Revealing Facts About Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury is a Hollywood institution. She’s an actress, singer, Broadway performer, and our very own Jessica Fletcher. You don’t need a detective to figure out that she’s an absolute treasure. Angela has a rich and wonderful past, full of intriguing encounters and opportunities.

From childhood tragedy to a shady connection with one of the most prolific crime families in history and a short-lived first marriage, Angela has done a lot of living in her 90-odd years. Join us as we take a look at some mysterious facts about everyone’s favorite TV sleuth. You might be surprised at what you find!

Her Mom Was An Actress

Her Mom Was An Actress
Sasha/Getty Images
Sasha/Getty Images

Angela Lansbury was born in London in 1925, to Edgar Lansbury and Moyna Macgill. Her mother seemed to pass down the acting bug to her daughter as she made regular appearances in London’s West End shows. Her talents weren’t just limited to the stage, as she also made some appearances on the silver screen.

Unlike some families at the time, the Lansburys were well off. Her father’s family had money, and Edgar himself ended up as a politician who went on to serve both the Labor party and Communists. Angela and her siblings had a relatively comfortable childhood.

New York, New York

New York, New York
Frank Lilley/Express/Getty Images
Frank Lilley/Express/Getty Images

Like many British parents during the war, Angela’s mom feared for the safety of her children in London. In 1940, amid the beginning of the Blitz, the actress took her three youngest children to live in the United States. They first caught a boat to Montreal before taking a train to New York.

Eventually, they settled in Mahopac before moving to Greenwich Village in NYC to start their new lives away from everything they had known. At the time, Angela was 15 years old and already dying to get onto the stage and follow in her mother’s footsteps.

She’s A Comedy Fan

She's A Comedy Fan
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Although Lansbury made a name for herself as the sleuth novelist Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote, but her life wasn’t all doom and gloom. When the actress wasn’t filming the next episode of the whodunnit series, she would often kick back and watch her favorite shows.

They weren’t hard-hitting dramas, but comedies such as Roseanne and Seinfeld. Perhaps filming grisly tales for most of her days called for some lighthearted relief behind the scenes. Other stars have M&M’s on their dressing room wish-lists, but Angela clearly had other preferences that were far more important for her own sanity!

Her Father Died Young

She lost her father before she became famous
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Angela’s father, whom she had adored, would never get to see her make it in New York. The family patriarch sadly passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 48, when Angela was just nine years old. She has spoken about her father in interviews, often becoming emotional.

“Looking back, I think that was the defining moment of my life. Nothing before or since has ever affected me so deeply. It also altered the shape of my life. I lost interest in school work…I became something of a dreamer, lost in my grief. In time, I became much more interested in acting.”

Her First Job Was As A Singer

Angela in costume
Bettman/Getty Images
Bettman/Getty Images

Angela knew she wanted to perform, but didn’t quite know how to get started. Not long after the family moved to the United States, her mother landed a role in a touring production of the play Tonight at 8.30. Angela accompanied her mother on the Canadian route, where she managed to get a paid gig at the Samovar Club in Montreal.

As she was only 16 at the time, the young star in the making lied and said she was 19 in order to secure the job. She sang a plethora of Noel Coward songs, which got her $60 a week.

She Was Nominated For An Oscar For Her First-Ever Movie

GettyImages-1137247679
LMPC via Getty Images
LMPC via Getty Images

Eventually, thanks to her mom’s connections, Angela made the acquaintance of screenwriter John van Druten. By this point, the family had moved to Los Angeles for the sake of Mrs. Lansbury’s career – but it was Angela’s that took off. Through her friendship with Druten, Angela landed a part in the 1944 MGM movie, Gaslight.

The picture was a hit, going on to be nominated for six Oscars. To her surprise, Angela herself was up for Best Supporting Actress. She didn’t win, but it was still quite an incredible feat for a gal straight out of the gate.

