Angela Lansbury Obituary, Death- Angela Lansbury was born in 1925 to an upper-middle-class Regent’s Park family. Her father, socialist politician Edgar Isaac Lansbury (1887-1935), was a CPGB and Labour Party member.
Edgar was Mayor of Poplar (1924-1925) and Honorary Treasurer of the East London Federation of Suffragettes (1915). He was Britain’s second Communist mayor after Joe Vaughan (1878-1938). Belfast-born actress Moyna Macgill (1895-1975) was Lansbury’s mother. In Angela’s first five years, the Lansburys lived in a Poplar flat. They relocated to a Mill Hill property in north London in 1930. They vacation in a farm in Berrick Salome, South Oxfordshire, on weekends.
Stomach cancer killed Edgar Lansbury in 1935. Angela apparently used “playing characters” to cope with the loss. Widow Moyna Macgill shortly engaged to Scottish colonel Leckie Forbes. Moyna moved into his Hampstead home. From 1934 through 1939, Angela attended South Hampstead High. In these years, she became interested in filmmaking. She frequented the local movie and imagined herself in numerous characters. Angela studied piano at the Ritman School of Dancing.
Lansbury began acting classes at Kensington’s Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art in 1940. She made her acting debut in Maxwell Anderson’s 1933 drama “Mary of Scotland” at the school. Lansbury played a lady-in-waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587, reigned 1542-1567). George Lansbury, Lansbury’s paternal grandpa, died of stomach cancer in 1940. When the Blitz began, Moyna Macgill worried about her family and scant ties to England. Macgill took her three youngest children to the US to escape the Blitz. English Isolde was married and left behind.
Macgill received funding from Charles T. Smith. She moved into Smith’s house in Mahopac, New York, a Putnam County hamlet, with her children, including Angela. Lansbury received an American Theatre Wing scholarship to continue her education. Lansbury studied acting at New York’s Feagin School of Dramatic Art from 1940 to 1942.
She performed at school events. Lansbury moved her family to a Morton Street flat in Greenwich Village in 1942. She quickly followed her mother’s Canadian theatrical tour. Lansbury got her first paid job in Montreal singing at Samovar Club for $60 a week. For the job, Lansbury lied about being 19 when she was 16. After Lansbury returned to New York City in August 1942, Moyna Macgill moved her family again. Moyna wanted to revive her film career in Los Angeles, so the family went there. They first lived in a bungalow in Laurel Canyon, Hollywood Hills.
Lansbury supported her family by working at Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angeles. Her weekly wage was barely $28, but she was secure while her mother remained unemployed. Lansbury met screenwriter John Van Druten (1901-1957), who had just finished “Gaslight” (1944), through her mother. He suggested young Lansbury for Nancy Oliver, the film’s scheming cockney maid. This led to Lansbury’s first film job at 17 and a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. She used her own name over a stage identity and made $500 every week.
Richard Cromwell (1910-1960), 15 years her senior, married Lansbury in 1945. The 1946 divorce terminated the tumultuous marriage. Past spouses remained friends until Cromwell’s death. Lansbury began dating 7-year-old wannabe actor Peter Shaw (1918-2003) in 1946. Shaw broke up with Joan Crawford (c. 1908-1977). The pair moved in while planning nuptials.
The Church of England forbade two divorcees from marrying in the UK. They married at Knightsbridge’s St. Columba’s Church in 1949 in a Church of Scotland ceremony. After returning to the US, they moved into Lansbury’s Rustic Canyon, Malibu home. Lansbury and Shaw became US citizens in 1951 while keeping British citizenship.
Lansbury kept starring in MGM pictures. Between 1945 and 1952, she featured in 11 MGM films. MGM occasionally loaned Lansbury to other studios. She performed in “The Private Affairs of Bel Ami” (1947) and “Samson and Delilah” (1949) for United Artists. Lansbury made her radio debut in 1948 and her TV debut in 1950.
