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CDA: Dame Angela Lansbury

Another one that made me sad! I was alerted to her death by Richard and our friend Scott Seyforth. She died the other day at the age of 96.


Richard and I were lucky enough to have seen her onstage three times: in *Deuce* (a frothy little play that she shared with Marian Seldes), *Blithe Spirit* (in a Tony-winning performance as a batty medium), and *A Little Night Music* (playing the main character's mother). And oh! I almost forgot! I saw her in a one-night only staged reading of the script to *All About Eve.* She played Birdie (with a Cockney accent).


We also had the rare treat of seeing her in the audience at a Dame Edna performance. We walked past her during intermission and Richard would not shut up about her magnificent posture. She was somewhere around 84 at the time and you'd never know it. She was strong and gracious and a bit regal.


She was somewhat established as a film and stage presence when she got the role of Mame in the 1966 Jerry Herman musical. She was 41 at the time, a tricky age for women. She had played Elvis's mother in *Blue Hawaii* and played the greatest gorgon of a mother in *The Manchurian Candidate* (more about that in a minute) so what a treat for her to play a vivacious woman in her prime, the centerpiece of a smash-hit Broadway musical. Here's what looks like a bootleg film of the original production. Her dazzling diva entrance happens around 7:00.


She won her first of FIVE Tony Awards for that show. Her fourth was for *Sweeney Todd.* Here's her entrance in that show:



If you haven't seen *The Manchurian Candidate,* I can't urge you strongly enough. It's a thrilling movie, with an edge-of-your-seat finish. Lansbury is the best thing in it. She plays the mother of Lawrence Harvey, and though she was only three years older than him, she totally wields the power and the grandeur to make you believe she's his mother. It's one of the greatest performances ever seen in a movie. I'd love to show her best scene in the movie but it's too full of spoilers. This earlier scene is still plenty juicy.


And last but not least, the show that broke her through to a new level of fame and (one would hope) fortune: *Murder She Wrote.* Here's a YouTube compilation of what are allegedly her ten best scenes on the show.



Please indulge me with one last clip, an appearance by Jessica Fletcher's cousin, Emma McGill. Here she is performing "Good-Bye, Little Yellow Bird," a song Lansbury had sung in *The Picture of Dorian Gray* 40 years before.




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