The Heartbreaking Death Of Angela Lansbury

She might have not been showbusiness' most sensational spotlight, but she was one of its warmest. Today Hollywood is mourning the loss of Angela Lansbury, whose multi-awarded acting career spanned more than seven decades. Dame Lansbury died at the age of 96, her family confirming the news in a statement


"The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 AM today, Tuesday, October 11, 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday," the statement read in part. "She was proceeded in death by her husband of 53 years, Peter Shaw. A private family ceremony will be held at a date to be determined."

Our hearts go out to Lansbury's three children, three grandchildren, and give great-grandchildren. 

Angela Lansbury arrived New York as a war refugee

Angela Lansbury was born in London in 1925. Her mother, Moyna MacGill was a former West End Theatre actress while her father, Edgar Lansbury, was a politician, who passed away when she was just nine. "My life was torn up by my father's death when I was nine, and I grew up terribly fast. From then to the age of 13, I was out of school, the war was on – then I came to America," she told Radio Times in 2017. That journey proved to be as dramatic as any movie, because the port Lansbury and her family had departed from was bombed, but they had already managed to set sail for New York. 


From there she decided to move west, to Los Angeles, where she began working for Bullock's department store (via Variety). "I was working in a department store as you say, selling cosmetics, and it was from there that I was taken by a young friend of mine to MGM, on the off chance that they might consider me, a young British actress, for a role in some of the movies they were doing at that time: mainly 'Gaslight' and 'The Picture of Dorian Grey' " she told Australia's studio 10 back in 2018 (via YouTube). 

Angela Lansbury has had a storied career

"Gaslight" director George Cukor said he knew he had a winner on his hands in Angela Lansbury. "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," the director said. That performance led not just to an MGM contract, but her first Oscar nomination (via Variety).


Lansbury went on to distinguish herself, not just in film, but on stage and television too. On Broadway, she appeared in theater classics including "Mame," "Gypsy," and "Sweeney Todd." Her stage performances netted her seven Tony nominations, of which she won five. She has also been inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

The actress might have appeared alongside marquee names including Ingrid Bergman ("Gaslight"), Danny Kaye ("The Court Jester") and Elvis Presley ("Blue Hawaii"), but it wasn't until she took on the role of the TV's favorite author, Jessica Fletcher, in "Murder She Wrote" that she became a global name. "Murder She Wrote" ran from 1984 to 1996 — an impressive 12 years and 264 episodes, with the final special TV movie airing in 2003. 


In profiling the actress, Variety's Tim Grey credit's Lansbury's unpretentious qualities of "intelligence, integrity and warmth" which is what audiences were drawn to. And thanks to the magic of streaming, Lansbury even connected with a much younger demographic, after lending her voice to Mrs. Potts in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

Angela Lansbury found love the second time around

Her first marriage to actor Richard Cromwell happened when she was 19 and he was 35 and only lasted seven months. "I understand younger women marrying older men. It's a father – she didn't have the father, and now she's looking for it," Lansbury told Radio Times. Adding, "I had no idea that I was marrying a gay man. I found him such an attractive individual, a very glamorous person ... And he wanted to marry, he was fascinated with me, but only because of what he had seen on the screen."


But she found her forever love in British actor/producer Peter Shaw, who she had met when they were both working for MGM. They stayed together 53 years until his death at 84 in 2003, and had two children. Even then the marriage was challenged by their son Anthony's addiction struggles, and her daughter Deirdre's indirect connection to the Charles Manson cult. They then moved to Ireland to escape Hollywood life (via PBS). The family spent a decade there, with Lansbury turning down multiple roles and opportunities to focus on her children (via Radio Times). Although, she considered L.A. home, Ireland held a special place for her and her family, and they still maintain a home there.

The secret to her longevity in Hollywood could only be described as an anomaly. Lansbury never succumbed to the pressure to have plastic surgery or adhere to a celebrity body type. And in terms of longevity in life, she credits that to genetics and her diet. Telling Radio Times, "I'm very English in my eating habits. I love a baked potato, that's my absolute fave. And bacon and eggs. And sausages – yes!"