Angela Lansbury became the richest TV actress by playing Miss Marple, writes ROGER LEWIS. 96-year-old She Wrote actress dies, The lasting impression of Angela Lansbury is of a cute and fashionable little girl, one who is both kind and brilliant, with clear, beady blue eyes and a voice that bubbles and gurgles like a springtime stream.
The Disney animators did such an amazing job capturing all of these nuances in her role as the singing teapot in Beauty and the Beast that I know I will always remember her performance.
Angela bolstered her virtuous reputation by saying, “I try to be organized.” My brain works best when it’s making lists. I can’t stand it when things are disorganized.
The actress, who played amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher on 264 episodes of Murder, She Wrote and became the wealthiest woman in television history, as a result, passed away peacefully in her sleep at her Los Angeles home yesterday at the age of 96.
Jessica Fletcher was essentially America’s version of Miss Marple; she was a sprightly old lady who lived alone in Cabot Cove, which is modeled after St. Mary Mead. Murder, She Wrote, like Agatha Christie, whose world embodies a timeless lost Englishness, conveyed, as Angela put it, “heartland American values,” and the public adored it, tuning in by the tens of millions every week from 1984 to 1996.
In every corner of the globe, you can hear the same thing over and over again.
Long hours of labor were put in for a total of 12 years. After Angela became the executive producer and negotiated numerous lucrative concessions from both Universal and CBS, her salary increased from $40,000 per episode to $200,000.
Advertisers loved Murder, She Wrote, so the show was a hit with the TV networks even if it didn’t win any Emmys. Although she was nominated 18 times, Angela never took home the prize.
Someone once asked her why she kept acting after so many of her contemporaries had called it quits. ‘I’ve never been particularly aware of my age,’ she reflected. “Just like riding a bike, I have to put my foot down and keep pedaling to keep going.”
Angela had never before been recognized in public or asked for autographs before playing Jessica Fletcher. She was born in Britain and received the honorific titles of CBE in 1994 and Dame Angela in 2014.
However, she did not always get the label of “little old lady.” Director Milos Forman wanted Angela to play Nurse Ratched in his 1975 production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Peter Shaw, Angela’s husband, was very supportive of the idea. After reading the script, however, Angela reverted to form and said, “This is a wonderful role, but I simply cannot play it.” What a horrible, evil person she is.
She was afraid doing so would diminish her warm and friendly persona, which she desperately wanted her fans to embrace. In 2014, Rupert Everett played Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit on the West End, and James Earl Jones toured Australia in Driving Miss Daisy. In addition to her roles as Mrs. Santa Claus and Aunt March in Little Women and Aunt Adelaide in Nanny McPhee, Angela also played these roles in other films.
Even though Angela was generally pleasant, her husband and Milos Forman saw a potential for evil in her drive and perfectionism. They sensed a chill behind her outward warmth.
That is the personality trait that George Cukor saw in her and exploited so memorably in Gaslight, and which, with the exception of The Manchurian Candidate, she never again displayed on the screen.
Angela Lansbury began her acting career at MGM in 1943, alongside legends like Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland. Sondheim was inspired to pen Sweeney Todd specifically for her after she became a Broadway sensation.
Her privileged background undoubtedly helped her succeed. George Lansbury, Angela’s grandfather, was the leader of the Labour Party in the 1930s and a member of Parliament for the London borough of Poplar. Together with Franklin D. Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor, he gave a series of speeches across the United States advocating for nuclear disarmament. He was so committed to pacifism that Hitler’s rise had no effect on him.
Angela’s dad was in the veneer business for cruise ships. Her mother, the actress Moyna, had acted before, playing Desdemona in Basil Rathbone’s Othello.
They had two scullery maids, a parlor maid, and a cook when Angela was born in 1925, and they lived in Hamilton Terrace, near London’s Regent’s Park. Angela, who lost her father when she was nine, speculates that the wood veneer business was risky because the family “really had no income to speak of.”
Moyna was taken as the mistress of Leckie Forbes, a deranged Scotsman who slept with a loaded revolver under his World War I tin helmet. Angela attended both the South Hampstead School for Girls and the Webber-Douglas Drama School thanks to Leckie’s financial support.
Angela portrayed Rosalind as Patrick Macnee’s Orlando in this scene. At the same time, her sister Isolde married Peter Ustinov, and it was at their reception that Moyna met the person who ultimately convinced her to leave Scotland and head to America, away from the mad Scotsman and the impending war.
Murder, She Wrote was a huge hit on Sunday nights, so CBS and Universal Studio agreed to keep it on the air. Lansbury kept a steady pace despite the long days (she left her Brentwood, West Los Angeles, home at 6 a.m. and returned after dark) and mountains of lines to learn. She liked that Jessica Fletcher could be an example to seasoned females.
‘Women in the film have always found it challenging to be role models for other women,’ she said. The jobs they do have “always been considered glamorous.”
At times during the first season of the show, Jessica wore clothes that bordered on frumpy. Then, Lansbury reasoned that, since Jessica was a successful woman, she should dress the part, so Jessica picked up some intelligence.
Even in its eleventh season, viewers continued to tune in to Murder, She Wrote. Then CBS moved the show from its more successful Sunday night slot to its less successful midweek slot in an effort to attract a younger audience. Lansbury made a loud objection, but it was ignored.