ANGELA LANSBURY: A Biography by Margaret Wander Bonanno


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A readable review of the life of the actress; meant for fans but not very meaty regarding Lansbury's works (even when her older films are available for the assiduous biographer, Bonanno too often settles for the reviewers' comments). Lansbury, the daughter of a distinguished British politician and an actress, took to acting early. During the London blitz, she came to the States, landed jobs in Hollywood as a teen-ager, got a seven-year contract with MGM. By 20, she'd been nominated for two Oscars as best supporting actress, for Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray. But her bosses, Louis B. Mayer and then Dore Schary, were not interested in her career. She played second leads to Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland and Janet Leigh but soon was playing matrons twice her age (State of the Union) and various bitches; in The Manchurian Candidate, she played Laurence Harvey's vile mother, although only three years older than he. Her career seemingly had no future. Her personal life was rewarding. Her marriage to agent Peter Shaw has lasted 37 years. With her help, her two children have weathered heavy drug problems, brought on by insecurity: Mother was always leaving the Malibu homestead. She was nonetheless a determined homebody, trying to keep the kids by her side if possible, and falling into periods of fat and lots of cooking and gardening. Then came a shot at Mame and tremendous success that brought a quantum leap upward as critics' darling (Gypsy, Sweeney Todd), and her current success, the Murder, She Wrote TV series (which she regards as undemanding of her abilities). Lively, and far from fluff, but not a notable theater biography.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's