Angela Lansbury walked into her first movie set when she was just 17 years old, and although she had no previous experience in the industry, she was starring next to some of Hollywood’s biggest names, such as Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotten.
She earned much praise over the course of her illustrious career, and there’s one she upholds to this day: her 75th year of being an actress.
Lansbury celebrated her 94th birthday on October 16, and her contributions to the movie industry and her truly impeccable grace shine brighter than ever.
Lansbury entered the world of acting in 1944, when she starred in the psychological-thriller Gaslight. Variety reports that MGM was facing some trouble finding the right person to play the role of the sullen, but flirtatious maid Nancy, and the first suggestion was the teenage daughter of British theater actress Moyna MacGill. Co-scripter John Van Druten had seen something in her and his intuition turned out to be spot on when Lansbury absolutely aced the screen test and was cast in her first role four days later.
Gaslight director George Cukor praised Lansbury in the book On Cukor, and he wrote that this is a Cinderella story. Even though the 17-year-old Lansbury had no experience on the first day of filming, she was immediately professional. In fact, she left such a great impression on the filmmakers that it earned her an MGM contract and her first Oscar nomination. Her second nomination came for her work in The Picture of Dorian Gray, establishing her place very firmly in the industry.
By the time she was in her 20s, she earned a reputation as a character actress. She portrayed the mother of 26-year-old Elvis Presley’s character Chad Gates in Blue Hawaii at the age of 36, and she played the mother of Laurence Harvey’s Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate the following year – which earned her a third Oscar nomination.
Her career took a turn in 1966, when she ventured into Broadway and the theatre stage offered her a wider range of roles than the subsidiary ones Hollywood had been casting her in. It provided her an opportunity to push her limits further, and she left the theatre audience in awe through her portrayal of Mama Rose in Gypsy, Gertrude in Albert Finley’s Hamlet, and more.
She returned to the stage as frequently as she could amid her TV and film work, most recently in a 2015 West End revival of Blithe Spirit.
Over the course of her amazing 75 year career, Angela Lansbury has earned 7 Tony Award nominations, of which she won 5. She was also given an honorary Academy Award in 2014, which only adds up to the staggering 17 Emmy nominations, 15 Golden Globe nominations, and a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild and BAFTA.