Dame Angela Lansbury's most memorable roles: 'Murder, She Wrote' to 'Beauty and the Beast'

The British actress, who died at the age of 96 on Tuesday, had a glittering career across the silver screen, theatre and TV

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With a career spanning eight decades, Dame Angela Lansbury took on many memorable and beloved roles.

She was one of the most celebrated actresses of her generation, with six Tony Awards, six Golden Globes, 18 Emmy and three Oscars nominations, and an honorary Academy Award.

Following her death on Tuesday at the age of 96, The National looks back at five of her most memorable roles.

‘Murder, She Wrote’

Perhaps Lansbury’s most famous role was as Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer and amateur detective in CBS series Murder, She Wrote. The role, which she played for 12 seasons from 1984 to 1996, earned her 12 Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe wins, and catapulted her to worldwide fame.

The show follows Fletcher, a widow and retired English teacher who takes up crime fiction writing later in life, as she becomes caught up in — and helps solve — several murders in her fictional town in Maine, US. It became one of television’s longest-running and most popular mystery series of its time, pulling in close to 23 million viewers in its prime.

‘Gaslight’

Lansbury made her screen debut in 1944’s Gaslight, starring as a young maid who assists Charles Boyer’s character in trying to convince his wife (Ingrid Bergman) that she is going mad.

Though Lansbury only played a small role in the film, it was enough to land her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The film has recently taken on renewed interest thanks to the widespread use of "gaslighting" as a cultural phrase and psychologically recognised form of manipulation, taking its name from the picture.

‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’

Disney’s 1971 family classic Bedknobs and Broomsticks saw Lansbury in the role of Eglantine Price, an apprentice witch who reluctantly takes in three children who have been evacuated from London to Dorset during the Blitz. Together, they hop aboard a travelling bed and search for a way to help save the country, encountering several adventures along the way.

The film, released seven years after Mary Poppins, attempts to recreate its magic formula of live-action mixed with animation, catchy songs and a stern but lovable matriarch. Bedknobs never quite achieved those same heights, but Lansbury’s turn in the film was memorable nonetheless.

‘The Manchurian Candidate’

Lansbury’s turn in 1962 political thriller The Manchurian Candidate is deemed by many as the role of her career. She plays the wife of a US senator, whose son returns from the Korean War as a brainwashed assassin. She becomes a master manipulator of the two men, who she uses to push her own radical agenda which threatens the country’s democracy.

The film, which was remade in 2004, has retained its relevance six decades on.

‘Beauty and the Beast’

Lansbury’s warm and heartfelt turn as Mrs Potts in Disney’s beloved 1991 animated classic Beauty and the Beast contributed to the film’s success in no small way. She voices a servant who is transformed into a teapot when the castle’s prince is cursed and turned into a beast, and helps convince captured Belle to calm to the beast and break the spell.

Lansbury performs the film’s title track, which she famously recorded in one take.

Updated: October 12, 2022, 7:34 AM
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