Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (2022)

By Brian Lowry, CNN

Updated 5:09 PM EDT, Tue October 11, 2022

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (2)

See iconic moments from Angela Lansbury's acting career

02:44 - Source: CNN

CNN

Angela Lansbury, who enjoyed an eclectic, award-winning movie and stage career in addition to becoming America’s favorite TV sleuth in “Murder, She Wrote,” has died, according to a statement from her family provided to NBC, whose parent company produced the long-running series. She was 96.

“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,” her family said in a statement.

CNN has contacted representatives of Lansbury for comment.

Not yet 20 years old, Lansbury garnered her first Oscar nomination for her movie debut, “Gaslight,” in 1944. Her second came the next year for “The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” and again in 1962 as the mother who betrays her son and her country in “The Manchurian Candidate.” (She received Golden Globes for the latter two films.)

The actress accepted an honorary Oscar in 2013, to go with the five Tony Awards she collected over a 40-plus-year span – beginning with “Mame” in 1966, and finally for a revival of the Noel Coward play “Blithe Spirit” in 2009. Lansbury also amassed 11 Emmy nominations for her role as Jessica Fletcher in “Murder, She Wrote,” but never won.

Lansbury went from ingenue to playing more middle-aged roles practically overnight. She was just 37, for example, when she portrayed Laurence Harvey’s conniving mother in “Manchurian Candidate,” even though her co-star was just two years younger than her.

Born in London, her mother, Moyna MacGill, was an actress, and father Edward Lansbury a politician. He died when she was just nine years old, and not long after the onset of World War II the family moved to the US in 1940, settling in New York.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (3)

Angela Lansbury, Billy Bevan and Hurd Hatfield in a scene from the movie "The Picture of Dorian Gray."

Lansbury studied drama before moving at her mother’s urging to Los Angeles, where she briefly worked in a department store until landing her breakthrough role as the young maid in “Gaslight,” starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer.

Other films included “National Velvet” (playing Elizabeth Taylor’s sister), “The Harvey Girls,” “The Three Musketeers,” the Danny Kaye comedy “The Court Jester” and the Elvis Presley vehicle “Blue Hawaii.”

Lansbury made her Broadway debut in 1957, later starring in iconic Tony-winning roles in “Mame,” “Gypsy” and “Sweeney Todd.” 

Generations of children revered Lansbury for her Disney roles, first in the 1971 movie musical “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” and later as the voice of Mrs. Potts in the 1991 Oscar-nominated animated film “Beauty and the Beast.” She also played a small role in the 2018 sequel “Mary Poppins Returns.”

“Oddly enough, children recognize my voice,” she told The Huffington Post in 2012. “They’ll hear me and say, ‘Mom, that’s Mrs. Potts!’”

After a short-lived marriage to actor Richard Cromwell, Lansbury wed British actor Peter Shaw in 1949. They stayed together until his death in 2003 and had two children, Anthony – who directed many episodes of “Murder, She Wrote” – and Deirdre. Shaw eventually became her manager, and was instrumental in the deal that made them the producers of the series which premiered in 1984.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (4)

Angela Lansbury poses for a portrait in 2014.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (5)

Lansbury appears with Hurd Hatfield in 1945's "The Picture of Dorian Gray." It was one of her earliest film roles, and it earned her one of her three Academy Award nominations. By the age of 20, Lansbury already had two Oscar nominations.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (6)

Lansbury, seen here in 1945, moved to United States from England in 1940. In 1943, she signed a seven-year contract with MGM.

