Actress Angela Lansbury, who became a household name for her role as an author and detective in Murder, She Wrote, died Tuesday, her family said. She was 96.
The British-born star, who rose to fame and fortune as one of television’s most memorable characters, was also a highly successful and decorated actress on stage and screen.
“The children of Dame Angela Lansbury sadly announce that their mother passed away peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles…just five days before her 97th birthday,” the statement read, widely cited in US media.
Lansbury was nearly 60 years old when she landed the role that made her famous: mystery writer and amateur detective on the hit television series Murder, She Wrote.
In a career spanning more than seven decades, she has appeared in approximately 60 films and starred in some of Broadway’s biggest musicals.
She snagged six Golden Globes, five Tony Awards for her work in American theater, and an honorary Oscar for life in 2013.
But most remember her as the down-to-earth, middle-aged widow Jessica Fletcher who tracked down criminals in the television series Murder, She Wrote, which ran on US television from 1984 to 1996 and was exported to dozens of countries. makes them known worldwide.
“I was amazed, almost everyone around the world knew Jessica Fletcher. They treated me like a rock star,” Lansbury said in 2016.
The 264-episode series earned her four of her Golden Globes as well as a fortune, raking in as much as $300,000 per episode.
Despite this, the still-vibrant actress spoke of her desire to play the role of Jessica Fletcher “just one more time” in 2017 at the age of 91, British media reported.
– Teen Screen Debut –
Lansbury was born in London on October 16, 1925 into a family of politicians and actors.
Her grandfather, George Lansbury, was a leader of the British Labor Party in the 1930s and her mother, Moyna Macgill, was an Irish actress.
In 1940 she emigrated to the United States with her widowed mother, fleeing the blitzkrieg of World War II.
Blonde with big blue eyes, she studied acting in New York.
Her big screen breakthrough came when she was just 17 when she was cast as the devious maid Nancy in the 1944 psychological thriller Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman, a role that earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and led to a seven-year contract with MGM Studios .
Another Oscar nomination quickly followed, for The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1946, while a third nomination followed for The Manchurian Candidate in 1963, for roles for which she received two Golden Globes.
However, Lansbury was often relegated to supporting roles, playing characters older than herself.
“I played older roles when I was terribly young because I wasn’t a big screen beauty. I’m a character actress,” she told BBC Radio in 2014.
In the 1961 musical comedy “Blue Hawaii”, for example, she was the mother of a handsome tour guide, played by Elvis Presley, who was only 10 years her junior.
– From Hollywood to Broadway –
Frustrated by her slow career in Hollywood, Lansbury switched to theater on Broadway in the late 1950s.
She rose to stardom in 1966 in the title role in the musical Mame, about wealthy New Yorkers during the Depression, for which she performed more than 1,500 times and won her first Tony Award. Gypsy (1973-1975) and Sweeney Todd (1979) followed.
But she continued to take on roles in cinema, winning younger audiences as a witch in the hit Disney film Bedknobs and Broomsticks in 1971.
In 2009, she won her fifth Tony Award for her Broadway role as the sly psychic Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.
She reprized the role in her late 80s in London’s West End in 2014 – her first time on a London stage in 39 years and won rave reviews.
“She’s extremely professional,” Michael Blakemore, who directed her in the play, was quoted as saying by The Guardian newspaper in 2015.
“I think people like her who’ve been acting since they were teenagers develop special gifts because they learn the basics of their craft when they’re young and impressionable,” he said.
Lansbury was married to her second husband Peter Shaw for 53 years, who died in 2003.
Great Britain made Lansbury a lady in 2014.
“In addition to her three children, Anthony, Deirdre and David, she is survived by three grandchildren, Peter, Katherine and Ian, as well as five great-grandchildren and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury,” the family statement said.
“A private family ceremony will be held at a date to be determined.”