By Aaron Humes: She was a murderous baker, a singing teapot, a Soviet spy and a small-town sleuth, and played each role to the fullest.
Dame Angela Lansbury has died at the age of 96 according to NBC News, which cited a family statement saying she passed in her sleep at home in Los Angeles, California, around 1:30 local time this morning, five days short of her 97th birthday.
Lansbury was born in London. She won five Tony Awards, including in 1979 for best actress in a musical as ghoulish pie-maker Nellie Lovett, in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” She had previously won three awards between 1966 and 1975 and would win another in 2009, securing the most competitive awards among female actors tied with Audra McDonald and Julie Harris.
But her two most famous roles were in the 1991 musical “Beauty and the Beast” as the voice of the sentimental Mrs Potts, which underscored one of the popular movie’s most beloved moments with the title tune; and as mystery writer and amateur crime fighter Jessica Fletcher on the CBS Sunday night hit “Murder, She Wrote.”
“Murder” ran for 12 seasons, from 1984 to 1996. Lansbury’s Fletcher’s keen observations always outwitted criminals and even the local police before the real killer would be unmasked within the hour. The Television Academy nominated Lansbury for 12 Emmys for “Murder,” although she never took home the trophy.
She was also nominated once for a Grammy Award and nominated three times for best supporting actress Academy Awards, including as the maid in the 1944 classic Gaslight about a woman, played by star Ingrid Bergman, who was being manipulated to question objective truth. The term “gaslighting,” meaning to psychologically manipulate with lies and false narratives, became a popular term in the 21st-century American vocabulary, particularly after Donald Trump was elected president.