Lansbury asked MGM to terminate her contract in 1952. She was unhappy with her MGM contract picture career. She then toured East Coast with two Broadway plays. Lansbury had two children and a stepson by 1953. Her family moved into a larger Santa Monica mansion on San Vincente Boulevard. Her family bought a Malibu mansion in 1959. The married couple sent their kids to a nearby public school. She continued her cinematic career as a freelance actress, playing middle-aged characters. The drama “The Long, Hot Summer” (1958) and the comedy “The Reluctant Debutante” (1958) restored her A-list status. She appeared regularly on “Pantomime Quiz” (1947-1959).
In 1957, Lansbury debuted on Broadway in “Hotel Paradiso”. The drama was based on Maurice Desvallières (1857-1926) and Georges Feydeau’s 1894 “L’Hôtel du libre échange” (“Free Exchange Hotel”). Lansbury’s “Marcel Cat” was well-received. Over the next few years, she played the verbally abusive mother in “A Taste of Honey” on Broadway. She played the mother of four-year-old co-star Joan Plowright (1929-).
Lansbury played an intrusive mother in “Blue Hawaii” (1961). Elvis Presley (1935-1977), her son, was 10 years older. The film was the 10th highest-grossing of 1961 and the 14th of 1962 on the “Variety” national box office survey. At a tough time, it revived Lansbury’s career. Lansbury’s sympathetic character in “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” (1960) and her manipulating mother in “All Fall Down” (1962) earned her great acclaim.
After her triumph in “All Fall Down”, she had a similar part in “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962). She played Eleanor Iselin, Laurence Harvey’s mother, who was three years her junior. This was one of her most memorable parts. She gained critical acclaim and a third Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The award went to Patty Duke (1946-2016).
Lansbury returned as Mame Dennis in Jerome Lawrence (1915-2004) and Robert Edwin Lee (1918-1994)’s musical “Mame” (1966). The play adapted Patrick Dennis (1921-1976)’s 1955 novel “Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade” and focused on eccentric bohemian Mame Dennis’ life and views. Lansbury won her first Tony for Best Leading Actress in a production for the production, which was well-received. Lansbury became a “superstar” after her success.
Lansbury made many high-profile appearances after her stardom. She performed musically at the 1968 Academy Awards and co-hosted the 1968 Tonys. The Harvard undergraduate Hasty Pudding Club named her “Woman of the Year” in 1968. Lansbury’s next hit was Jean Giraudoux’s “The Madwoman of Chaillot” (1945) in 1969. The drama is about an eccentric Parisian woman’s authority issues. Despite being 44, Lansbury played 75-year-old Countess Aurelia. The 132-performance show was well-received. Lansbury’s second Tony was for this role.
A brush fire destroyed Lansbury’s Malibu home in 1970. Lansbury and her husband bought Knockmourne Glebe, an 1820s Irish farmhouse near Conna in rural County Cork. Her cinematic career soared. She played beneficent witch Eglantine Price in Disney’s 1971 fantasy film “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”. The picture was a box-office blockbuster, highly acclaimed, and introduced Lansbury to children and families.
Lansbury returned to the West End with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1972. Lansbury played Rose in Arthur Laurents’ 1959 musical “Gypsy” in London in 1973. It was successful. The same cast toured the US in 1974 for “Gypsy”. Lanbury earned her third Tony and Sarah Siddons Award for her portrayal. The musical toured again in 1975.
Musicals tire me. Next, Lansbury pursued UK Shakespearean parts. She played Queen Gertrude in Hamlet for the National Theatre Company from 1975 to 1976. Lansbury’s mother Moyna Macgill, 79, died in November 1975. Lansbury had her mother’s ashes cremated and spread near her County Cork home. Lansbury performed in America in 1976. Lansbury temporarily played Anna Leonowens (1831-1915) in The King and I in 1978, replacing Constance Towers (1933-). Lansbury performed 24 times while Towers was on break.
The 1978 mystery thriller “Death on the Nile” cast Lansbury as novelist and murder victim Salome Otterbourne, her first cinematic appearance in seven years. The film was based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel, and Otterbourne was partially based on Elinor Glyn. The picture was a minor hit, and Lansbury befriended Bette Davis (1908-1989).