She Quit MGM

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Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Getty Images

The success of Gaslight prompted MGM to offer Lansbury a contract, which she was more than grateful for. For $500 a week, she starred in a host of movies over the course of seven years. However, it wasn’t all she thought it would be. After becoming frustrated with her lack of progress, Angela didn’t renew the contract and instead turned to Broadway.

Initially, a couple of her projects were hits, although there wasn’t a ton of long-term work on the stage. The musical Anyone Can Whistle wasn’t well-loved, but it did introduce her to some precious connections she would utilize in the future.

Broadway Success

GettyImages-515036040 (1)
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

It took a little while, but finally, Angela’s Broadway performance in 1966’s Mame gained her the kind of praise she had been hoping for. Audiences and critics loved the show, and she won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.

This fantastic endeavor cemented Lansbury’s icon status as one of the leading ladies of the Great White Way. Nothing stood in her way and it soon became clear that Angela Lansbury was here to stay. By hook or by crook, she was getting the parts and would go down in history.

She Maintained A Good Relationship With Her First Husband

Angela and Richard
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Like many actresses of her time, Angela married young. She fell head over heels for fellow actor Richard Cromwell (pictured) in the ’40s. While she was only 19 and Cromwell 35, the pair tied the knot in an intimate ceremony in 1945. Their romance was short-lived and they went their separate ways a year later, as Cromwell admitted he was gay.

Even though their flame had gone out, the pair stayed close friends right up until Cromwell’s passing in 1960. Lansbury stated in an interview, “I had no idea I was marrying a gay man. I found him such an attractive individual. He wanted to marry, he was fascinated with me.”

Her Second Marriage Lasted 54 Years

Angela and Pete on their wedding day
Fred Ramage/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Fred Ramage/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While her first marriage didn’t work out, Lansbury’s knight in shining armor was just around the corner. A couple of years after her divorce from Cromwell, Angela married British-born MGM actor Peter Shaw. The couple was blissfully happy, tying the knot in London and taking their honeymoon in France.

They remained together right up until Shaw’s death in 2003. Lansbury later credited Peter for helping her career, saying, “My husband was the one who said ‘Do it. Go. Do it. Take the children with you, we’ll manage. I will see that everything will be alright at home. Don’t worry, go ahead and do it.'”

Mrs. Potts Was A Gift To Her Grandkids

Mrs Potts
Disney/Buena Vista Pictures
Disney/Buena Vista Pictures

One of Lansbury’s most iconic roles was the animated teapot in 1991’s Beauty and the Beast. The tender housekeeper-turned-tea-brewer was very warmly received by audiences, but Angela didn’t do it for the Disney fanbase. She did it for her own personal fans, her grandchildren.

After carefully deliberating over whether to voice the character, the actress decided it would be a great way to treat her three little grandkids at the time. The star has continued to talk highly about the project for the last two decades, telling interviewers how wonderful it was to see the movie brought to life.

Her Beauty And The Beast Song Was Done In One Take

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Photo by Rob Kim/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Photo by Rob Kim/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Lansbury had the challenge of singing the title song for Beauty and the Beast, but initially wasn’t sure if she had the voice to carry it off. With hesitation, she went into the studio to see how it might go, despite her reservations. Songwriter Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken had faith in her — and it paid off.

Just one take was all it took for the prized actress to pull it off. Everyone in the room welled up and it was clear that magic was happening. That singular take was all they needed, and Angela’s vocals were used in the movie.

Murder, She Wrote Was a Big Deal

Murder, She Wrote Was a Big Deal
NBC
NBC

While Lansbury was already a legend in her own right by the time Murder, She Wrote rolled around, it brought her to an entirely new generation. The part of Jessica Fletcher would become her most recognizable, and longest-running.

Running for an incredible 12 seasons from 1984 to 1996, the CBS hit raked in unbelievable viewing numbers. At its peak, Lansbury’s show attracted more than 30 million viewers per episode. After the show wrapped for good, Lansbury came back as Jessica Fletcher for four standalone TV movies that were just as appreciated. The series is now considered a classic, alongside Colombo.

