Angela Lansbury, the big-eyed, scene-stealing British actress who kicked up her heels in the Broadway musicals Mame and Gypsy and solved endless murders as crime novelist Jessica Fletcher in the long-running TV series Murder, She Wrote, has died five days shy of her 97th birthday. Lansbury died Tuesday at her home in Los Angeles, according to a statement from her three children. Lansbury, born in London in 1925, won five Tony Awards for her Broadway performances and a lifetime achievement award.
She earned Academy Award nominations as a supporting actress for two of her first three films, 1945's Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1946, the AP reports. She was nominated again in 1962 for The Manchurian Candidate and her deadly portrayal of a Communist agent and the title character’s mother. Her stardom came in middle age when she became the hit of the New York theater, winning Tony Awards for Mame (1966), Dear World (1969), Gypsy (1975), and Sweeney Todd (1979). In 2009 she collected her fifth Tony, for best featured actress in a revival of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, and in 2015 won an Olivier Award in the role.
But Lansbury’s widest fame began in 1984 when she launched Murder, She Wrote on CBS. Based loosely on Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, the series centered on Jessica Fletcher, a middle-aged widow and former substitute school teacher living in the seaside village of Cabot Cove, Maine. "What appealed to me about Jessica Fletcher is that I could do what I do best and have little chance to play—a sincere, down-to-earth woman," she told the New York Times during the show's second season. Lansbury said she was pleased that Jessica Fletcher served as an inspiration for older women. The show played for 12 seasons and Lansbury reprised the role in four made-for-TV movies between 1997 and 2003. (Read more Angela Lansbury stories.)