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The Best of Angela Lansbury: A Streaming Guide Died Age of 96

by Rahul
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Angela LansburyAngela Lansbury An all-purpose performer with a golden voice and extraordinary versatility, Angela Lansbury, who died Tuesday at 96, could be affectionate and menacing — and sometimes both at once — in films as varied as “The Manchurian Candidate” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

Her accent could travel from the Cockney of “Gaslight” to the Mississippi twang of “The Long, Hot Summer” and many destinations in between. Over a half-century stretch of her durable career, Angela Lansbury cycled through Disney and Agatha Christie, but also played down-to-earth character roles and could hold her own romping through splashy musical numbers, as these 15 movies and her biggest television hit demonstrate.

‘Gaslight’

In her screen debut, Angela Lansbury needed only a few scenes to earn an Oscar nomination for best-supporting actress, which speaks to the suggestive potency of her performance as a young maid of dubious intent. As Charles Boyer drives his bride (Ingrid Bergman) to madness in an effort to secure some lost jewels, Lansbury serves as an accomplice of sorts by flirting with him and stoking her paranoia.

She adds to the air of hostility that keeps the heroine penned inside the house, increasingly convinced that she’s losing a grip on her sanity. As the term “gaslighting” has taken off in the culture, the film has gained newfound relevance as a psychological thriller about the withering long-term impact of lies and manipulation.

‘National Velvet’

As the eldest of the Brown sisters in this beloved equine adventure, Lansbury’s main contribution is teaching Velvet (Elizabeth Taylor), her 12-year-old sister, what love feels like. For her, it’s a local Sussex boy she’s arranged to meet after school; for Velvet, it’s “The Pie,” a wild gelding that she and an amiable young drifter (Mickey Rooney) train into a prizewinning racehorse.

Lansbury collected her second Oscar nomination in two years for a luminous supporting performance as a humble tavern singer who catches the eye of Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield), a vain aristocrat who’s slumming in the London underground.

Under the caressing light of the Oscar-winning cinematographer Harry Stradling, Angela Lansbury’s rendition of “Goodbye Little Yellow Bird” is a poignant and haunting signal of things to come, as Dorian’s interest in her fades and leads to a tragic outcome.

As for the rest of the film, Oscar Wilde’s Faustian story of a portrait that ages while its subject does not still feels more natural as a literary conceit than a cinematic one, but it’s all beautifully rendered.

A product of Arthur Freed and the MGM studio machine, this musical Western has exactly one showstopping number, the Oscar-winning “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” and virtually everyone in the cast but Angela Lansbury is featured in it.

Yet Angela Lansbury(who, curiously, has her singing voice overdubbed) shows off brazen sexuality as a dance hall vixen in 1890s Arizona who feels threatened by the “Harvey Girls,” a bevy of clean-living waitresses who arrive to staff the new Harvey House restaurant in town.

(Harvey House was an actual chain of restaurants and hotels along passenger train routes, so the film doubled as an advertisement.) The film is mainly a vehicle for Judy Garland, a Harvey Girl who becomes Lansbury’s unwitting bête noire.

‘The Long, Hot Summer

Inserting a character inspired by Big Daddy Pollitt in Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” into a scenario patched together from three William Faulkner works, Orson Welles so thoroughly dominates “The Long, Hot Summer” as Will Varner, the bilious magnate of Mississippi small town, that the other actors struggle to make themselves known.

With a thick Southern drawl and a lot of attitudes, Lansbury does her best to push back on Welles as his ornery mistress, though most of the drama comes from his complex relationship with Paul Newman’s charismatic Ben Quick, who arrives with big ambitions and a criminal past. Quick’s interest in Welles’s daughter, played by Joanne Woodward, carried over into one of Hollywood’s great offscreen love stories.

