Everyone will remember Angela Lansbury as a sweet, fashionable young lady who was kind and brilliant. She had clear, beady-blue eyes, and her voice gurgled like a stream of sparkling water.
I’m certain I’ll love her portrayal of the singing teapot in Beauty and the Beast because the Disney animators did such an amazing job of capturing all of these features.
When Angela said, “I try to be organized,” she created a positive perception of herself. “I keep a list. I hate when things are out of order.”
As in life, so in death.
The actress, who played amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher in 264 episodes of Murder, She Wrote and at one point held the title of the richest woman in television history, passed away quietly in her sleep Friday at the ripe old age of 96.
Jessica Fletcher, a twinkly-eyed woman of a certain age living alone in Cabot Cove, a suburb of St. Mary Mead, was America’s Miss Marple.
” Murder,” She Wrote, conveyed “heartland American values,” as Angela put it, and the public embraced it, watching each week from 1984 until 1996 with 28 million viewers. This is similar to Agatha Christie, whose universe represents a timeless lost Englishness.
Everywhere in the world, it is constantly being said again.
It took 12 full years of 14-hour days to complete. By the time she had advanced to executive producer and secured a variety of lucrative concessions from Universal and CBS, Angela’s pay increased from $40,000 per episode to $200,000 per episode.
“Murder,” She Wrote, was well-liked by advertisers, which made it well-liked by TV networks, if not by those who select the Emmy Award winners. Despite receiving 18 nominations, Angela never took home a prize.
Someone once questioned her on why she continued acting long after other performers might have decided to retire. I’ve never really been conscious of my age, she admitted. “I just put my foot down and keep going. It’s like being on a bicycle.”
Angela’s first part was Jessica Fletcher, for which she became well-known and was frequently approached for autographs. She was born in Britain and was given a CBE in 1994 before being promoted to Dame in 2014.
However, she wasn’t always viewed as a small old lady. Milos Forman’s 1975 production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest greatly wanted Angela for the role of the hatchet-faced Nurse Ratched, and her husband, Peter Shaw, was a big supporter.
But after reading the script, Angela went back to writing, “This is a great role, but I just can’t play it.” She is really horrible and wicked.
She merely wanted the public to love her, not compromise her warm charm. Thus, in 2014, Rupert Everett and James Earl Jones starred in Driving Miss Daisy on tour in Australia and in the West End, Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. Aunt March in Little Women, Mrs. Santa Claus, Aunt Adelaide in Nanny McPhee, and Mrs. Santa Claus are all played by Angela.
However, Milos Forman and her husband could sense that despite Angela’s all-pervasive niceness, there was something in her that had the potential to be dark and prickly.
To put it another way, The Manchurian Candidate was the exception; she was never to return to the side of her George Cukor appreciated and remembered for in Gaslight all those years ago.
When Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland were still popular, Angela Lansbury’s career at MGM began in 1943. She went on to become a Broadway musical star, and Sondheim would later create Sweeney Todd, especially for her.
She benefited from coming from a well-connected family. George Lansbury, a member of the House of Commons from Poplar and the 1930s Labor Party leader, was Angela’s grandpa.
In order to promote global disarmament, he traveled the country with Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Even the rise of Hitler had no effect on his pacifist views.
Wood veneers for ocean ships were a business that Angela’s father owned. Her mother, actress Moyna, had starred as Desdemona alongside Basil Rathbone in Othello.
With two scullery maids, a parlor maid, and a cook, they all resided in Hamilton Terrace, just off London’s Regent’s Park, where Angela was born in 1925. However, Angela recalls that “we really had no revenue to speak of” when her father passed away when she was nine, indicating that the wood veneer trade must have been unstable.
Moyna became the mistress of a crazy Scotsman named Leckie Forbes, who kept a loaded handgun under his pillow and donned a World War I tin hat. Leckie paid for Angela’s education, however, at the Webber-Douglas drama college and the South Hampstead School for Girls.
Patrick Macnee, a star of the Avengers, portrayed Orlando here, and Angela played Rosalind. At the banquet where her sister Isolde’s marriage to Peter Ustinov took place, Moyna met someone who convinced her to leave Scotland and the looming war behind and immigrate to the United States.