Dame Angela Lansbury

  1. Donna Reed, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1945.     Brand new to Hollywood, Angelatested for the first English roles she heard about. Director George Cukor thought her too young for Gaslight, 1943.But she got it, an immediate Oscar nomination, a seven-year MGM pact, a better Dorian Gray role than she’d tested for – and another Oscar nod. Fairytale start for the war-time evacuee and grand-daughter of the 1930s’ British Labour Party leader George Lansbury.   Gossip wretch Hedda Hopper called her “an English refugee girl… [with] great promise as an actress.” She wuz right! I happen to be  writing this a few days after Lansbury won her first Olivier Award in London as Best Supporting Actress of 2014.  At age 89.
  2. Linda Darnell, Forever Amber, 1947.     “I flunked the bosom test!”
  3. Janet Leigh, If Winter Comes, 1947.      At 22, Lansbury wanted to be the trouble waif called Effie. No, ordered MGM, you will be Walter Pidgeon’s wife – a total  shrew. Lansbury got the message. Hollywood superstardom was not for her. Well, hello Broadway!
  4. June Allyson, The Three Musketeers, 1948.    Not happy playing Constance Bonacieux and wanting to be Milady de Winter (reserved for Lana Turner), Angela was promoted to Queen Anne. 
  5. Marilyn Monroe, All About Eve, 1950.
  6. Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday, 1952.   Frank Capra (and George Stevens) wanted Liz Taylor, William Wyler liked Suzanne Cloutier (the future Mrs Peter Ustinov) for the runaway Princess Ann.   A further 28 actresses were seen, the good, bad and risible – like the current sex-bombs Yvonne De Carlo Diana Dors, Gina Lollobrigida, Sylvana Mangano, Shelley Winters.  Apart from, perhaps, Vanessa Brown, Mona Freeman and Wanda Hendrix (even though  her real name as Dixie), the Hollywood hopefuls  – singer Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt), Jeanne Crain, Nina Foch, Janet Leigh, Joan Leslie, June Lockhart, Dorothy Malone, Patricia Neal, Barbara Rush – were soon discarded, lacking the stature of Euro-royalty. Idem for the Euros – Swedish Bibi Andersson, and the French Capucine, Leslie Caron, JeanneMoreau. Which left several perfect Brits Claire Bloom, Joan Collins, Glynis Johns, Kay Kendall, Deborah Kerr, Angela Lansbury, Moira Shearer, and, of course, Audrey, … soon gracing the Time cover, hailed by the New York Times as a “slender, elfin and wistful beauty, alternately regal and childlike” with, added Variety, a “delightful affectation in voice and delivery, controlled just enough to have charm and serve as a trademark,”(And, Indeed, it did for evermore).
  7. Elsa Lanchester, Androcles and Lion, 1951.      During the bizarre casting during three years of George Bernard Shaw playlet – everyone from the sublime Chaplin (and Harpo Marx) to the ridiculous Eddie Bracken was imagined for the lead! GBS’s favourite UK producer-director Gabriel Pascal first wanted Lansbury as Megera.
  8. Mercedes McCambridge, Giant, 1955.
  9. Julie Andrews, Mary Poppins, 1963.     During the 20 years of trying to persuade UK author PL Travers to let him keep his promise to his daughters and film her supercalifragilisticexpialidocious book,  Uncle  Walt Disney first saw Mary as being  older.  Such as  Angela, Bette Davis (both made later Disney films) or Broadway’s  Mary Martin.  Then, Disney saw Julie singing her Camelot  songs on TV’s Ed Sullivan Show. And signed her for his finest hour –  eight Oscars! Lansbury  went on to work with the Poppins’ employer, David Tomlinson, in another Disney hit: Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971. 
  10. Coral Browne, The Killing of Sister George, 1968.     From Disney to kissing Susannah York’s naked breasts for director Robert Aldrich… I don’t think so! Much less her next offer…

  11. Raquel Welch, Myra Breckinridge, 1969.   Distinguished stage-screen producer (Sweet Charity, The Boston Strangler) Robert Fryer was behind Fox snapping up his friend Gore Vidal’s scandalous satire for unprecedented $900,000. Fryer was far from happy to be saddled with a British pop singer as his director – Vidal immediately quit as co-producer.  For the transgender Myron, Fryer wanted Angela, Anne Bancroft, Audrey Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave or Elizabeth Taylor. Fox said contract player Welch was  cheaper at $125,000. She was ready for the challenge of playing both roles. But film critic Rex Reed was Myron in the enormous flop.   Hearing that Sarne was reduced to being a pizzeria waiter, Vidal said it proved “that God exists and there is such a thing as Divine Symmetry.”
  12. Maggie Smith, Love And Pain and the Whole Damn Thing, 1972.     Director Alan J Pakula was looking for backers. A suit from Cinema Center, the new movie affiliate of CBS, told him: “We’ll finance…if you do it with Angela Lansbury.” This was after Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971, and a dozen years before her TV series, Murder She Wrote, ran from 1984-1996 on… CBS). Hmm,Pakula pondered, but held his original thought.
  13. Louise Fletcher, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, 1974.
  14. Joan Plowright, Tea With Mussolini, 1999.     First choice of Italian stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli for one of the three British expat eccentrics who become the protagonist’s adoptive aunts – based upon the childhood chapter of the maestro’s autobiography.
  15. Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2013.    Driving Miss Daisy on-stage got in the way of the tiny cameo of the rich, Zubrowkan dowager Madame D, 84 and… dead.
  16. James Corden, Into The Woods, 2013.  



 Birth year: 1925Death year: 2022Other name: Casting Calls:  16