“Light the candles!
Get the ice out!
Roll the rug up!
It’s not quite the first of the year but it is somebody’s birthday and, boy is there history in it! The one and only Angela Lansbury turns 85 today. The five-time Tony winner, whose 66 year career runs the gamut from film to Broadway to television (and back again), is one of our true international treasures. Thanks to the mammoth success of Murder She Wrote, somewhere in the world at this very minute, Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher is hard at work solving a murder. But that doesn’t begin to define the well-rounded and unprecedented career that Lansbury has experienced.
Like her peers Betty White and Cloris Leachman, Ms. Lansbury has proven that it’s never too late for anything, which is especially evident in her three Broadway outings in the last three years. Lansbury is immediately recognizable and one-of-a-kind: those large, warm eyes and that sparkling crystal-clear speaking and singing voice, which is unlike any other voice we’ve ever heard. The career has maintained its longevity due to Lansbury’s immense range and versatility, with success in comedy, drama, and musical theatre.
While I often spend much of my time espousing her showstopper of a Broadway career, my personal favorite of her performances is Mrs. Iselin from The Manchurian Candidate, which is the greatest role she ever had on film. The first time I watched, I was staggered. Lansbury (who spent many years before Broadway playing a lot of mothers) was captivating in the way she created the character and her acting reflects a gritty realism and honesty that allows her to walk away with the film. Whenever her character is on screen, you cannot stop watching her. She’s the most interesting, fascinating and unsettling character and it’s a mesmerizing experience. The performance is riveting and one which in hindsight should have won the Academy Award. (She took home the Golden Globe, but lost the Oscar to Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker. I’ll give you a moment to think about that). Here’s a quick sample:
It’s a mindblowing performance (and if you haven’t seen the film, you’ll be staggered by what she does next in that scene) and I hope that there’s another memorable film role left for her to play. I’ve been there for Lansbury’s final performances in Blithe Spirit and A Little Night Music, and there’s been an unspoken but nostalgic and warm vibe from many that “this could be the final Broadway bow.” However, I don’t think that’s the case. I’m looking forward to see what she picks for the fourth show in her late-career renaissance on Broadway.
Now to celebrate is Ms. Lansbury herself, leading the revival cast of Mame in a song that’s just pure joy: “It’s Today”: