Fast Facts About Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury was one of the most recognizable faces in the entertainment industry thanks to the fact that she's enjoyed a long and successful career as an actor. Speaking with The Telegraph in 2017, Lansbury said, "I feel very lucky to have had the experience of life that I've had. It's never enough, but I have to say thank you." She was a woman who made her name thanks to her ability to convincingly delve into onscreen drama while also dealing with real (and sometimes shocking) drama in her personal life.

In light of Lansbury's death on October 11, 2022 at the age of 96, her family released a statement that read, in part: "The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles."

Frankly, the beloved star who you've likely seen in at least one episode of her long-running sleuthy series, "Murder, She Wrote," lived a life that sounds like the plot of one of the shocking fictional mystery stories that she so frequently starred in. Read on to find out the untold truth about the actor who has endured and overcome more life-changing — and even life-threatening — experiences than you could imagine while also entertaining countless fans over the years. 

Angela Lansbury came from a political family

Angela Lansbury may have been the most famous member of her family. However, when she was young, her grandfather was the well-known public figure among her relatives. From 1932 to 1935, George Lansbury was the leader of the still-existent Labour Party in England. "This was the man who tried to stop World War Two," the actor explained to the Mirror while noting that he was the biggest inspiration in her life. She also opened up about George's final years before he passed away in 1940 at the age of 81. "He went and spoke with the various leaders — Mussolini, Hitler, Roosevelt. He didn't give up. Many people feel that killed him."

Although it apparently took a toll on George, he wasn't the only one in the family who was active in politics. Angela's paternal grandmother, Bessie, was a Suffragette, while her father, Edgar Lansbury, was also politician, as revealed by Biography. He served as the mayor of Poplar in East London as a communist, eventually passing away when his daughter was 9. Sadly, George's efforts to prevent the war were clearly unsuccessful, but that is why Angela eventually ended up in America.

WWII forced her family to flee England

Despite the fact that Angela Lansbury's own family attempted to stop WWII, her family was forced to leave England in 1940 during the international conflict. "The day we sailed from Liverpool, it was bombed," the star told the Radio Times in 2017. "But we escaped! On a Canadian Pacific Line steamship called the Duchess of Atholl."

Lansbury admitted "We didn't really understand how crucial that journey was, or how imminent our demise might have been, if we had not been lucky enough to have an escort of destroyers, weaving around us, all the way." That fact was devastatingly proven true when, according to the Radio Times, the ship was later sunk by Germans, not long after it had safely taken Lansbury and her family to their new life in the United States.

"It was a huge adventure," Lansbury later recalled. She remembered the excitement of landing in America and the warm greeting she and her family received. The late actor also recalled that her mother was glad to leave England after the end of a love affair. Lansbury said, "So, here we were, with a chance for a new beginning."

Angela Lansbury eloped with an older gay man

Angela Lansbury was married to her second husband, actor Peter Shaw, for over 50 years until his death in 2003. While she obviously enjoyed a lengthy relationship with Shaw, her first marriage didn't even last a year.

Lansbury eloped in 1945 with a man named Richard Cromwell (pictured above), who was a fellow actor and had appeared in the 1938 film "Jezebel" with Bette Davis and Henry Fonda. Lansbury was just a budding 19-year-old starlet at the time, while her husband was 15 years older. "I understand younger women marrying older men," she said while talking to the Radio Times. "It's a father — she didn't have the father, and now she's looking for it." Lansbury's own father died when she was 9, so she was likely speaking from her own personal experience.

However, beyond the age difference between Lansbury and Cromwell, there was also a secret issue that doomed the union from the start. "I had no idea that I was marrying a gay man," Lansbury explained. When the relationship fell apart seven months after they had wed, she says, "It didn't injure or damage me in any way, because he maintained a friendship with me and my future husband." Despite that, she still said, "It was a shock to me when it ended, I wasn't prepared for that." She added that she had no regrets over it, only some sadness due to Cromwell being gay at a time when it was not always safe to be so.

