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Angela Lansbury returns to West End after 40 years

24 january 2014, 12:39
0
British-American actress Angela Lansbury accepts her award on stage during the 2013 Governors Awards, presented by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). ©AFP
British-American actress Angela Lansbury accepts her award on stage during the 2013 Governors Awards, presented by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). ©AFP
British-American actress Angela Lansbury, star of "Murder, She Wrote", is returning to London's West End for the first time in nearly 40 years -- in the same theatre where her mother made her debut in 1918, AFP reports.

Lansbury will reprise her Broadway role as clairvoyant Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit from March in her first stage performance in Britain since 1975.

"It feels like coming home. I can't believe it's been 40 years! It doesn't seem that way to me -- life has been marvellous," said the 88-year-old told a press conference on Thursday.

"I've had an extraordinarily interesting and varied career which has taken me all over the world. I've gotten to play with some of the great actors of my generation, and it's still going strong."

She won her fifth Tony award for playing Arcati in 2009 and describes it as "the "best role I've probably ever had".

She relishes bringing the role to the Gielgud theatre where her mother, Irish actress Moyna Macgill, first trod the boards almost a century ago.

Britain welcomed Lansbury back by making her a dame in the queen's new year's honours.

Lansbury often forgets names but otherwise wears her 88 years well, something she puts down to drinking strong tea and taking a "handful" of vitamins each day.

"I don't have any illusions about being able to repeat that (Broadway performance) but I'm going to do my best and I feel full of energy and ready to go," she said.

Lansbury is elegant in a navy dress and simple gold necklace, but was never a screen beauty -- something she now sees as a benefit.

"For those women who were lovely, were known for their beauty and so on, it is darn difficult," she told BBC radio.

"But I was playing older parts when I was terribly young because I wasn't a big screen beauty. I am a character actress."


Fame as Jessica Fletcher


Lansbury was born in 1925 in London to a political family -- her grandfather was a leader of Britain's Labour party -- but in 1940 emigrated to the United States.

She got her big break at just 17, as the maid Nancy in the movie "Gaslight" with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, a role which won her an Oscar nomination.

Another two nominations followed, for "The Picture of Dorian Gray" in 1946 and "The Manchurian Candidate" in 1963, roles for which she picked up two Golden Globes.

In November, she was given an honorary lifetime Oscar.

Lansbury won another four Globes for her depiction of writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the hugely successful television series "Murder, She Wrote", which ran from 1984 and 1996.

It used to irritate her that she would always be known principally for the show, which was exported around the world, but she is resigned to the fact.

"A great proportion of the youngsters who came to see the (Coward) play in New York came to see me because they'd seen me in 'Murder, She Wrote,'" she said.

"They knew me as Jessica Fletcher, so it was a bit of a shocker, I'm sure. But they got the message."

Retirement seems unlikely as long as the offers keep coming in, as she claims to have "an inordinate amount of energy -- I've got to expend it somehow".

Lansbury was married for 53 years to Peter Shaw, who died in 2003, and had a son and daughter.

In the early 1970s her children became involved in drugs, prompting the family to move to Ireland, the birthplace of Lansbury's mother.

They stayed for a decade and she still has a house there, in Cork, which she visits every summer.

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