Murder She Wrote Star Dead at 96

Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher

Angela Lansbury, best known as the star of the long-running CBS series Murder She Wrote, has died. She was 96 years old.

As a young starlet, Lansbury featured in many important Hollywood films. Her career began in 1944. From the New York Times:

The English-born daughter of an Irish actress, she was just 18 when she landed her first movie role, as Charles Boyer’s cheeky Cockney servant in the thriller “Gaslight” (1944), a precocious debut that brought her a contract with MGM and an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. She received a second Oscar nomination in 1946, for her supporting performance as a dance-hall girl in “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Lansbury has said she “wasn’t very good at being a starlet. I didn’t want to pose for cheesecake photos and that kind of thing.”

That might be why MGM started casting her as characters much older than her actual years, including 1948’s State of the Union with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, “in which she played a newspaper magnate trying to get her married lover elected president.”

Unhappy with Hollywood, Lansbury turned to the stage which produced success after success, winning many Tony awards. Her lengthy stage resume is perhaps highlighted by the title role in Mame, which opened on Broadway in May of 1966. Though the play was a hit on Broadway, Lucille Ball was tapped for the film version, which was a flop.

Lansbury would star in many plays and films before accepting the role of Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote in 1984. Lansbury received 12 Emmy nominations for Murder She Wrote, though she never won. From Wikipedia:

The series focuses on the life of Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer and amateur detective, who finds herself becoming involved in solving a series of murders that take place in the fictional town of Cabot Cove, Maine, as well as across the United States and abroad. The program ran for 12 seasons from September 30, 1984 to May 19, 1996, for a total of 264 episodes, and included amongst its recurring cast Tom Bosley, William Windom and Ron Masak, as well as a vast array of guest cast members including Michael Horton, Keith Michell and Julie Adams.

Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury DBE was born in London in 1925. Her career spanned nearly 80 years. She is survived by children Anthony, Deirdre and David; her brother, Edgar; three grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. ◊

You could start with Murder She Wrote season one here.

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