Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Angela through the decades ...

Angela Lansbury! She is still going strong in her mid 80s. How amazing she is. I was watching THE HARVEY GIRLS on afternoon television the other day, and there is Angela just about 20 playing older than her years, being mean to Judy, and kicking up a storm as the saloon entertainer, just after her lovely performance as Sybil Vane in the 1945 PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. (She had began aged 18 in Cukor's 1944 GASLIGHT). She was also playing older, in her 20s, opposite Tracy and Hepburn in the 1948 STATE OF THE UNION.

Her '50s movies were a varied bunch, an early Tony Curtis movie, a western with Randolph Scott (LAWLESS STREET), hilarious with Danny Kaye in THE COURT JESTER. 1958 was a good year: with Orson Welles in the starry THE LONG HOT SUMMER as his very Southern ladyfriend, and the English socialite in Minnelli's THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE as the catty friend competing with Kay Kendall and Rex Harrison in launching her daughter on high society. Then she was in Australia for SUMMER OF THE 17TH DOLL with Anne Baxter, had a nice cameo in THE DARK AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS, and another catty role with Sophia Loren in the under-rated A BREADTH OF SCANDAL in 1961.

The 1960s brought those great mother roles, famously as Laurence Harvey's in Frankenheimer's 1962 classic THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (she was only 3 years older than him), Elvis's in BLUE HAWAII and I particularly like her Annabel, also in 1962 for Frankenheimer in ALL FALL DOWN, as mother to Warren Beatty and Brandon de Wilde. She is fun with Peter Sellers in the lovely THE WORLD OF HENRY ORIENT, and pops up in MR BUDDWING, among others like her impoverished aristocrat in THE ADVENTURES OF MOLL FLANDERS, 1965 with Kim Novak, and less so in the awful HARLOW as Jean's mother - one hopes she got a good paycheck for that! Her first real lead movie role was that other impoverished aristocrat in Hal Prince's wonderful SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE where Michael York works his way through her family, restoring her fortunes (it was called BLACK FLOWERS FOR THE BRIDE in the UK), and also Disney's BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS.

Angela finally became a Broadway star with MAME (her duet "Bosom Buddies" with Bea Arthur as Vera Charles is just perfect), she played GYPSY in London (when I saw her during a very entertaining session at the National Film Theatre discussing her career), and also on stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Albee's ALL OVER sharing the stage with Dame Peggy Ashcroft - Angela certainly worked with them all. There was also the short-lived Sondheim musical ANYONE CAN WHISTLE with Lee Remick, who also starred with her in a sugary tv christmas film A CHRISTMAS STORY.

Angela also lived in Ireland for a time, so was perfect as the Irish granny in the film of Colm Toibin's story THE BLACKWATER LIGHTSHIP in 2004. Oh, there was also that long-runniong tv series MURDER SHE WROTE ...

Angela has recently been in NANNY MCPHEE and on Broadway in a revival of Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT as Madame Arcati, a very physical role for a woman in her 80s!. It would have been nice to have seen that, but I dare say her Salome Otterbourne in DEATH ON THE NILE must be the next best thing. She has also just been in that revival of Sondheim's A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC as Madame Armfeldt. It is a remarkable career by a remarkable much loved star. Looking forward to seeing her in the next series of DOWNTON ABBEY later this year.

Below: the London National Film Theatre announcement of her 1973 appearance: (click to enlarge)

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