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Angela Lansbury, Broadway's Original Mame and Mrs. Lovett, Has Died at Age 96

Lansbury won five Tony Awards for her body of work.

Angela Lansbury
(© David Gordon)

Angela Lansbury, the five-time Tony-winning actor who originated roles including Mame Dennis and Mrs. Lovett, has died. She was 96, and five days shy of her 97th birthday.

Angela Brigid Lansbury was born October 16, 1925, in Regent's Park, London, the child of the Belfast-born actor Moyna MacGill and English politician Edgar Lansbury. In 1940, she began studying at the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art in Kensington, West London. She moved to New York City with her family during the Blitz and received an American Theatre Wing scholarship to study at the Feagin School of Drama and Radio.

Lansbury then embarked on a career in the movies, moving to Hollywood with her mother. In 1944, after a chance meeting with screenwriter John Van Druten, she played Nancy Oliver in the film Gaslight and received her first of three Academy Award nominations. Her screen roles during this period included National Velvet, The Picture of Dorian Gray (for which she received her second Oscar nod), and many other films before her contract with MGM ran out in 1952. One of her most notable screen roles came in 1962, when she was cast as Eleanor Iselin in the Cold War thriller The Manchurian Candidate, for which she received her third Oscar nomination.

In 1957, Lansbury made her Broadway debut in Hotel Paradiso, and followed it up with an appearance in 1960's A Taste of Honey. Her first musical was the 1964 Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents' flop Anyone Can Whistle. She quickly followed that up with several other musical theater roles and became one of the genre's defining actresses. She won Tonys for originating the roles of Mame Dennis in Mame (1966), Countess Aurelia in Dear World (1969), and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd (1979), as well as for her 1975 performance as Rose in Gypsy.

Lansbury received global fame for her performance as Jessica Fletcher, the crime novelist and detective on the long-running television series Murder, She Wrote and received four Golden Globe Awards for her work in the role. She unforgettably voiced the role of Mrs. Potts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast in 1991. She also received a pair of Emmy nominations for her performances on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Law & Order: Trial by Jury in 2005.

Her later years were filled with many theatrical appearances. In 2007, Lansbury returned to Broadway to star opposite Marian Seldes in Terrence McNally's Deuce, about a pair of retired tennis pros reuniting to watch a match together. That was followed by her landmark performance as Madame Arcati in Michael Blakemore's revival of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit, for which she received her record-tying fifth Tony Award (she shared the record with Julie Harris and Audra McDonald before McDonald claimed her sixth Tony in 2014).

Lansbury also originated the role of Madame Armfeldt in Trevor Nunn's 2009 revival of A Little Night Music and received yet another Tony nomination. She later played the political doyenne Mrs. Sue-Ellen Gamadge in the 2012 Broadway revival of Gore Vidal's The Best Man. She toured Australia opposite James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines in Driving Miss Daisy and reprised her Madame Arcati for an extended 2014 engagement on London's West End.

On November 16, 2013, Lansbury received an Honorary Oscar recognizing her work of 70 years in the film industry. She was honored with a lifetime achievement Tony Award earlier this year, making it her sixth Tony statue.

Her second husband, Peter Shaw, whom she married in 1949, died in 2003. Lansbury is survived by their children, Anthony, Deirdre, and David, as well as three grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury.

According to the family, a private ceremony will be held at a date to be determined.

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