s brightest stars, Angela Lansbury, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 96.
She was one of the few stars to be equally welcomed on Broadway, on film and on television. She made her film debut in 1944’s GASLIGHT and earned her first Oscar nomination. She quickly followed with NATIONAL VELVET, also 1944, playing Elizabeth Taylor’s sister. The next year she garnered her second Oscar nomination for THE PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY. In 1946 she appeared as Judy Garland’s nemesis in THE HARVEY GIRLS. Despite her vocal skills, for some unknown reason, MGM decided to dub her singing but she still managed to steal almost every scene in which she appeared. After several less memorable films, she struck gold in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) playing Laurence Harvey’s traitorous mother, despite being only 2 years older than Harvey. The following years saw Ms. Lansbury in a wide variety of roles ranging from a novice witch in Disney’s BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSICKS (1971) to a quirky romance novelist in DEATH ON THE NILE (1978) to a talking (and singing) teapot in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991).
From 1984-1996 television audiences adored her portrayal of Jessica Fletcher, mystery novelist turned amateur sleuth. The part was written for Jean Stapleton who passed on it thus giving Ms. Lansbury the multi-award winning role.
On Broadway, Ms. Lansbury became a Tony Award winning favorite. Her reign began in 1957 with HOTEL PARADISO, followed by A TASTE OF HONEY (1960), and ANYONE CAN WHISTLE (1964). After a long hard campaign, in 1966 she beat out Mary Martin and won the role of Mame Dennis in MAME, winning the first of her 5 Tony Awards. This was followed by Dear World (1968), Gypsy (1974) and Sweeney Todd (1979) winning a Tony for each of those shows. Then, after an absence of 23 years, she returned to Broadway in DEUCE (2007). She won her fifth Tony for her role as the ditzy medium in 2009’s BLITHE SPIRIT. She followed that with A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC in 2010 and THE BEST MAN in 2012.
She was a woman who was as lovely and gracious off stage as she was known to be onstage by everyone who had ever worked with her. The theatre community mourns the loss of this amazing woman! Her class and elegance seemed immortal and thanks to the many recordings of her roles on television, stage and film she will be.