Actress Angela Lansbury, when asked what she’d like her fans to think when they hear her name, once said: “I’d like them to think ‘consummate performer’ and that really just came into my head. I am a performer, and I never want to be thought of only as a star or celebrity. I just want to be a meaningful, entertaining performer.”
And Lansbury will be remembered as just that, with a career in film, theatre, and television that spanned eight decades.
On Tuesday (11), the performer passed away in her sleep, just five days before her 97th birthday. Lansbury won international acclaim for her performance in Murder, She Wrote, a US TV crime series that aired from 1984 to 1996. In the show, Lansbury played Jessica Fletcher, a retired English teacher who, after being widowed in her early 50s, becomes a very successful mystery writer.
In addition to Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury had starred in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), Nanny McPhee (2005), and The Manchurian Candidate (1962). She was one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, and received an Honourary Oscar Award, three Oscar nominations, 18 Emmy nominations, one Grammy nomination, six Golden Globe Awards, and five Tony Awards, plus the Lifetime Achievement Tony Award this year.
Lansbury, born in London in 1925, moved to New York and made her movie debut in the 1944 film Gaslight, for which she received an Oscar nomination, along with for her performance as Sibyl in The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945 and Laurence Harvey’s manipulative mother in The Manchurian Candidate in 1962.
She moved into Broadway in the 1960s, and won a Tony for her portrayal of Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd in 1970. In 2014, she was made a Dame for her services to drama, charitable work, and philanthropy.
While many know her for her performances on screen and on stage, tributes paid to Lansbury following her death shed light on her efforts to spread awareness about AIDS and raise over $ 1 million for the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Awareness and fund-raising
American novelist and short-story writer Rebecca Makkai shared the following about Angela Lansbury: “In September 1987, Angela Lansbury headlined a show that packed the Chicago Theatre with 2,400 people to raise money for AIDS research. It was the first major AIDS benefit in Chicago, and it raised $ 1 million. It was sponsored by Marshall Field and Co., packed 250 people onstage, and was put together by Broadway producer Barry Brown. This was also definitely the last time Oprah got fifth billing.”
At the show, Lansbury had said onstage: “Tonight isn’t about what we lost or might lose. It’s about that step forward when we might conquer this thing and get on with the business of living. Here we celebrate life, and together we fight.”
She continued to raise money for AIDS research throughout her life. She had been very close with Fritz Holt, the producer for her Gypsy (and Barry Brown’s partner), who had died of the disease.
The amount she helped raise for both AmFAR and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS was well into the millions.
Angela Lansbury, who graced the stage for decades, won five Tony awards, and brought the sleuthing Jessica Fletcher into our living rooms for a dozen years, has passed away. A tale as old as time, our beloved Mrs. Potts will sing lullabies to us now from the stars. Rest, great soul
– Actor George Takei
Brilliance, She Wrote. A lifetime of memorable performances. We’ve lost a shining light of stage and screen. RIP Angela Lansbury. You are already missed
– American journalist Dan Rather
Angela Lansbury was a prolific talent. We are grateful that her wide-ranging body of work in film and television will be available for generations to come. I worked with her twice and she was as all that I hoped she would be. Unpretentious charm and elegance in abundance. RIP
– Actor Robert Beltran