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Biography from Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:
Actress. (b. Oct. 16, 1925, London.) So what if she's won four Tonys? So what if she's been in movies for half a century? To millions of Americans, this tweedy, plum-voiced actress is "Murder, She Wrote" author and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher, and that's just fine with them, thank you very much. But Lansbury has enjoyed a distinctive career on stage and film, with a much wider range than her "Murder" fans may realize. She had acting ambitions while still a young girl in London, but she fled to New York when the blitz started and worked as a salesgirl while studying drama there. When Hollywood beckoned, Lansbury went eagerly, earning an Oscar nomination for her debut as a sinister maid in Gaslight (1944) and snaring a contract at MGM.
She also did fine work in National Vel- vet (1944), The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945, winning another Oscar nomina- tion for the wide-eyed waif who sings "The Little Yellow Bird"; her mother, Moyna MacGill, also appeared in the film), Till the Clouds Roll By (1946, singing "How D'ya Like to Spoon With Me?"), The Harvey Girls (1946, another musical, in which she menaced Judy Gar- land), State of the Union (1948, as the would-be power broker who tries to ma- nipulate Spencer Tracy's presidential candidacy), The Three Musketeers (also 1948, as Queen Anne), and Samson and Delilah (1949, as Hedy Lamarr's older sister-though she was obviously youn- ger). Still a young woman, Lansbury was typed early on in parts calling for iron- willed, domineering, and treacherous she-cats. During the 1950s she concen- trated on stage work, but appeared in the likes of The Court Jester (1956), The Long Hot Summer (1958), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1960), and even played Elvis Presley's mother in Blue Hawaii (1961).
Lansbury's blood-chilling, Academy Award-nominated performance as a politician's monstrous wife in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is considered by many to be her finest. Other notable Lansbury turns can be seen in The World of Henry Orient (1964), Mister Buddwing (1966), Something for Everyone (1970), Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971, as an amateur witch in this Disney musical), Death on the Nile (1978), The Pirates of Penzance (1983), and The Company of Wolves (1984). In 1980 she warmed up for "Murder, She Wrote" by playing Agatha Christie's spinster sleuth, Miss Marple, in The Mirror Crack'd She's won Tony awards for "Mame," "Dear World," "Gypsy," and "Sweeney Todd." Lansbury has also starred in TV movies and miniseries, including EB>. Happy At Last (1982), Lace (1984), The Shell Seekers (1989), and Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris (1992). And she endeared herself to younger fans as the voice of Mrs. Potts in Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast (1991). Married to producer Peter Shaw; their son, Anthony, often directs his mother in "Murder, She Wrote." Her first husband was actor Richard Cromwell.