In 1944, the iconic Dame Angela initially arrived on the scene. She made an instant impact as a flirty maid in Gaslight, a classic psychological thriller, despite being just 17 years old. She is internationally considered as an icon and an actress of remarkable power and diversity after more than 75 years and innumerable achievements.
Acting in a film alongside prominent Hollywood actors such as Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten may have terrified even the most experienced actor. It’s even more impressive that Angela, a 17-year-old with no prior film experience, held her own in such company. It’s a reflection of the actress’s innate professionalism—a virtue that will serve her well over decades and decades of a long and distinguished profession. In October of 2019, she not only celebrated her 94th birthday, but also 75 years as an actor.
How did an unknown young girl end up in a Hollywood picture in 1944? During the pre-production of Gaslight, MGM stated that casting the minor but essential character of Nancy, a rebellious teenage maid, had become more difficult. Fortunately, co-scripter John Van Druten had the appropriate idea: he proposed to the little daughter of Moyna MacGill, a British stage actress and widow who was evacuated to the United States with her family during the London Blitz. Van Druten only knew Lansbury from her position in a department shop, but he could see she had what the role required. Angela passed the screen test a few days later! She even received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Angela’s outstanding performance in the film won her a deal with MGM. She won her second Oscar nomination for her role in The Picture of Dorian Gray a year later.
Angela had a profile as a character actor who was not afraid to represent middle-aged ladies in the 1950s and 1960s, despite the fact that she was only in her 30s at the time. Angela played the mom of Elvis Presley’s character Chad Gates in Blue Hawaii (1961), despite the fact that Elvis was already 26 years old at the time. The next year, she played Laurence Harvey’s terrifying mom in The Manchurian Candidate, despite the fact that Harvey was just three years Lansbury’s junior. Angela received her third Oscar nomination for this role.
Angela’s profession took another turn in 1966, when she was cast as the title character in the musical-comedy blockbuster hit Mame. This came as a great relief to the actress, who may have been afraid of being perpetually typecast in mom parts in Hollywood. Her record of Broadway wins is lengthy and diverse. Angela always offered her Broadway audiences something distinctive, from Mama Rose in Gipsy to the homicidal widow Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She is still active on stage, having participated in a West End production of Blithe Spirit in 2015.
Jessical Fletcher, the author-turned-sleuth from the long-running TV drama series Murder, She Wrote, is probably her most renowned role. The show premiered in 1984 and lasted till 1996. Angela’s humor, kindness, and sincerity helped to make the program a great hit. Even though playing Jessica only demonstrates a small portion of her immense skill, most viewers cannot envision the program with anybody else as the lead.
Angela Lansbury’s collection of wins and nominations throughout the course of her 75-year profession is nothing short of astonishing. She had seven Tony Award nominations, five of which she won, in addition to her three Oscar nods. Even though she did not win an Oscar for a specific performance, she was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 2014. She has received an incredible number of Emmy nominations (17) and Golden Globe nominations (15).
Angela Lansbury has given us an alarming number of genuinely brilliant performances, from Hollywood to Disney, from Broadway to TV’s Jessica Fletcher. Which of Angela Lansbury’s roles is your favorite? Make sure to share this with others so they can enjoy it as well!