Angela Lansbury

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her three-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Angela Lansbury recalls growing up in England before immigrating to New York during the London Blitz, and beginning her early motion picture career at MGM with films including "Gaslight" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray." She discusses her many appearances on live television shows, including Robert Montgomery Presents, The George Gobel Show, Ford Television Theatre, Your Show of Shows and Playhouse 90, which highlighted both her comedic and dramatic talents. She discusses her many television movies over the years, her award-winning Broadway successes in "Mame," "Gypsy" and in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and details her involvement as star and executive producer of the popular 12-season mystery series, Murder She Wrote. Morrie Gelman conducted the interview on September 15, 1998 in North Hollywood, CA.

"In early television, there were a handful of tremendously successful televisions producers. They wanted real actors who could learn the roles and give a performance with a modicum of rehearsal. We would go to New York and rehearse for two weeks or less and put on a live television show. It required tremendous training to be able to do that. There weren't very many movie actors who could do that."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Angela Lansbury on her British accent as an asset
Angela Lansbury on her Murder, She Wrote character, "Jessica 'J. B.' Fletcher"
Angela Lansbury on her thoughts on television work in the early days of the medium
Angela Lansbury on how she wanted to add more sophistication to Murder, She Wrote when she became the show's producer
Angela Lansbury on how she'd like to be remembered
Angela Lansbury on watching rehearsals of the MGM musicals and wanting to be in those productions
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her childhood and early influences - radio, pantomimes, the theater and singing
On the outbreak of World War II in England 
On her training at the Weber Douglas School of Dramatic Arts in London and moving to America

Chapter 2

On moving to New York from England
On her drama school training in the International Building at Rockefeller Center and the war effort overseas
On her early impressions of television and of Broadway
On her first paid acting job
On moving to Los Angeles

Chapter 3

On her first years in Los Angeles - working in Bullocks Wilshire department store
On breaking into the movie business in Los Angeles and on life as an MGM contract player
On her Academy Award nominations for "Gaslight" and "The Picture of Dorian Gray"
On leaving MGM and her early work in live television

Chapter 4

On her early television work on Pantomime Quiz, Lux Video Theatre
On becoming an American citizen and starting a family
On appearing on Broadway
On her films - "The Long Hot Summer," "Dark at the Top of the Stairs," "Blue Hawaii," "All Fall Down," "The Manchurian Candidate"

Chapter 5

On her television and Broadway appearances
On the film "Bedknobs and Broomsticks"; on the Broadway play "Mame"
On the film "Death on the Nile"; on moving to Ireland and doing "Gypsy"
On several movies she did in the 1970s, including "The Mirror Cracked"
On the play and television versions of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and doing television miniseries, including The First Olympics: Athens 1896

Chapter 6

On the miniseries Lace
On Murder, She Wrote

Chapter 7

On Murder, She Wrote; on television movies and miniseries
On the future of television; on her legacy; on co-workers and people she knew
Shows

Danny Kaye Show, The

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Angela Lansbury on her appearances on The Danny Kaye Show

David Copperfield

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Angela Lansbury on TV miniseries David Copperfield

Eleventh Hour, The

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Angela Lansbury on appearing on The Eleventh Hour with Tuesday Weld and Martin Balsam, which she considers one of her best roles in filmed TV

First Olympics, The: Athens 1896

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Angela Lansbury on her role in the TV miniseries The First Olympics: Athens 1896

Ford Star Revue

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Angela Lansbury on her appearances on Ford Star Revue

Lace

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Angela Lansbury on the TV miniseries Lace

Little Gloria ... Happy At Last

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Angela Lansbury on her role in the TV miniseries Little Gloria ... Happy At Last

Love She Sought, The

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Angela Lansbury on TV movies The Shell Seekers and The Love She Sought

Lux Video Theatre

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Angela Lansbury on her first television appearance on Lux Video Theatre
Angela Lansbury on getting a case of the giggles in rehearsal on a show with Richard Kiley, likely Lux Video Theatre's "Operation Weekend"

Lux Video Theatre: "Operation Weekend"

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Angela Lansbury on getting a case of the giggles in rehearsal on a show with Richard Kiley, likely Lux Video Theatre's "Operation Weekend"

Man From U.N.C.L.E., The

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Angela Lansbury on her role on The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Mike Stokey's Pantomime Quiz aka Stump the Stars

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Angela Lansbury on appearing on Pantomime Quiz because she needed the work
Angela Lansbury on being a regular on Pantomime Quiz for a short time

