In celebration of Dame Angela Lansbury

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Today Dame Angela Lansbury turns 90. People like to pass landmark birthdays in meaningful places, so it seems right that Dame Angela Lansbury should be celebrating her 90th on American television and on Broadway, where she will receive the Oscar Hammerstein Award for lifetime achievement in musical theatre this weekend.

These honours acknowledge the London-born performer’s contribution to the small screen, where she played writer turned crime-fighter Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote for 12 years and to the evolution of the American musical, winning five Tony awards for roles in Stephen Sondheim’s productions including the cannibalistic baker Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd and acclaimed revivals of older female parts in Gypsy and A Little Night Music. To mark this day The Edge have decided to discuss our favourite Lansbury roles and just what makes them iconic.

Gaslight (1944)
Words by Natalie Fordham

This mystery-thriller adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play Gas Light about a woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she’s going insane. It was the second version to be filmed, following the British film Gaslight, directed by Thorold Dickinson and released in 1940. This 1944 version was directed by George Cukor and starred Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and 18-year-old Angela Lansbury in her screen debut. It had a larger scale and budget than the earlier film, and lent a different feel to the material. Lansbury marked her film debut here with an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for portraying maid, Nancy. She’d soon go on to be nominated again several times and prove to be one of the most iconic actresses of all time.

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
Words by Natalie Fordham

Lansbury’s third film, this horror-drama was based on Oscar Wilde’s 1890 novel of the same name. Released in March 1945 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the film is directed by Albert Lewin and stars George Sanders as Lord Henry Wotton and Hurd Hatfield as Dorian Gray. Shot primarily in black-and-white, the film features four inserts in 3-strip Technicolor of Dorian’s portrait as a special effect; the first two of his portrait’s original state, and the second two after a major period of degeneration. Lansbury was again nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the Oscars and the Golden Globes for her portrayal of Sybil Vane, crafting out an incredible talent and demonstrating her ability to understand how different characters function. Lansbury’s win at the Golden Globes marked her first accolade of what was to be a truly amazing career.

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Words by Amy Wootten

She was perfectly fitted to portray the cynical aspiring witch, Miss Price: but not too rigid to have herself whisked away on and adventure that allowed her to discover her magic and keep the refugees she was looking after, safe. Perhaps it’s the film itself, with its alluring balance between animation and live action sequences that allowed you as a child to be completely taken in. Watching Bedknobs and Broomsticks now, it brims with a warming nostalgia in which Angela Lansbury plays an integral part. And who doesn’t want to sing along to the likes of ‘Portobello Road’ and ‘The Beautiful Briny’? A truly magical and captivating performance that allows Bedknobs and Broomsticks to be preserved as one of my favourite childhood films.

Murder, She Wrote (1984-1996)
Words by Natalie Fordham

The American television mystery series starring Lansbury as mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. The series aired for 12 seasons with 264 episodes on the CBSnetwork. It was followed by four TV films and a spin-off series was produced in 1987, The Law & Harry McGraw. It is one of the most successful and longest-running television shows in history, with close to 23 million viewers in its prime, and was a staple of the CBS Sunday night lineup for a decade. It’s still easy to switch over and find the series somewhere on repeat, the show was revolutionary in it’s focus as a female driven detective drama and for many this created Lansbury as feminist figure.

Lansbury was nominated for a total of ten Golden Globes and 12 Emmy Awards for her work on Murder, She Wrote. She holds the record for the most Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress in a television drama series and the most Emmy nominations for outstanding lead actress in a drama series with those nominations netting her four Golden Globe awards. The series received three nominations but no wins in the Outstanding Drama Series category at the Emmys. It was nominated for a Golden Globe in the same category six times and won twice. So overall, it was an icon of both the 80s and the 90s and reminded us all that Lansbury isn’t just a one dimensional actress but a great talent with a broad ability.

Beauty & The Beast (1991)
Words by Anneka Honeyball

Angela Lansbury is an icon of stage and screen, with a voice so legendary that it made ‘A tale as old as time’ sound truly beautiful. I am of course talking about Lansbury’s wonderful voice portrayal of the kindly Mrs Potts in Disney’s 1991 classic, Beauty and The Beast. With her voice alone, Lansbury evoked a plethora of maternal warmth into this anthropomorphic character. The film is full of colourful beings, but Mrs Potts is arguably the most neutral of the lot – harnessing them all in with her sweet and caring nature. Whether or not Emma Thompson will inject quite as much heart into the character in the upcoming remake has yet to be determined – but it can’t be denied, she has a lot of work cut out for her to reach Lansbury’s near-inimitable level.

Anastasia (1997)
Words by Natalie Fordham

Anastasia was produced by Fox Animation Studios and distributed by 20th Century Fox, directed by former Disney animation directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, and starring a plethora of famous voices including Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammar, Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria, Bernadette Peters, Kirsten Dunst but most importantly Angela Lansbury. The film is an adaptation of the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, which claims that she in fact escaped the execution of her family. It tells the story of an eighteen-year-old orphan named Anya who, in hopes of finding some trace of her family, sides with a pair of con men who wish to take advantage of her likeness to the Grand Duchess. Lansbury voices the Grand Duchess who, in a stroke of fate, is actually her grandmother. She was the strong mother figure we all wanted in our lives and certainly delivered.

The film received nominations for several awards, including two Oscars for Best Original Song, ‘Journey to the Past’ and Best Original Musical or Comedy Score. It is the most profitable film from Don Bluth and Fox Animation Studios to date.

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Third year English student, Records Editor, list maker and lover of Kinder Buenos.

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BA English student at University of Southampton and Editor for The Edge (2015-16). A deep love of reading, theatre and all things entertainment.

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Editor [2016 - 2017], News Editor [2015 - 2016]. Current record holder for most ever articles written by a single Edgeling. Also Film & English Student and TV Editor for The National Student. Main loves include cats, actors and pasta.

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