In her 74 years in show business, Dame Angela Lansbury has become a legend in film, theater and television. She has been nominated for three Academy Awards and was bestowed with an honorary Oscar in 2013. In addition, she has won two Golden Globe Awards for her film work, as well as two additional nominations. She has also won five Tony Awards (from seven nominations) for her work in the theatre (surpassed only by Audra McDonald, who has won six). It has been quite a career. She is one of the few performers equally known for all three entertainment genres, and for that effort she was recognized with a Kennedy Center Honors in 2000.
Yet the only major award to have eluded Dame Angela is the Emmy. Famously, she has been nominated 18 times for the golden statue (11 times for her leading role in “Murder, She Wrote” alone) and yet has never won the golden statue. All of her terrific television work brought her a 1996 induction into the TV Academy Hall of Fame. An actual Emmy Award would also be a great reward, and this year has a chance to break that streak with a possible supporting win as Aunt March in the PBS miniseries “Little Women.”
Lansbury will be back on the large screen at the end of 2018 with “Mary Poppins Returns” starring Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Let’s take a look back with a tour of her 12 greatest films and rank them from worst to best for this legendary performer.
12. DEATH ON THE NILE (1978)
John Guillermin‘s film is essentially a sequel to Sidney Lumet‘s 1974 film “Murder on the Orient Express,” following the investigation of Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) of a murder in Egypt. Lansbury is among the many suspects, playing a romance novelist being sued for by the victim for creating a character that veers a little too closely to her real life.
11. THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (1958)
After a career to that date filled with characters who may be seen as villainous, Lansbury finally got a crack at a comedy. She plays a high-society matron who is anxious to marry off her daughter to an upper-class man who would be perfect for her daughter.
10. THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946)
In George Sidney‘s musical, Lansbury plays Em, the madam in Sandrock, Arizona, who is piqued when a group of young women, led by the headstrong Susan Bradley (Judy Garland), come to town as waitresses at a new Harvey House restaurant. Although Lansbury went on to become a musical-comedy theatrical legend, her voice was deemed not suitable for her character, so she was dubbed by Virginia Rees.
9. THE LONG HOT SUMMER (1958)
Based on three works by William Faulkner, “The Long Hot Summer” is a Southern potboiler that appeared to be very much influenced by Tennessee Williams‘ play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” which premiered 3 years earlier. Lansbury plays Minnie, the long-time mistress of the Big Daddy character of Will Varner (Orson Welles), who is not happy with their status and wants him to marry her.
8. ALL FALL DOWN (1962)
“All Fall Down” was a key film in Lansbury’s career, not necessarily for the film or her performance, but it brought her to the attention of director John Frankenheimer, who would cast her in Lansbury’s film triumph, “The Manchurian Candidate.” She is good here as the manipulative mother of Warren Beatty‘s Berry-Berry Willart, a drifter who uses women as playthings, then discards them when he’s done.
7. BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS (1971)
In a seeming attempt to recreate the magic of “Mary Poppins,” Disney mixed live action with animation in this musical, which boasted the unusual premise of a witch (Lansbury) using her powers to help the British war effort during The Blitz. The film enlisted several cast members and crew members from “Poppins,” but critics generally said that it was mostly a success for Lansbury, in a performance that earned her fourth Golden Globe film nomination.
6. NATIONAL VELVET (1944)
“National Velvet” was only Lansbury’s second film, but its popularity only cemented her promise as one of the industry’s rising stars. In the star-making role for Elizabeth Taylor as the horse-crazy Velvet, “the movie also featured Lansbury as her sister Edwina.
5. SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE (1970)
Lansbury was nominated for her third Golden Globe film award in this black comedy which was the first of only two films ever directed by Broadway great Harold Prince, who later directed Lansbury in her legendary Broadway performance in “Sweeney Todd” (the 4th of her 5 Tony wins). She plays a widowed Bavarian countess who encounters a golddigger who is willing to sleep with (or kill) any one in the Countess’ family which would allow him to get his hands on her lavish castle.
4. THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945)
Lansbury won her first Golden Globe Award and, at age 20, her second consecutive Oscar nomination in Albert Lewin‘s adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde tale of hedonist Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield), who falls madly in love with singer Sibyl Vane (Lansbury). Although the couple becomes engaged, Gray’s brother disapproves of the marriage, and they soon break up, leading to tragic consequences.
3. GASLIGHT (1944)
Lansbury made a spectacular film debut in George Cukor‘s mystery about a woman whose husband coerces her into thinking she’s going insane. Lansbury plays Nancy, a young maid to the wife (Ingrid Bergman) who is convinced that the maid hates her and is having an affair with her husband. For her performance as Nancy, Lansbury received her first Academy Award nomination at age 19.
2. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)
In the first animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture, Lansbury, in one of her most beloved performances, voices Mrs. Potts, once the cook in the Beast’s castle who has been turned into a teapot and has a son, Chip, who has been turned into a teacup. Lansbury’s memorable vocalization of the film’s title song won the Academy Award for Best Song.
1. THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962)
Lansbury’s greatest screen performance is generally considered to be her terrifying turn as Eleanor Iselin, the mother of a captured soldier (Laurence Harvey) during the Korean War. While dealing with her son, who was brainwashed during his incarceration, she is also managing the political rise of her Joe McCarthy-like husband, who aims to take over the reins of government. As Eleanor, Lansbury won her second Golden Globe film award and her third Academy Award nomination.