‘All Fall Down

Lansbury made two films with director John Frankenheimer in 1962, and though “All Fall Down” is less fondly remembered than “The Manchurian Candidate” for good reason, both roles have a powerful Freudian kick to them. Hot off his breakthrough in “Splendor in the Grass,” Warren Beatty is so devastatingly handsome in “All Fall Down” that his looks are a primary plot point.

Beatty plays a drifter who’s constantly in and out of jail for beating the women he seduces, but everyone’s always willing to give him a second chance, including his mother (Lansbury), whose devotion is unwavering long after it should be. Frankenheimer gambles that audiences will find Beatty similarly alluring — which, at that stage of his career, seemed like a sure bet.

‘The Manchurian Candidate’

In the best film role of her career, Lansbury is the most chilling of the many terrors in “The Manchurian Candidate,” playing the wife of a Joe McCarthy-like U.S. Senator (James Gregory) and the mother of a Korean War hero (Laurence Harvey) who returns as a brainwashed assassin. She’s the master manipulator behind two passive men of power, couching a radical agenda under the banner of patriotism and military service.

As insidious in her way as the foreign agents who manipulate her son, Lansbury’s character is a homegrown threat to democracy and perhaps the primary reason “The Manchurian Candidate” has retained its relevance among American political thrillers.

Rent or buy it on Apple TV and Amazon. Stream it on Kanopy.

‘The World of Henry Orient’

George Roy Hill’s exceedingly peculiar comedy about two 14-year-old schoolgirls having adventures in New York City stars Peter Sellers as a concert pianist who finds himself in the middle of several awkward misunderstandings when they develop a crush on him and start following him around. He thinks they’re spies sent to uncover his affair with a married woman, but one of the girl’s mothers, Angela Lansbury, becomes concerned that he’s preying on them.

The story drifts from comedy to psychodrama too often, despite its portrayal of an idealized 1960s New York and Sellers’s genius at playing the put-upon hero, but its darker aspects feed into Lansbury’s robust performance as a moralizing hypocrite who indulges in the behavior she haughtily abhors.

‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’

Seven years after “Mary Poppins,” Disney tried to recreate the magic with this inferior facsimile, which casts Lansbury in the Julie Andrews role of a magical caregiver and dabbles in the same mix of live-action, animation, and cheerful musical numbers. “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is no more than passable family entertainment, but Lansbury acquits herself as an amateur witch who’s learning her craft via correspondence school.

When she temporarily adopts three children who have been evacuated from London during the Blitz, they hop on a travelling bed and search for a supernatural defence to help their besieged country. Of the songs, the alliterative underwater animated number “The Beautiful Briny,” a duet between Lansbury and “Mary Poppins” star David Tomlinson, is the standout.

‘Death on the Nile’

As “Mary Poppins” was to “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” so the 1974 film version of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express” was to 1978’s “Death on the Nile,” a large-scale Christie whodunit with an eye-catching locale and a star-filled gallery of suspects. It’s not easy to stand out in a cast that includes Peter Ustinov, Bette Davis, Mia Farrow, David Niven, Maggie Smith, and other luminaries, but Lansbury has a grand old time as a popular romance novelist who’s among the many on a Nile cruise with motive to kill a snooty heiress. Rolling her r’s with impunity, Lansbury makes such a quality sparring partner for Ustinov’s Hercule Poirot that it seems only logical that she would get an opportunity to do some on-screen sleuthing herself one day.

‘The Mirror Crack’d’

Angela Lansbury again does Agatha Christie, but this time she’s the one solving murders as Miss Jane Marple, which presages the long-running role in “Murder, She Wrote” that would define the later part of her career.

“The Mirror Crack’d” brings a cast of aging screen legends together for a whodunit set on a Hollywood movie production, including Rock Hudson as the director, Elizabeth Taylor and Kim Novak as rival movie stars, and Tony Curtis, Geraldine Chaplin, and Edward Fox as additional suspects in a poisoning.

