Angela Lansbury was a saint in helping aging performers keep their SAG benefits

There is no evidence that the late Angela Lansbury ever led airlifts to liberate emaciated orphans or helped rescue newborn kittens from burning buildings, but in her own way it seemed the woman was something of a saint all the same.

In the wake of the beloved entertainer’s death Tuesday at 96, evidence has surfaced that tied Lansbury to numerous benevolent acts while starring in the CBS series “Murder, She Wrote” during the show’s original run between 1984 and ’96 and while filming a series of four “Murder”-themed made-for-TV movies between 1997 and 2003. She made it a practice to lean on casting to hire guest actors and cameo performers of a certain age who were no longer steadily working and had failed to financially qualify for their Screen Actors Guild medical/dental benefits.

“I can confirm this happened on numerous, if not dozens, of occasions,” said a former head of publicity at Universal Television who preferred to remain otherwise anonymous. “This was a genuine priority for her, to help her fellow union members either remain members in good standing or restore their membership. That’s just the way she was. It was extremely important to her.”

Another person who worked in marketing at Universal during the “Murder, She Wrote” era also noted that Lansbury remained with the show well past her real interest in continuing to do so out of concern for keeping the supporting cast and crew gainfully employed. “Angela was very old school that way,” he said, “keeping solidarity with those who worked alongside her as well as below the line.”

Lansbury also liked to give several of the show’s recurring players like Jerry Orbach, Len Cariou and Keith Michell career shots in the arm by bestowing their private eye/spy characters stand-alone episodic platforms. She would appear on camera to introduce the episode and then not appear onscreen thereafter in a kind of “Murder, She Abdicated” scenario.

Glenn Close presented Lansbury with the Screen Actors Guild life achievement award in 1996.

Did Lansbury ever partner with Mother Teresa? We’re looking into it and will let you know.

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