DAME Angela Lansbury was the last surviving actress from Hollywood’s Golden Age, who also dominated TV screens in Murder, She Wrote.
She was nominated for her first Oscar in 1944 aged 19, and her movie co-stars included Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra.
Angela Lansbury embarked on a spectacular stage career before taking on TV as sleuth Jessica Fletcher in Murder She WroteCredit: Alamy
Angela was nominated for her first Oscar in 1944 aged 19 – which also starred Frank SinatraCredit: Rex
In the autumn of 1940, the family moved to New York and two years later headed to Los Angeles, where a casting director spotted AngCredit: PA
Angela then embarked on a spectacular stage career before taking on TV, as sleuth Jessica Fletcher — solving 264 murders along the way.
And generations of children will know her as the voice of a teapot and singing the title track in 1991 Disney classic Beauty and the Beast.
In her personal life, she sometimes suffered — unsuspectingly marrying a gay man at the age of 19, and later watching both her children plunge into drug addiction.
She once said: “I haven’t had it easy… but in most cases, I’ve had such damn good luck.”
Angela Brigid Lansbury was born on October 16, 1925, at her parents’ flat near Regent’s Park in London.
Her mum Moyna Macgill was an actress from Belfast and dad Edgar Lansbury a politician, who had been mayor of Poplar, East London.
But the family’s most famous member was her grandad George, the Labour Party leader from 1932 to 1935 who had been an early crusader for women’s right to vote.
Tragedy struck in May 1935 when her father died of stomach cancer, aged 48.
Angela, who was just nine, later said: “Nothing before or since has affected me so deeply.”
Mother Moyna soon became the mistress of a “military gentleman” and the family moved in with him in Hampstead, North London. But by 1940, Angela later recalled, her mother “wanted to get away from it”.
She added: “But she also recognised the fact that Britain was likely to be bombed.”
Before she knew it, she had been cast in a key role in a movie called Gaslight. And so aged 17, she began filming her screen debut alongside Bergman and Charles Boyer.
It won her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress, the first of three Oscar nominations she would get.
Her next roles were in 1944’s National Velvet and 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which landed her a second Oscar nomination.
That year, at 19, she wed actor Richard Cromwell, 15 years her senior. She said later: “I had no idea I was marrying a gay man.”
The marriage lasted less than a year.
Soon after, in December 1946, Angela went on a blind date with actor Peter Shaw.
They wed in London in 1949 and were together until Peter died in 2003. A son, Anthony, was born in 1952 and daughter Deidre in 1953.
She played Elvis’s mum in Blue Hawaii and alomgside Sinatra in 1962’s The Manchurian Candidate.
But, starting to find good film roles harder to come by, her next success came from a surprise direction: Broadway.
Angela’s fanbase got even bigger in 1991 as the voice of teapot Mrs Potts in Disney hit Beauty and the BeastCredit: The Mega Agency
Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury appeared in A Little Night Music togetherCredit: Getty
In 1966 she won the title role in musical Mame and was an opening night sensation. But newfound fame at 40 came as a shock to her kids.
Angela later said they were “disoriented” and both began dabbling in drugs. Deidre even fell in with Charles Manson’s evil cult, so Angela moved the family to a farm in Ireland.
She still did the odd film, such as 1971’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, but by the early 1980s it was time to try something new. Now 59 and back in LA, she was asked to play murder-solving crime writer Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote.
When the show premiered in 1984, it was a global ratings hit. She said of her character: “She was valiant and liberal and athletic and exciting and sexy and all kinds of good stuff that women of a certain age are, and are not given credit for.”
Her fanbase got even bigger in 1991 as the voice of teapot Mrs Potts in Disney hit Beauty and the Beast.
In 2013 Angela received a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars, and was made a Dame by the Queen. The following year she won her first Olivier award, aged 89.
The 2020 death of Olivia de Havilland left her as the last surviving actress of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Angela said: “I’ve worked with the greatest actors, and they’re all gone. This is what’s so desperate to me.”