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FLICK PICKS: Movie legend, she wrote
August 20, 2009  | By Diane Werts
 
manchurian-candidate lansbury.jpg

If you only know Angela Lansbury for TV's Murder, She Wrote, you don't know Angela. Not only was she a '60s Broadway musical star in Mame (and a '70s revelation baking those man-made meat pies in Sweeney Todd), but decades before that, Lansbury had launched her career in her teens as a busy Hollywood studio contract player.

Which Turner Classic Movies smartly reminds us Sunday, when its Summer Under the Stars month spotlights the versatile actress behind Jessica Fletcher.

Lansbury gaslight debut.jpgTCM's 12 Lansbury big-screen titles span through four decades, from her 1944 debut in MGM's suspense classic Gaslight (Sunday at 8 p.m. ET; photo at right) to her 1978 turn in the Hercule Poirot mystery Death on the Nile (Sunday at 11:30 p.m. ET, both on TCM). There's even a retrospective chat about her entire career with channel host Robert Osborne in a 2006 edition of Private Screenings(Sunday at 3:15 p.m. ET, TCM).


Viewers unfamiliar with Lansbury's film work should be most knocked out by The Manchurian Candidate (Sunday at 1 p.m. ET, TCM), director John Frankenheimer's dark 1962 Cold War thriller of a brainwashed ex-GI turned assassination machine, with evil aid from his politically exploitive mama. Not only is Lansbury chilling in the dearly demented role [photo at top], but she's persuasive playing actor Laurence Harvey's mother despite being just 3 years older. (She earned an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award.) Throw in perhaps Frank Sinatra's best performance as a nightmare-plagued investigating officer from the soldier's platoon, and you've got a must-see classic -- and a controversy, with the film largely unseen for a quarter-century following President Kennedy's 1963 assassination.

lansbury harvey girls.jpgBut Lansbury was always versatile. She was solid in musicals (with Judy Garland in 1946's The Harvey Girls, Sunday at 6 a.m. ET; photo at left). And in westerns (with Randolph Scott in 1955's A Lawless Street, Sunday at 9:30 a.m. ET). In Disney fantasy/adventures (1971's Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Sunday at 6 p.m. ET). In literary adaptations (1945's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Sunday night at 2 a.m. ET). And other genres.

Lansbury_Deuce.jpgNow 83, Lansbury has remained active this decade, doing animation voice work, Law & Order guest shots, TV movies like The Blackwater Lightship, the Broadway play Deuce [2007 photo at right], and even -- coming full circle -- theatrical films like Emma Thompson's Nanny McPhee.

Lansbury also received 1997's Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, joining the ranks of legends like Sidney Poitier, Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn. Watch TCM this Sunday and see why.

 
 
 
 
 
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