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Lansbury and her second husband, actor Peter Shaw, cut the cake at their wedding in 1949. Lansbury was briefly married to Richard Cromwell before divorcing after less than a year. She and Shaw were married until his death in 2003.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (8)

Lansbury, right, attends a charity ball with Ginger Rogers in 1966.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (9)

Lansbury poses with gold records in New York in 1967. The records recognized the album from the Broadway musical "Mame," which Lansbury starred in. For her work in "Mame," Lansbury also won the Tony Award for best actress in a musical.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (10)

From left, James Earl Jones, Julie Harris, Lansbury and Jerry Orbach pose for a photo on the day after the 1969 Tony Awards. They were the top winners that year. Lansbury won for her work in the musical "Dear World." Over her career, Lansbury was nominated for seven Tony Awards and won five.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (11)

Lansbury and her son Anthony go over the script of a play they were working on together in 1982. Lansbury and Peter Shaw had two children together, Anthony and Deirdre. Lansbury also had a stepson, David, from her husband's first marriage.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (12)

Lansbury celebrates the 100th episode of the TV series "Murder, She Wrote" in 1989. From 1984 to 1996, Lansbury starred on the show as mystery-solving author Jessica Fletcher.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (13)

Lansbury holds up the Golden Globe she won in 1990 for her role in "Murder, She Wrote."

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (14)

Lansbury and her daughter, Deirdre, arrive at the Emmy Awards in 1991.

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Lansbury and dancers rehearse a performance of the "Beauty and the Beast" theme song at the Academy Awards show in 1992. Lansbury voiced Mrs. Potts in the 1991 animated movie, and she sang the ballad that would go on to win the Oscar.

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Lansbury attends a 1995 benefit with grandchildren Ian, Katherine and Peter.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (17)

Lansbury leaves her handprints during a Disney Legends event in 1995.

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From left, Placido Domingo, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lansbury, Chuck Berry and Clint Eastwood pose for photos during the Kennedy Center Honors Gala in 2000.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (19)

Lansbury poses with drag queens Brandy Wine and Brenda A. Go-Go during a costume ball in New York in 2006.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (20)

Lansbury, with various Broadway cast members, performs at the Light the Lights Broadway Is Back! concert in 2007.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (21)

Lansbury accepts the Tony Award in 2009 for her role in the play "Blithe Spirit."

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (22)

Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones appear at the curtain call for a Broadway performance of "A Little Night Music" in 2009.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (23)

Lansbury was presented with an honorary award at the Academy Awards in 2013.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (24)

Lansbury poses inside the Gielgud Theatre in London in 2014. There, she would appear in a new production of "Blithe Spirit."

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In 2014, Lansbury was formally invested as a dame by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (26)

Lansbury attends the 25th anniversary screening of "Beauty and the Beast" in 2016.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (27)

Lansbury and James Earl Jones speak at the Tony Awards in 2016.

Angela Lansbury, beloved star of 'Murder, She Wrote,' dead at 96 | CNN (28)

Lansbury dances with Michael Gambon in the "Little Women" miniseries that aired in the United States in 2018.

Lansbury achieved her greatest fame in her 60s for her starring role in “Murder, She Wrote” as a crime-solving mystery writer. Of all her roles, Lansbury said Jessica Fletcher was most like her. 

 ”I had a lot of say in it, and I didn’t want the character to be quirky,” she told The New York Times in 2009.  ”I wanted her to be real. I didn’t want to have to put on any kind of veneer for 24 hours a day, which is what a television schedule sometimes feels like.”

Despite “Murder, She Wrote’s” success, the audience skewed older, and CBS irritated Lansbury by moving the series to Thursday night opposite NBC’s “Friends” in 1995, in what turned out to be the mystery’s final season.

“I’m shattered,” Lansbury told the Los Angeles Times, adding, “I really feel angry for all the people who watched us” on Sunday, where the show had consistently delivered big ratings following “60 Minutes.”

After the series ended, Lansbury starred in several “Murder, She Wrote” TV movies. She continued to work into her 80s and 90s, including a 2017 miniseries version of “Little Women” and starring in a 2015 Great Performances production of “Driving Miss Daisy,” opposite James Earl Jones.

 “I love this industry and I love being in it,” Lansbury said in a 1998 interview with the Archives of American Television, adding in regard to the “Murder” audience, “They loved it, and they were loyal.”

CNN’s Katia Hetter contributed to this report

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