What a career – and yet Lansbury was never an A-List movie star, which shows you how stupid those rankings are and how silly Hollywood can be. The first time I saw her in a movie I was a kid, and it happened to be her first movie, Gaslight. I remember it well, because the movie scared me and she was wonderfully nasty. That she could hold her own against/wish Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman is quite something. She was a teenager. Another Lansbury performance that I love – I believe her third movie – is The Picture of Dorian Gray. In the film, she was the victim of the protagonist though in real life, she and Hurd Hatfield became firm friends. He guest starred on Murder, She Wrote several times and she apparently convinced him to buy property near hers in Ireland.
Impossible to do her versatility justice – think of how wonderfully creepy she was in The Manchurian Candidate, for example. (She also played Elvis’ mother in Blue Hawaii – truly, a terrible film.) She had a remarkable stage career, as well. I mentioned Murder, She Wrote above – sue me, but I loved that series. So fun. There was a reason it was so successful and has such staying power. It is crazily popular in Italy, by the way.
FYI, I had a lovely aunt who looked so much like her. Obituary – of Lansbury, not my aunt – here.