Angela Lansbury, star of American drama series Murder, She Wrote, dies aged 96

Dame Angela Lansbury died 'peacefully' in her sleep five days before her 97th birthday

Published

Dame Angela Lansbury has died at the age of 96, her family has announced.

The Irish-British and American actress was best known for her portrayal of Jessica Fletcher in American drama series Murder, She Wrote.

According to a family statement, Dame Angela died “peacefully” in her sleep five days before her 97th birthday.

The statement said: “The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1.30am, Tuesday October 11 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday.

Dame Angela Lansbury
Dame Angela Lansbury

“In addition to her three children, Anthony, Deirdre and David, she is survived by three grandchildren, Peter, Katherine and Ian, plus five great grandchildren and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury.

“She was proceeded (sic) in death by her husband of 53 years, Peter Shaw. A private family ceremony will be held at a date to be determined.”

With a career spanning more than eight decades, Dame Angela was a three-time Oscar nominee and five-time Tony Award winner.

She was born in London in 1925 and later moved to the US during the Second World War where she studied at the Feagin School of Dramatic Art in New York.

Dame Angela’s first film role was in George Cukor’s Gaslight as a young maid named Nancy Oliver who worked in the home of the film’s protagonist Paula Alquist, played by Ingrid Bergman.

The then-19-year-old Dame Angela received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress for her role in the 1944 film.

Dame Angela garnered a great deal of recognition and is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Murder, She Wrote novelist and sleuth Jessica Fletcher – a retired school teacher from the fictional town of Cabot Cove who became a successful detective novelist after her husband’s death.

She played the character in the crime drama TV series for a total of 12 years and nine seasons, after first starring in the role in 1984.

Flowers have been placed on Dame Angela’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with the walk’s producer Ana Martinez saying: “Sadly, we have lost another Walk of Famer.

“Beloved actress Angela Lansbury has passed and Hollywood is again in mourning for the loss of another one of our very talented performers.

“We send our condolences to her family.”

According to a family statement, Dame Angela died “peacefully” in her sleep five days before her 97th birthday
According to a family statement, Dame Angela died “peacefully” in her sleep five days before her 97th birthday

In 2013, Dame Angela was given an honorary Academy Award for her lifetime achievements in the film industry and was also awarded a lifetime achievement award by Bafta in 2002.

Dame Angela was married twice, first to American actor Richard Cromwell in 1945 when she was 19 and he was 35. The couple divorced in 1946, but remained friends until Cromwell’s death in 1960.

She married her second husband, actor and producer Peter Shaw, in 1949 and they remained together until Shaw’s death in 2003. The couple had two children of their own, Anthony Peter and Deirdre Ann, and Dame Angela also became a step-mother to David, Shaw’s son from a previous relationship.

Anthony went on to become a television director and directed 68 episodes of Murder, She Wrote.

Dame Angela was made a CBE in the Queen’s 1994 birthday honours and was made a DBE in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to drama, charitable work and philanthropy.

Of the damehood she said: “It is a very proud day for me to be recognised by the country of my birth, and to meet the Queen under these circumstances is a rare and lovely occasion.”

More recently Dame Angela starred in the 2017 BBC adaptation of Little Women, playing Aunt March in the three-part-series based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott.

She also had a cameo part in the 2018 Mary Poppins sequel Mary Poppins Returns, in which she featured as an elderly colourfully-dressed balloon seller.

In addition to her success on screen, Dame Angela became a star on Broadway after her performance as the titular character in Mame – Jerry Herman’s musical adaptation of the novel Auntie Mame.

Mame opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway in May 1966 and won Dame Angela her first Tony Award for best actress in a musical.

She has also appeared in shows in London’s West End including All Over and Gypsy.

In 2014 she returned to a London stage for the first time in almost 40 years to star in a West End production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.