Private Screenings: Angela Lansbury
As a young "evacuee" from London during World War II, Lansbury arrived in Hollywood with her mother, actress Moyna MacGill, and promptly landed a contract at MGM. Her early roles included Elizabeth Taylor's older sister in National Velvet (1944) and Judy Garland's nemesis in The Harvey Girls (1946). To her disappointment at the time, although she now acknowledges it was probably the right choice, Lansbury's singing voice in the latter film was dubbed by Virginia Rees. She did use her own voice, to memorable effect, to warble "Goodbye, Little Yellow Bird" in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945).
Lansbury reveals that she was often unhappy with the roles she was assigned at MGM and would have preferred Janet Leigh's part in If Winter Comes (1947) and Lana Turner's in The Three Musketeers (1948) to her own assignments in these films. After leaving MGM in the mid-1950s, she became an in-demand character actress, often playing the mother of actors who were only a few years younger than she. The pinnacle of this phase of her career came with her Oscar®-nominated performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Lansbury recalls that, in playing the monstrous mother of Laurence Harvey, director John Franenheimer "knew that I had the emotion and the power to do anything he would ask me to do."
Lansbury, however, resisted the "matronly mode" of the film roles she was being assigned, and unexpectedly burst forth as a madcap glamour girl in Mame on Broadway in 1966. She remembers that she won the role only after a grueling series of auditions and that it marked "the only time in my life and career that I went after something full tilt." Her stage work in this other musicals has earned her a total of four Tony awards. Among her other great successes was the television mystery series Murder, She Wrote, which ran on CBS from 1984 to 1996.
BW & C-60m.
by Roger Fristoe