7 Signs You Mustn’t Ig­nore

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Front Page -

An­gela Lansbury is com­ing home. For years we knew the 92-year-old ac­tress as Amer­ica’s favourite writer turned sleuth in Mur­der, She Wrote; last Christ­mas she had all of us reach­ing for our han­kies with her un­ex­pect­edly poignant por­trayal of the fear­some – and again, all-Amer­i­can – Aunt March in the TV adap­ta­tion of Lit­tle Women. But her next role, as the Bal­loon Lady in the film Mary Pop­pins Re­turns, will see her back in Lon­don – and when we meet her in

Los An­ge­les, she tells us she couldn’t be hap­pier about it.

‘I am a Lon­doner and I have a lot of the Cock­ney in me,’ she says firmly. ‘I love Lon­don, it’s a gem of a city. And Lon­don­ers – I mean the real Lon­don­ers, be­cause you’re hard put to find a real Lon­doner in Lon­don these days, but they’re there if you know where to find them – are mar­vel­lous peo­ple. It’s a city I’m very proud to come from.’

In many ways, she adds, by play­ing an­other Cock­ney part she’s com­ing full cir­cle – for her first film role, in Gaslight,

‘In­grid Bergman gave me a bot­tle of

toi­let wa­ter for my 17th birth­day’

which she took when she was only 16, she played Nancy, the du­plic­i­tous lady’s maid, who was as Cock­ney as they come. ‘She was Cock­ney, she was a loose girl, she was go­ing to do ev­ery­thing she needed to do to get where she needed to get,’ she re­mem­bers now. ‘I loved mak­ing that film. In­grid Bergman was the star, of course, and I was just a lit­tle noth­ing, I didn’t even have a dress­ing room, just one of those lit­tle black holes that they used to put you in in those days, a kind of frame covered with black fab­ric, and that was my dress­ing room. But ev­ery­body was very sweet to me – In­grid, and Ge­orge Cukor the di­rec­tor, who was a quite mar­vel­lous man, and Joseph Cot­ton and Charles Boyer – they were kind of fas­ci­nated by this funny English kid. I had my 17th birth­day on the set, and In­grid gave me a bot­tle of toi­let wa­ter that I re­mem­ber as well as I re­mem­ber any­thing in my life. It was very sweet of her.’

An­gela was born in the leafy af­flu­ence of Re­gent’s Park, the daugh­ter of Ir­ish ac­tress Moyna Macgill and Bri­tish left-wing politi­cian Edgar Lansbury, and says she has been act­ing, more or less, ever since she was born. ‘My mother was an ac­tress and I think it was in­bred in me,’ she says. ‘I think it was just a God-given gift that I had, to be able to sense where an­other char­ac­ter was com­ing from and to get in­side her. It’s part of my per­sona, and in fact, you can’t be­lieve a word I say be­cause

I’m act­ing all the time!’

Just kid­ding, as she makes plain. Ask her, in fact, about her most fa­mous role of TV’s Jes­sica

Fletcher, who she played from 1984 to 1996, and she’s as­ton­ish­ingly frank. ‘I wanted to do tele­vi­sion work be­cause

I wanted to

make some money!’ she ad­mits, cheer­fully. ‘You don’t make any money in the theatre, you know, and you don’t make much money from do­ing the oc­ca­sional movie. And from that point of view, it was like turn­ing a page in my pro­fes­sional life.

‘Mak­ing Jes­sica Fletcher took me sev­eral years. She started off a lit­tle bit goofy – if you see the orig­i­nal episodes you’ll see that – but I was fi­nally able to bring to her more of An­gela, made her more like a wo­man of my age and my in­tel­lec­tual what­ever I have. And I thank God that I was able to make money from Jes­sica. Mur­der, She Wrote has sup­ported me for the rest of my life, and that means I am able to main­tain a mod­est life­style while be­ing able to pick and choose which roles I ac­cept now rather than hav­ing to be in a lot of rub­bish just to pay the bills!”

She lives alone in the qui­etly up­scale Los An­ge­les en­clave of Brent­wood. Her hus­band, ac­tor Peter Shaw, died in 2003 – ‘We had a won­der­ful mar­riage,’ she says wist­fully – but she is close to her chil­dren, daugh­ter An­gela, who owns a restau­rant nearby, step­son David from Peter’s first mar­riage, and son An­thony, who was a pro­ducer and di­rec­tor on Mur­der, She Wrote. ‘And his sons are ter­rific guys, one works for NBC, so he’s in the busi­ness too, every­one in the fam­ily is in the busi­ness.’

She says she keeps healthy by keep­ing ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion. ‘I don’t drink any more and I don’t smoke any more, although I do smoke those Ci­garetel­los, although only at night, and I don’t in­hale! I used to do a lot of ex­er­cise although I re­ally don’t any more. I don’t watch much tele­vi­sion be­cause I have bet­ter things to do. I have been try­ing to watch that royal show, The Crown, but the prob­lem is that I was alive when all of that was hap­pen­ing, so I tend to watch it and go, ‘Hmm… that wasn’t the way the Queen was at all.’ I like Vic­to­ria bet­ter, be­cause it hap­pened in a time be­fore I can re­mem­ber!”

As su­per­sleuth Jes­sica Fletcher in Mur­der, She Wrote

In Dis­ney clas­sic Bed­knobs and Broom­sticks

Mak­ing her film de­but in Gaslight

An­gela mar­ried ac­tor Peter Shaw in 1949

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