Angela Lansbury, who died Tuesday just five days shy of her 97th birthday, was a woman who gained her biggest and most lasting fame playing amateur detective/busybody/writer Jessica Fletcher – but she found her greatest satisfaction in a 53-year marriage and as a mother to three children – two sons and a daughter.
Though a prolific film and stage actress early in her life, it wasn’t until her twilight years that the British-born actress became a household name on the popular CBS drama, Murder, She Wrote, which debuted in 1984 and ran for 12 seasons. Based in the fictional costal Maine town of Cabot Cove, Lansbury’s character was unassuming but crafty – and always seemed to see what the professionals on the scene missed.
As a child, a heartbroken Lansbury, along with her siblings and mother, emigrated to the United States following the death of her father and grandfather – prompted, too, by the incessant bombings of World War II.
“We left everything behind,” Ms. Lansbury remembered. “Suddenly, we just weren’t there anymore.”
Her first marriage at age 19 to actor Richard Cromwell would last just seven months. She was grateful to meet Peter, whom she married in 1949.
“I had a wonderfully happy marriage to Peter,” she once told the Belfast Telegraph. “We were both doers. We did everything for the family and that was our mutual thrust at all times. We had our moments when we could have hit each other out of the ballpark, but it didn’t allow us to think that we couldn’t make it through. We always made it through.”
Peter Shaw, a one-time agent and executive for MGM, was co-producer of Lansbury’s famed Sunday night television program.
“I believe in true love,” she once confessed. “Although, I’m always amazed that people want it in this world when everything is hitting us broadside in the way of possibilities and invitations. I think you have to be awfully careful; you don’t want to hurt people along the way. Yet, in the main, I have to say, it’s possible.”
A believer in Jesus Christ, Lansbury said she prayed regularly throughout her life. “I do put my faith in God,” she once told a reporter. “I’m very thankful to him.”
Lansbury’s zest for life and her profession was evident when she told Katie Couric, “I really don’t know how to relax to the degree that I could just stop. So when something comes along and is presented to me, and I think ‘Gee, I could have some fun doing that,’ or ‘I think I could bring something to that,’ I’ll do it.”
On the occasion of her 90th birthday, the actress said, “I’ve never thought in terms of age. Looking back, I’m surprised when I realize that my great success really didn’t come until I was 40. And yet I never thought of myself as being 40. I was always just this very active woman, and nothing phased me. Even now I’m still feeling so full of that energy so you don’t think of yourself in terms of a figure. I’m 90 … but I don’t feel 90.”
Lansbury’s work carries on in reruns, of course, and the actress remains a good reminder to keep your priorities of faith and family straight, all the while remaining busy pursuing your life’s passions for as long as God allows.