The storytelling is bland and workmanlike in face of all that star power, but Lansbury’s Miss Marple has such winning confidence that she conducts half the investigation laid up at home with a broken foot.

‘The Pirates of Penzance’

The ’80s were unkind to movies with “Pirates” in the title (see also: “Ice Pirates” and Roman Polanski’s “Pirates”), and this screen version of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical, based on the Broadway revival, was no exception. But forgive the theatrical trappings — the ocean and island set all look like pastel monstrosities imported from the show — and “The Pirates of Penzance” is a rousing adaptation, led by a swashbuckling Kevin Kline as The Pirate King.

As Ruth, a nursemaid who has joined Rex Smith’s young hero in a mistaken apprenticeship with pirates, Lansbury is the only major character to not have performed in the Broadway version, but she has no trouble singing and mugging her way through Ruth’s daftness.

‘The Company of Wolves

An ingenious riff on “Little Red Riding Hood” and other fairy tales, Neil Jordan’s feminist horror-fantasy layers stories on top of stories, following a young girl (Sarah Patterson) whose dream life sinks into a vivid lycanthrope nightmare.

Because of the sinister matriarchs of Lansbury’s past, her warmth as the girl’s Granny feels deceptive even when she’s telling dark tales about staying away from men with eyebrows that meet. Through this slew of nested fairy tales,

“The Company of Wolves” turns familiar myths into a coherent and beautifully rendered fantasy about young women entering the treacherous world of men and learning how to survive in it.

‘Murder, She Wrote’

Given her limited work on television, Lansbury wasn’t an obvious choice for the amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher — the part was originally developed for Jean Stapleton, who passed on it. But thanks to a highly-rated 12-season run on CBS followed by enduring popularity in syndication and on streaming services, it is arguably Lansbury’s most well-known role.

A mystery novelist in a fictional Maine town that is rife with suspicious deaths — the old joke posits Cabot Cove as the murder capital of the world — Jessica used her folksy demeanour and uncommon powers of observation to foil wrongdoers who consistently underestimated her. Thanks to Lansbury’s lively wit and the pleasures of well-crafted TV mystery, the show remains a delight nearly 40 years after it premiered.

Stream it on Peacock, Roku or Freevee.

‘Beauty and the Beast

Still, the jewel of the Disney Renaissance that began with “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” gets some of its gravitas from Lansbury, whose gentle rendition of the title song all but encases the film in amber.

She plays Mrs Potts, one of the castle servants transformed into household items by a curse that also turns an arrogant prince into the raging Beast.

Before Belle can calm the Beast and lift the curse, Mrs Potts and the other enchanted objects are present for comic relief, first-class hospitality, and the film’s catchiest musical number, “Be Our Guest.”

Stream it on Disney Plus; rent or buy it on Amazon Prime, Google Play or Apple TV.

‘Anastasia’

Given that former Disney animators Don Bluth and Gary Goldman left the company for a competitor in Fox Animation Studios, it seemed like a power move to cast Lansbury, the soul of “Beauty and the Beast,”

as the narrator and matriarch in “Anastasia.” As grandmother to Anastasia, the 8-year-old Grand Duchess of the ruling Romanovs in Russia, Lansbury is absent for most of the film once the evil sorcerer Rasputin curses the family and leaves the little girl to an uncertain fate.

She resurfaces once the girl is found, however, and plays a role in engineering a happy ending. Though other studios struggled to make headway against the Disney machine, “Anastasia” was a success for good reason, spinning history into an attractive romantic adventure.

FAQ

Angela Lansbury’s net worth?

Lansbury was an actor with a lot of success. She played many roles in the industry, and acting and singing were her main sources of income. Angela Lansbury’s net worth was approximate. $70 Million

Where does Angela Lansbury live?

Brentwood

Angela Lansbury’s health?

According to a family statement, Lansbury passed away Tuesday in Los Angeles at the ripe old age of 96. There was no cause of death.

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