The icon was cast in her first-ever film at the age of 17 and since then went on to establish herself as an actress of incredible ability.
The iconic actress Angela Lansbury was just 17 when she found herself on a movie set for the first time. She had no prior experience in the industry and to top it off, Lansbury was about to star alongside notable Hollywood actors like Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten and surprisingly she managed to cruise through it with the utmost professionalism. Maintaining this trait throughout the lengthy course of her distinguished career she earned a lot of praise. As Lansbury celebrated her 94th birthday on October 16, the world rejoiced the 75th year of her impeccable contribution to the art.
Lansbury began her praise-worthy acting career with the 1944 psychological-thriller Gaslight. According to a report by Variety, MGM was having trouble with casting someone for the role of the sullen but flirtatious maid, Nancy, during its pre-production phase. It was then John Van Druten, a co-scriptwriter of the movie, suggested the teen daughter of British theater actress, Moyna MacGill, take up this role. Druten, who had the opportunity of meeting Lansbury prior to this saw the potential she had and immediately arranged for a screen test which she unsurprisingly aced and thus secured her first film role four days later.
The actress left a great impression on filmmakers, many of whom publicly appreciated her acting skills. In the book On Cukor, Gaslight, director George Cukor praised Lansbury and said, "This is a Cinderella story. On the first day of shooting, even though she was only 17 and had no experience, she was immediately professional. She became this little housemaid — even her face seemed to change. Suddenly, I was watching real movie acting." This also helped her earn an MGM contract and her first Oscar nomination. Soon after, she received her second nomination for The Picture of Dorian Gray, thus securing herself a place in the industry.
Lansbury was known as a character actress by the time she entered her 20s and her portrayal of middle-aged women made her a much sought-after actor. At 35, she played the mother of 26-year-old Elvis Presley’s Chad Gates in the 1961 movie Blue Hawaii. The following year, she starred as the mother of Laurence Harvey’s Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate despite being merely three years older than him. Her fantastic potrayal of cold ambition and frightening mother love earned her a third Oscar nomination.
From 1962, Angela Lansbury and Laurence Harvey in,— Skip Bolden (@skipbolden) 8 October 2019
The Manchurian Candidate
Directed by John Frankenheimer pic.twitter.com/bIVkzySOS1
Her career took a sharp turn in 1966 when she ventured into Broadway and managed to wow the critics with her musical-comedy performance in Mame. Through theatre, she got the opportunity of starring in a wide range of roles. For five decades, she has stunned audiences with her exceptional performances, including her roles as Mama Rose in Gypsy, the killer Mrs. Lovett in Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, Gertrude in Albert Finney's Hamlet, and many others. Despite her frequent work in films and television, she always returned to the stage and most recently she was seen in the 2015 West End revival of Blithe Spirit.
Amidst all her brilliant work, she was most acclaimed for her television role in Murder, She Wrote which debuted in September 1984 and aired for 12 years. Jessica Fletcher's character was one she closely identified with although she had only tapped into a fraction of her talent in it. It was Lansbury's intelligence, integrity, and warmth that made the show so popular. It is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of Jessica Fletcher.
Over the lengthy course of her glorified career spanning 75 years, the actress managed to win five of the seven Tony Award nominations. In addition to this, she was the recipient of the honorary Academy Award in 2014, which was added to her staggering 17 Emmy nominations and 15 Golden Globe nominations. The star also won 6 of her 15 Golden Globe nominations and is a 1996 Emmy Hall of Fame honoree. Lansbury was also awarded lifetime achievement kudos from the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA.