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Angela Brigid Lansbury was born in Poplar, north London, on October 16 1925. Her businessman father died in 1934, and her mother Moyna MacGill was herself an actress who encouraged her daughter's ambitions. Angela spent a year at the Webber Douglas Academy in London, continuing her studies in New York when Moyna took her and her younger twin brothers there in 1940, just before the Blitz.
The family later settled in Hollywood where Moyna threw regular parties for the British ex-pat community. At one of these parties Angela met the casting director for the 1944 movie Gaslight, who gave her the role of Ingrid Bergman's maid. At just 18 years old and in her first movie role, Angela's performance earned an Oscar nomination for the Best Supporting Actress award.
Lansbury's career has flourished ever since that first movie role; perhaps her success lies in her ability to take on such a wide variety of characters. Often playing older than her years, she has portrayed the scheming (Gaslight 1944, Samson and Delilah 1949), the innocent and vulnerable (The Picture of Dorian Gray 1945), the downright nasty (The Manchurian Candidate 1962), and the thoroughly nice (Bedknobs and Broomsticks 1971) with equal conviction. Her co-stars have ranged from Elvis Presley (Blue Hawaii 1961) to Sir Laurence Oliver (A Talent for Murder 1983).
After spending several years on the Broadway stage, Angela Lansbury returned to the big screen for roles in two Agatha Christie adaptations, as a flamboyant alcoholic in Death on the Nile (1978) and as elderly spinster sleuth Miss Marple in The Mirror Crack'd (1980).
In 1984 came the series for which many television viewers know and love her best. Murder She Wrote ran for twelve seasons and was one of the longest running mystery crime series ever to air on the small screen
Angela Lansbury married twice. Her first marriage, to actor Richard Cromwell, took place when she was only 19 and ended a year later. She married Peter Shaw in 1949 and they were together until his death 54 years later. Shaw was a businessman who managed his wife's career and co-managed the company that produced Murder She Wrote.
On reading about Angela Lansbury and watching her performances, one senses that she is at heart a very down to earth lady - hard-working, practical, and never a diva. Perhaps that is why the character of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote is so immensely popular - because the character reflects the actress herself, and both are the kind of person that very many of us like and admire.
Although not as overtly glamorous as some of her actress peers, Angela Lansbury's sheer talent and versatility have ensured her success and critical acclaim over a very long career. She has no plans to retire.
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