Murder, She Wrote

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Angela Lansbury on her decision to do a TV series and then her disappointment in the initial projects she was offered
Angela Lansbury on choosing to star in Murder She, Wrote (over a Norman Lear comedy series)
Angela Lansbury on Jean Stapleton turning down the role of "Jessica Fletcher" allowing Lansbury to get the role on Murder She, Wrote
Angela Lansbury on the workload of doing a weekly "anthology" series
Angela Lansbury on the audience who watched Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on the appeal of Murder, She Wrote to its audience on how she wanted to add more sophistication when she became the show's producer
Angela Lansbury on the contribution of Murder, She Wrote creators Richard Levinson and William Link
Angela Lansbury of Murder, She Wrote producer Peter S. Fischer
Angela Lansbury on the regulars who appeared on Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote's regular directors, including her son Anthony Shaw
Angela Lansbury on her brother Bruce Lansbury's work as Murder, She Wrote's showrunner
Angela Lansbury on demanding a longer and less strenuous work schedule (from seven to eight days)
Angela Lansbury on sticking with Murder, She Wrote for the long run
Angela Lansbury on the camraderie on the set of Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on getting a hip replacement during the run of Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote producer David Moessinger, who served as the executive producer between 1991-92
Angela Lansbury on transitioning to being Murder, She Wrote's executive producer and the changes she sought
Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote as a "family affair"
Angela Lansbury on her approach as a producer of Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on her Murder, She Wrote character, "Jessica 'J. B.' Fletcher"
Angela Lansbury of CBS' decision to move Murder, She Wrote from its long standing Sunday night timeslot to Thursday night
Angela Lansbury on hearing that Murder, She Wrote was CBS Chairman William S. Paley's favorite show
Angela Lansbury on the support she received from CBS executive Howard Stringer
Angela Lansbury on CBS executive Laurence A. Tisch dropping by the set to meet her during Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on how without supporters William S. Paley and Howard Stringer at CBS, Murder, She Wrote was allowed to be moved out of its timeslot
Angela Lansbury on the overseas popularity of Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on the fan mail she's received due to Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on the subsequent TV movies following the end of Murder, She Wrote as a series
Angela Lansbury on her many nominations, but no wins, of the Emmy Award

Playhouse 90

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Angela Lansbury on the experience of doing "live TV"

Robert Montgomery Presents

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Angela Lansbury on working with "pleasant but cold" Robert Montgomery
Angela Lansbury on her exciting experience doing "Cakes and Ale" on Robert Montgomery Presents

Robert Montgomery Presents: "Cakes and Ale"

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Angela Lansbury on her exciting experience doing "Cakes and Ale" on Robert Montgomery Presents

Shell Seekers, The

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Angela Lansbury on TV movies The Shell Seekers and The Love She Sought

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

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Angela Lansbury on her casting and performance as "Nellie Lovett" in "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway, which was also seen in a filmed TV version

Your Show of Shows

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Angela Lansbury on appearing on Your Show of Shows as a guest
Topics

Bloopers

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Angela Lansbury on getting a case of the giggles in rehearsal on a show with Richard Kiley, likely Lux VideoTheatre's "Operation Weekend"

Characters & Catchphrases

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Angela Lansbury on her Murder, She Wrote character, "Jessica 'J. B.' Fletcher"

Criticism of TV

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Angela Lansbury on being asked to curtail violence on TV

Emmy Awards

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Angela Lansbury on her many nominations, but no wins, of the Emmy Award

Historic Events and Social Change

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Angela Lansbury on her recollections of the outbreak of World War II

Pop Culture

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Angela Lansbury on her many nominations, but no wins, of the Emmy Award

Sex & Violence

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Angela Lansbury on being asked to curtail violence on TV

TV's Golden Age (1940s & '50s)

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Angela Lansbury on the experience of doing "live TV" during the "Golden Age of Television," after having been a theater performer.

Technological Innovation

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Angela Lansbury on the odd makeup one had to wear in early television (because of the lights and camera quality)

Television Industry

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Angela Lansbury on being asked to curtail violence on TV

War

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Angela Lansbury on her recollections of the outbreak of World War II

World War II

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Angela Lansbury on her recollections of the outbreak of World War II
Professions

Actress

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Angela Lansbury on wanting to be an actress

Performers

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Angela Lansbury on wanting to be an actress

Producers

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Angela Lansbury on the similarities between housekeeping and producing
Genres

Cop/Detective/Mystery Series

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Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote
Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote
People

Martin Balsam

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Angela Lansbury on appearing on The Eleventh Hour with Tuesday Weld and Martin Balsam, which she considers one of her best roles in filmed TV
Angela Lansbury on her admiration for actor Martin Balsam