Drugs and the Manson family were very real problems

Angela Lansbury and her second husband, Peter Shaw, had two children, Anthony and Deirdre, who faced serious issues that put the family through tough times. In the '60s, both Lansbury's son and daughter were apparently addicted to drugs, including one incredibly dangerous substance: heroin. Speaking to the Express of those times, Lansbury mused, "It was a juggling act. Juggling marriage and children and problems ..."

Per Radio Times, things became even scarier when Deirdre got caught up with members of the infamous Manson family. According to Biography, the Californian cult was led by Charles Manson, a man who claimed that a race war was coming and then ordered his followers to commit murder. Their actions resulted in multiple murders including the killing of actor Sharon Tate, who was pregnant at the time of her death. "Everybody knew about Charles Manson — the family [was] living up there in the hills, you couldn't be a resident and not know," Lansbury told the Radio Times. "God, that was a terrible period."

In the end, Lansbury's family survived the ordeals. "[A]ll those things contribute to building the person you become and the person they become," she admitted to Express.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Why did Angela Lansbury relocate to Ireland?

Angela Lansbury was dealing with her family issues when she was dealt another serious blow: their house burned down in 1970. According to the Radio Times, the actor decided to pack up her family and move them all to Ireland where she had lived briefly with her mother, Moyna MacGill, who'd been born in Belfast. "I was unable to help my kids so I pulled them out of where they were and put them in a safe place," Lansbury told Express in 2014. "That was the most I could do at the time, because we didn't have the help back then, the places where youngsters could go that they have today."

After settling in Cork, the entire family embraced their new life, which included learning basic skills like cooking and gardening. They stayed in Ireland for a decade, while Lansbury focused on theater roles in London instead of accepting gigs back in Hollywood.

Lansbury kept the home in Cork — in the Ballycotton area, to be exact — although she did eventually return to America when the time was right.

Plastic surgery and diets? Angela Lansbury had no need

Despite the fact that there's a lot of pressure to appear as young as possible for as long as possible if you work in show business, Angela Lansbury, who was born in 1925, never had plastic surgery and didn't worry about dieting, according to the Radio Times. "I'm very English in my eating habits. I love a baked potato, that's my absolute fave. And bacon and eggs. And sausages — yes!" Mmm, yes, indeed.

As for Lansbury's youthfulness, the "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" star said, "It's genetics. It really is, absolute genetics, yes, " adding, "I give a lot of credit to my grandfather George, actually, who had tremendous energy and stayed on top of everything until the end of his life." That certainly sounds like someone else we know of, no?

The actor addressed her own healthy lifestyle, saying that she kept active on a regular basis. She also admitted that while she did enjoy more sedentary activities like reading and crafting, she didn't like to do too much of that. "You've just got to get up — and get on with it, y'know?"

Angela Lansbury was friends with another Hollywood icon

When you think of "The Golden Girls," you surely find yourself reminiscing about the onscreen antics of the four best friends on the show: Rose Nylund (Betty White), Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan), Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty), and Dorothy Zbornak, who was played by beloved actor Bea Arthur. In real life, however, Arthur was also good friends with Angela Lansbury. "Bea Arthur and I first met when we did Mame together in 1965. She became and has remained 'My Bosom Buddy' ever since," Lansbury once said to Entertainment Weekly, referring to the song the duo performed together during the Broadway show's original run.

As for Arthur, she talked to the Independent about Lansbury in 2003. "She was a class act and a real joy to work with. When I first met her I thought I was meeting this patrician, classically trained actor, but she has a mouth like a longshoreman," Arthur revealed. "No kidding. She loved telling dirty limericks. She started in British music hall and taught me 'What Can You Get A Nudist For Her Birthday' and it's really saucy." Oh my!

When Arthur died in April 2009 from cancer at age of 86, Lansbury hosted a memorial service for her friend and released a statement, saying, "I am deeply saddened by her passing, but also relieved that she is released from the pain ... She was a rare and unique performer and a dear, dear friend."

Over 70 years in Hollywood with more than 100 roles

Angela Lansbury was been in show business for a long time. Her mother, Moyna MacGill, a stage actor, may have inspired her daughter to pursue the same kind of career. When the family settled down in the United States after leaving England, Lansbury earned a scholarship to study drama at the Lucy Fagan school in New York.

