On this day in 1925, the stage and screen actress Angela Lansbury, who starred in the TV series Murder, She Wrote and earned Oscar nominations for her performances in such films as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Manchurian Candidate, is born in London, England. In Hollywood, a place that prizes youth (particularly for its female performers), Lansbury became one of a rare breed of actresses who managed to carve out a lengthy, successful career.
After fleeing England with her family during World War II, Lansbury eventually ended up in Los Angeles. As a teenager, she earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her first feature film, the 1944 romantic-thriller Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Joseph Cotten. In Gaslight, which was directed by George Cukor and received a total of seven Oscar nominations, Lansbury played a maid who becomes involved in a man’s plot to drive his wife insane. Lansbury’s next film, 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, based on the Oscar Wilde novella of the same name, earned her a second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Sibyl Vane, a woman who kills herself after she is betrayed by the movie’s title character, a man obsessed with staying young. In 1962, she co-starred with Frank Sinatra in the spy thriller The Manchurian Candidate and earned her third Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as the manipulative mother of a Korean War hero brainwashed into becoming a Communist assassin.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Lansbury starred on Broadway in a string of musicals and earned the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performances in Mame, Dear World, Gypsy and Sweeney Todd. She also continued to work steadily in film, appearing in Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Death on the Nile (1978) and The Mirror Crack’d (1980), in which she portrayed Agatha Christie’s tweedy amateur sleuth, Miss Marple. From 1984 to 1996, Lansbury played the role for which she is perhaps best known—the crime-solving mystery writer Jessica Fletcher on the TV series Murder, She Wrote. Lansbury received 12 consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as the friendly amateur detective from the fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine, who constantly stumbled across dead bodies. After the show ended, she reprised her role in four Murder, She Wrote made-for-TV movies.
In 1991, Lansbury memorably voiced the character of Miss Potts, the singing teapot, in Disney’s blockbuster Academy Award-winning animated feature Beauty and the Beast.
Lansbury also voiced the character of the Empress Dowager Marie in 1997’s Anastasia. In 2005, Lansbury appeared in Nanny McPhee, starring Emma Thompson, and in 2007, she returned to Broadway for Deuce, which earned her yet another Tony Award nomination.