She Has Never Won An Emmy

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David M. Benett/Getty Images
David M. Benett/Getty Images

Despite her obvious talent and numerous accolades, there’s one that Lansbury just couldn’t pin down. Although she was nominated 18 times for an Emmy — 12 of which for Murder, She Wrote — Angela has never won. In fact, she holds the record for the highest amount of nominations without a win.

The snub has never affected her career in any way, but at least she got to perfect her gracious loser face. Lansbury once said it was all down to Hollywood not watching the show, while the rest of the country thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.

Angela Has Hosted The Tony Awards Five Times

Angela at the Tony Awards
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for Tony Awards
Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage for Tony Awards

The Tony Awards are always anticipated, especially because musical fans like to see who’s hosting. Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman have each hosted a handful of times each, but they don’t have anything on Angela Lansbury.

The leading lady has served as hostess with the mostess five whole times over the course of her life. The late Robert Preston was also synonymous with the awards, but even he didn’t host as many times as Lansbury. Each time she does, it goes down an absolute storm. The actress has made no secret that she loves the job, too.

She’s Also A Fitness Queen

getting out of a car
Art Zelin / Contributor
Art Zelin / Contributor

A plethora of actresses have done fitness videos in their time, but few may know that Angela Lansbury is also part of the pack, minus the leotards, though. In 1988 at 63 years old, the star released a fitness video titled Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves: My Personal Plan for Fitness and Well-Being.

While it was a far cry from the Jane Fonda tapes of the time, Lansbury’s video was fairly well-received and gave fans an inside look into how she kept her famously slender frame in check with moves that weren’t back-breaking, but gentle and easy to follow.

She’s Still Acting

She's Still Acting
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

Despite being well into her nineties, Angela has never stopped working. She may have taken some time off for health issues such as a hip replacement, but Lansbury’s passion for the industry has never waned. Sure, she isn’t working her fingers to the bone like she used to, but she’s still around.

In 2018 she voiced the Mayor Whoville in the updated version of The Grinch, as well as making a brief, but noted, appearance in Mary Poppins Returns as Balloon Lady. It just goes to show you can’t keep a good girl — or a talented actress — down.

She’s A Citizen Of Three Countries

British citizen
Daily Herald/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images
Daily Herald/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Despite being raised and making her fortune in America, Lansbury was born in England, making her a British citizen. Six years after arriving in the states, both herself and her husband Peter became nationalized American citizens. Many years later they also became Irish citizens, as they kept a home there to enjoy the rolling green hills.

That means that Lansbury is a citizen of three different countries, making her welcome in two of the world’s most recognized countries and the gorgeously magical Emerald Isle. You can’t get much luckier than that when it comes to living arrangements, can you?

Angela Was Great Friends With Bea Arthur

Angela and Bea
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Angela has many friends in the showbiz industry. You don’t have a career as long as she does without making some connections along the way. Her friendship with fellow actress Bea Arthur blossomed after they co-starred together in Mame, for which they both won awards.

The two women would both find success on TV in the ’80s, with Bea hitting the mark with Golden Girls and Angela in Murder, She Wrote. Bea Arthur sadly passed away after a battle with cancer in 2009, two weeks shy of her 87th birthday. Angela was one of many who paid tribute to her during a special event.

Her Daughter Knew The Manson Family

Angela and daughter
Richard Lee/New York Post/Photo Archives, LLC via Getty Images
Richard Lee/New York Post/Photo Archives, LLC via Getty Images

Angela has been honest about the dangerous paths her children tread in the sixties, despite how dedicated she was to them. Substance abuse was a major issue, while her daughter Deirdre was affiliated with several members of the notorious Manson family cult.

Deirdre would sometimes let the Mansons use her credit cards while she was under the influence, but thankfully she had nothing to do with the atrocious crimes they committed on that unspeakable night. It looks like she kept herself at a safe enough distance not to be enthralled by Charles Manson’s charms.