Eventually going professional, Lansbury nabbed her first gig playing a character named Nancy in the 1944 film "Gaslight," which starred Ingrid Bergman. From there, Lansbury went on to rack up over 100 other credits that included everything from serious dramas to animated classics. Who can forget her as Mrs. Potts in 1991's "Beauty and the Beast?" She also appeared on shows like "Newhart," "Touched by an Angel," and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," to name a few. Of course, Lansbury's most well-known part is undeniably her starring role on "Murder, She Wrote."

"I really can't honestly give any tips beyond hang on to your dream," she once told The West Australian — which is obviously something she knows a thing or two about. "Hang on to what you want, what you feel you want to achieve and go for it. We are all the victims of our own talent and our own shortcomings sometimes, and we have to be aware of those things because they will trip us up and stop us from achieving what our aims are."

Angela Lansbury did Murder, She Wrote 'for the money'

When Angela Lansbury finally returned to the United States after living abroad with her family in Ireland, she took on the starring role on "Murder, She Wrote," playing a mystery novel-writing, homicide-solving amateur detective named Jessica Fletcher, appearing in the series from 1984 to 1996.

"I did it for the money," Lansbury blatantly admitted to the Mirror in 2016. While others might be ashamed that they let finances guide their creative profession, the star had a very practical attitude concerning the choice she made. "There comes a time in a theatrical life when you say to yourself, 'Well I can't make any money in the theatre', so television was a very specific decision I made."

Thankfully for the actor, the people behind "Murder, She Wrote" were looking for its lead at that same time. "When this came on the horizon I thought, 'That's interesting ... I think I can make something of this,'" Lansbury recalled. And she certainly did make something of it! She was estimated to have a fortune around $70 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. It seems like going into television was certainly a financially-savvy decision.

The real crime of the Emmy snubs

Angela Lansbury may have earned fame, fortune, and countless fans over the years, but, as Variety points out, she was repeatedly snubbed throughout her career. Among other snubs, the most notable is the fact that she never earned an Emmy Award for her starring role in "Murder, She Wrote," despite being nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series every year from 1985 until 1996 (she also earned noms for other roles, yet failed to win).

"It p***ed me off! Because I just didn't add up at all in Hollywood," Lansbury admitted to the Radio Times in 2016, years after she left behind her popular show. "Everywhere else in the U.S., 'Murder, She Wrote' was huge, but not in Hollywood — no, no, no, they didn't want to know. I wasn't upset ... well, I was upset, really. It rankled me. I can't say it didn't."

Thankfully, Lansbury did take home four Golden Globe Awards for Best Performance by an Actress in a Drama Television Series for her work on "Murder, She Wrote" (as well as two others for Best Supporting Actress for 1945's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and 1962's "The Manchurian Candidate"). She was also eventually inducted into the Emmys Hall of Fame in 1996 and was given an honorary Oscar in 2014, which seems about right when it comes to the kind of industry recognition that she deserved.

Angela Lansbury was 'thrilled to be part of reggae.' What?

Angela Lansbury may have been an icon on the television side of the entertainment industry, but she also had a pair of surprising yet super cool connections to the music scene that might surprise and delight you.

"Frank Sinatra and his wife invited my husband and I for dinner. He proceeded to ask me all about the show and how we put it together. It turned out he was a huge fan — I mean, Frank Sinatra!" Lansbury gushed to the Mirror in 2016. That's right, ol' blue eyes — who was the king of Vegas-worthy crooning – liked to unwind by putting on an episode of "Murder, She Wrote." She added, "I was very touched to realize it gave him some sense of entertainment to watch this silly show."

But that's not the only way that Lansbury is connected to the music side of showbiz. Her hit show happened to be the inspiration for reggae duo Chaka Demus and Plier's 1993 "Murder, She Wrote" song. While the tune has been a favorite on party playlists for years, the actor only found out about it in 2019 and was pretty happy about the situation, telling CBC Radio Q DJ Tom Power, "Oh, reggae. Oh, I'm thrilled to be part of reggae. Of course." Of course!