Angela Lansbury has said that despite her early success, she was never given the opportunity to portray the roles she wanted when she was younger.
Lansbury, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 96, had previously told PEOPLE in 1984 that she didn’t feel she had the “traditional romantic leading woman look.”
She lamented that film producer Mr. Louis B. Mayer continued casting her as “venal bitches” when she asked to portray roles similar to those made famous by Jean Arthur.
As a 22-year-old, Lansbury played a pompous 45-year-old publisher in State of the Union and the spiteful 35-year-old wife of Walter Pidgeon in If Winter Comes.
She said, “I portrayed so many hags 20 years older than myself in those early films that today everyone believes I’m 80 years old!” I was never considered for romantic lead roles because of my less-than-perfect appearance.
Angela Lansbury, looking back on her career at the time, saw the value in getting roles based on her abilities rather than her looks.
She told PEOPLE, “As a character actor I achieved two things.” “First, a solid understanding of who I am outside of my acting roles and in my own life. And second, a career that has lasted longer than that of many leading ladies who only had physical attractiveness to rely on.”
Lansbury wed Peter Shaw, an agent, and MGM executive, in 1949. She and Shaw also brought up David’s brother Anthony, now 70, and Deirdre, now 69.
She expressed regret to PEOPLE, saying she wished she had “spent more time with my family and less time doing lousy movies in those days.”
That’s when she started playing mom to stars like Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii (1961), Warren Beatty in All Fall Down (1962), and Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). (1962).
Lansbury won her sixth Tony Award this past June for her lifetime of theatre excellence.
Between her roles as Mame Dennis in 1966’s Mame and Mrs. Lovett in 1979’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, the Broadway legend received four Tony Awards.
The 2009 play Blithe Spirit earned her the fifth Tony Award she has received; it was also the first time she had been recognized for her work in a play rather than a musical.
She has won many Tony Awards, an honorary Academy Award in 2013, and has been nominated for an astounding 12 Emmys for her role as Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote but has never taken home the trophy.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE on Tuesday, Lansbury’s family confirmed her death.
It is with great sadness that Dame Angela Lansbury’s children share the news that their mother passed away quietly in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday.
Three grandchildren, Peter, Katherine, and Ian, as well as five great-grandchildren, and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury, are among those left behind by Lansbury, in addition to her three children, Anthony, Deirdre, and David, according to the statement.
“Her 53-year-married partner Peter Shaw also passed away before she did. There will be a small, intimate family ceremony at a later time.”