Icon of Hollywood Angela Lansbury Is 96 Years Old and Has Been Acting For Almost Eight Decades

The iconic Dame Angela first appeared on the scene in 1944. Despite being only 17 years old, she made an immediate impression as a flirty maid in Gaslight, a classic psychological thriller. After more than 75 years and numerous accomplishments, she is regarded internationally as an icon and an actress of extraordinary power and diversity.

Even the most experienced actor would have been terrified to be cast in a film alongside Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten. Angela, a 17-year-old with no prior film experience, held her own in such company, which is even more impressive. It reflects the actress’s natural professionalism—a quality that will serve her well over the course of a long and distinguished career. In October 2019, she celebrated not only her 94th birthday but also 75 years as an actor.

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How did an unknown young girl end up in a 1944 Hollywood film? MGM stated during the pre-production of Gaslight that casting the minor as an important character, Nancy, a rebellious teenage maid, had become more difficult. Fortunately, co-scripter John Van Druten had the right idea: he proposed to Moyna MacGill’s little daughter, a British stage actress and widow evacuated to the United States with her family during the London Blitz. Van Druten only knew Lansbury from her job at a department store, but he could tell she was the right person for the job. A few days later, Angela passed the screen test! She was even nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Angela’s excellent performance in the film earned her a contract with MGM. A year later, she received her second Oscar nomination for her performance in The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Angela had a reputation as a character actor who was not afraid to portray middle-aged ladies in the 1950s and 1960s, despite being only in her 30s at the time. Angela played the mother of Elvis Presley’s character Chad Gates in Blue Hawaii (1961), despite Elvis being 26 at the time. The following year, despite the fact that Harvey was only three years Lansbury’s junior, she played Laurence Harvey’s terrifying mother in The Manchurian Candidate. Angela was nominated for her third Oscar for this role.

Angela’s career took a new turn in 1966, when she was cast as the title character in the musical-comedy smash hit Mame. This was a huge relief for the actress, who may have been afraid of being typecast in mom roles in Hollywood. Her list of Broadway triumphs is long and varied. Angela always brought something unique to her Broadway roles, from Mama Rose in Gipsy to the homicidal widow Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She is still active on stage, having appeared in a 2015 West End production of Blithe Spirit.

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Jessica Fletcher, the author-turned-sleuth from the long-running TV drama series Murder, She Wrote, is her most well-known character. The show debuted in 1984 and ran until 1996. Angela’s sense of humor, kindness, and sincerity contributed to the program’s success. Even though playing Jessica only shows a small portion of her immense talent, most viewers cannot imagine the show with anyone else as the lead.

Angela Lansbury’s list of awards and nominations over the course of her 75-year career is nothing short of astounding. In addition to her three Oscar nominations, she received seven Tony Award nominations, five of which she won. Despite not winning an Oscar for a specific performance, she was given an honorary Academy Award in 2014. She has received an incredible number of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations (17) and (15).

Angela Lansbury has given us an alarming number of truly outstanding performances, from Hollywood to Disney, from Broadway to Jessica Fletcher on television. What is your favorite Angela Lansbury role? Make sure to spread the word so that others can enjoy it as well!