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Oct 11 2022
Angela Lansbury, Queen Of Broadway, Enchanting TV & Film Star, Dies @ 96 Comments (0)

ANgela Lansbury boycultureIt's no mystery why she was special. (Image via CBS)

When I expressed my dismay over Angela-lansbury-boycultureAngela Lansbury dying today at 96, a friend said, “But 96, come onnnn.”

It isn't a tragedy when someone dies at 96, but it's always a loss when it's someone close to you, or someone whose unique talents made you feel less alone.

One of the very first movies I ever saw in a theater was Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971), which I'm assuming was in re-release as I don't have memories from quite that far back. I loved her in that, and later used her Murder, She Wrote (1985-1996 + TV movies) as visual comfort food. I saw every episode in reruns, eventually, and I loved every corny second of it.

When I awakened to exploring classic cinema, it was jarring to realize most of her film work was nothing like Jessica Fletcher, a rare earthy role. Rather, she was  — as she herself said — often a bitch on wheels. Or somebody's mom. Even Elvis's mom.

With thanks to prolific TV collector Alan Eichler, we can appreciate Lansbury in early-TV stuff that she did after her film career cooled and before she became a Broadway star:

I think it's hard to narrow down her greatest work, and I was born too late for her Broadway work in Mame (1966), Dear World (1969), Gypsy (1974) and Sweeney Todd (1979) — all Tony wins — but I did get to work in reverse and fully appreciate her in Cukor's Gaslight (1944), Till the Clouds Roll By (1946) and especially The Manchurian Candidate (1962). I think her work in the latter is all-time classic stuff, truly.

As for fun, she was creaky in one of my favorite bad movies, The Mirror Crack'd (1980), in which the always-older-seeming Lansbury was Miss Marple, in spite of being in her mid-fifties, and she was out of this world in 1978's Death on the Nile, camping it up to perfection.

I was lucky enough to get to see her on Broadway in the crappy Deuce (2007) — the production was such a mess they had to shout lines from the mezz for her and Marian Seldes, who weren't off book until after I saw it — and in the splendid Blithe Spirit (2009), for which she won her last Tony, five in all. I also caught her in 2012's Gore Vidal's The Best Man, which was star-studded and terrific.

There are many Broadway queens to whom Angela Lansbury was far more important, but I loved her and wanted her to live forever, similar to how I felt about Betty White, and how I continue to feel about Carol Burnett and a list of others probably too long who I don't wish to curse.

So again, she lived a long, fabulous life that consisted of so much acclaim and excitement — directed by Cecil B. DeMille, acted with Hepburn & Tracy and Lena Horne and Ingrid Bergman, three Oscar nominations, worked into her 90s — but it was still too soon for my taste.