Dame Angela Lansbury, who won international acclaim as the star of the US TV crime series Murder, She Wrote, has died aged 96.
The three-time Oscar nominee had a career spanning eight decades, across film, theatre and television. Born in 1925, she was one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.
Dame Angela died in her sleep just five days before her 97th birthday, her family said in a statement. “The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles,” the family said.
Born in London, Dame Angela later moved to New York and attended the Feagin School of Dramatic Art. She was noticed by a Hollywood executive at a party in 1942, and given her first role as a maid in the 1944 film Gaslight. Her subsequent career took her from Broadway to Hollywood, with success on the big and small screen.
But it was her portrayal of sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the television series Murder, She Wrote which gained her millions of fans across the world. She took up the role in 1984, and continued for 12 years and nine seasons.
The show made her one of the wealthiest women in the US at the time, with a fortune estimated at $100m.
She earned Oscar nominations for her role as the maid in Gaslight, and as Sibyl in The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945, and Laurence Harvey’s manipulative mother in The Manchurian Candidate in 1962. She was also given an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement, aged 88 in 2013.
During the ceremony, fellow actor Geoffrey Rush praised her as the “living definition of range”. It followed a lifetime achievement award from Bafta in 2002, as well as a star on the Hollywood walk of fame. After a move onto Broadway in the 1960s she won several Tony Awards, including for the portrayal of Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd in 1970.
She was made a Dame in 2014 for services to drama, charitable work and philanthropy.
Tributes following her death lauded a “legend” of Hollywood. Actor Josh Gad wrote on Twitter: “It is rare that one person can touch multiple generations, creating a breadth of work that defines decade after decade. Angela Lansbury was that artist.”
Fellow actor Harvey Fierstein added that Dame Angela was “everything”. Actress Mia Farrow, who starred in the 1978 film Death on the Nile alongside Dame Angela, wrote that it was “an honour” to have worked with her.
Many tributes mentioned Dame Angela’s work to raise awareness and money for Aids in the 1980s and 90s, fronting a TV information campaign and headlining fundraising events.
Dame Angela was married twice, briefly to the actor Richard Cromwell when she was 19, and later to the British actor and producer Peter Shaw. They remained together for more than 50 years, until his death in 2003. She is survived by three children and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.