Tom Bosley

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Angela Lansbury on the regulars who appeared on Murder, She Wrote

Charles Boyer

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Angela Lansbury on actor Charles Boyer

Fred Coe

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Angela Lansbury on television producer Fred Coe

Ronald Colman

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Angela Lansbury on her appearances on Ford Star Revue working with Ronald Colman

George Cukor

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Angela Lansbury on meeting with director George Cukor for "Gaslight"

Bette Davis

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Angela Lansbury on her admiration for actress Bette Davis
Angela Lansbury on working with actress Bette Davis

Cecil B. DeMille

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Angela Lansbury on Cecil B. DeMille's foot fetish

Howard Duff

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Angela Lansbury on Howard Duff

Peter Falk

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Angela Lansbury on actor Peter Falk

Peter Fischer

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Angela Lansbury of Murder, She Wrote producer Peter S. Fischer
Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote producer Peter Fischer 

John Frankenheimer

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Angela Lansbury on John Frankenheimer
Angela Lansbury on film director John Frankenheimer

George Gobel

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Angela Lansbury on comedian George Gobel

John Houseman

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Angela Lansbury on John Houseman

Hal Kanter

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Angela Lansbury on comedy writer Hal Kanter

Boris Karloff

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Angela Lansbury on doing live television with Boris Karloff

Richard Kiley

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Angela Lansbury on getting a case of the giggles in rehearsal on a show with Richard Kiley, likely Lux Video Theatre's "Operation Weekend"
Angela Lansbury on actor/singer Richard Kiley

Bert Lahr

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Angela Lansbury on what she learned from starring with Bert Lahr on Broadway

Bruce Lansbury

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Angela Lansbury on her brother Bruce Lansbury's work as Murder, She Wrote's showrunner

Norman Lear

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Angela Lansbury on turning down a Norman Lear show to do Murder, She Wrote

Richard Levinson

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Angela Lansbury on the contribution of Murder, She Wrote creators Richard Levinson and William Link

Albert Lewin

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Angela Lansbury on meeting with director Albert Lewin for "The Picture of Dorian Gray"

William Link

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Angela Lansbury on the contribution of Murder, She Wrote creators Richard Levinson and William Link
Angela Lansbury on transitioning to being Murder, She Wrote's executive producer, the changes she sought, and the assistance she received from William Link

Delbert Mann

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Angela Lansbury on working with film director Delbert Mann on "Dark at the Top of the Stairs"

Mary Martin

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Angela Lansbury on Mary Martin being considered for the musical version of "Mame"

Louis B. Mayer

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Angela Lansbury on getting hired at MGM by Louis B. Mayer
Angela Lansbury on former boss Louis B. Mayer

David Moessinger

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Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote producer David Moessinger, who served as the executive producer between 1991-92

Robert Montgomery

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Angela Lansbury on working with "pleasant but cold" Robert Montgomery on his show Robert Montgomery Presents

Laurence Olivier

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Angela Lansbury on working with actor Sir Laurence Olivier

William S. Paley

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Angela Lansbury on hearing that Murder, She Wrote was CBS Chairman William S. Paley's favorite show

Elvis Presley

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Angela Lansbury on appearing with Elvis Presley in the feature film "Blue Hawaii"

Rosalind Russell

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Angela Lansbury on Rosalind Russell turning down the musical version of "Mame"

Anthony Shaw

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Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote's regular directors, including her son Anthony Shaw

Peter Shaw

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Angela Lansbury on husband Peter Shaw
Angela Lansbury on her husband Peter Shaw's career
Angela Lansbury on the support of her husband, Peter Shaw, throughout her career

Jean Stapleton

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Angela Lansbury on Jean Stapleton turning down the role of "Jessica Fletcher" allowing Lansbury to get the role on Murder She, Wrote

Mike Stokey

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Angela Lansbury on appearing on Pantomime Quiz with Mike Stokey

J. Michael Straczynski

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Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote writer J. Michael Straczynski

Howard Stringer

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Angela Lansbury on the support she received from CBS executive Howard Stringer

Elizabeth Taylor

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Angela Lansbury on doing "National Velvet" with Elizabeth Taylor

Laurence A. Tisch

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Angela Lansbury on CBS executive Laurence A. Tisch dropping by the set to meet her during Murder, She Wrote

Audrey Wood

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Angela Lansbury on being seen by agent Audrey Wood

Bud Yorkin

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Angela Lansbury on producer Bud Yorkin

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