Angela Lansbury is a beloved British-American actress who’s been in the business for decades. Now in her mid 90s, she’s most frequently remembered for her role as Jessica Fletcher on the long-running CBS crime drama, Murder, She Wrote. But this Hollywood veteran had a long and storied career both in film and on stage well before becoming a late-in-life TV star. Here’s a look back at Angela Lansbury when she was young — do you recognize her in these photos from back in the day?
Angela Lansbury When She Was Young Hollywood Starlet
Born in London in 1925, Angela Lansbury has been working as a performer since she was 16 years old. “Acting is a craft and I learned it at a very young age,” she said in a 2018 interview with VisionTV. “I started in drama school when I was only 13 years old, and I learned from the best. I was a child of the theatre at a very young age. And you learn a lot of disciplines when you are young.”
Lansbury landed her big break in the 1944 film Gaslight, which earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress and quickly propelled her to stardom. She worked steadily over the next few decades, becoming a well-known character actress and appearing in dozens of popular films.
In 1949, a 24-year-old Angela Lansbury appeared in the movie The Red Danube, which also starred Walter Pidgeon, Ethel Barrymore, Peter Lawford, and Janet Leigh. Though the film had an all-star cast and a budget of $1.96 million ($22.37 million today), it was considered to be a commerical failure. Still, Lansbury looked absolutely gorgeous in the movie.
Angela Lansbury married her second husband, producer and fellow actor Peter Shaw, in 1949. The couple were together for 54 years, until his death in 2003. Here they are pictured together at the premiere of the film The Glass Menagerie in 1950.
By the 1950s, Lansbury was a well-established character actress who’d appeared in more than a dozen Hollywood films. Below is a promotional portrait of her taken in 1955.
Around this time, she was also the mother of two young children, Anthony and Deirdre, and a step-mom to Peter Shaw’s son, David.
When she was 35, Lansbury starred in the movie Season of Passion alongside Ernest Borgnine, Anne Baxter, and John Mills. It was released in 1961.
Here is Lansbury’s publicity portrait for MGM in 1962. That same year she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Manchurian Candidate. She is currently is the earliest surviving Academy Award nominee.
Four years later, she went on to star in Mame on Broadway in 1966, which earned her a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in musical, proving her versatility. “I’m always ready for anything, and I think most actors are,” Lansbury said in a 2019 interview. “We never stop wanting to get out there and do it, you know?”
How Old Is Angela Lansbury Now?
Angela Lansbury is currently 95 years old and will be turning 96 in October. While she was incredibly successful during the first half of her career, much of her best-known work came in the 1980s and ‘90s, well after her 50th birthday.
In 1984, at the age of 59, she landed the role of writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher on the TV show Murder, She Wrote. The show was a huge hit for CBS and went on to air for 12 seasons, until 1996. Lansbury received a total of 12 Emmy nominations and won four Golden Globe nominations for playing the part, which she said took some time to get right.
“Making Jessica Fletcher the character I ended up playing took me several years,” Lansbury told VisionTV. “She started off a little bit goofy, but finally I made her a woman of my age and of my intellect. I think that is what made her such an appealing character for the world – because she was somebody that people could understand and make part of their lives.”
Audiences loved the character so much, Lansbury continued to appear as Jessica Fletcher in four highly rated made-for-TV movies between 1997 and 2003.
And she’s continued to work well into her golden years. In the 2000s, Lansbury appeared in a couple of Law & Order episodes and starred opposite Emma Thompson and Colin Firth in the 2005 film, Nanny McPhee. She also appeared in the 2011 movie Mr. Popper’s Penguins, the 2017 TV adaptation of Little Women, and the 2018 hit, Mary Poppins Returns.
That’s quite an impressive career! As far of living Hollywood legends go, she’s right up there with Betty White!