Angela Lansbury. One could nearly stop right there. Her name encapsulates so much about film and television culture. She has graced the stage, screen, the tube, and has been actively working in the industry from her tender teenage years to the present. She is a permanent fixture-- a living signature of the legacy of Hollywood. With her ethereal, pre-Raphaelite beauty and true actor's courage, she took her thespian training in England and easily translated it to the states. Her birth in cinema, her survival instinct-- that cultivated when her father prematurely passed away and forced her to step forward and be independent-- and her unavoidable but hopefully distant exit from this world, seem to bookend the very story of Hollywood itself.
With her talent, Angela could certainly have become a huge movie star had she so wished. However, her intelligent and curious nature was more intrigued by the interpretation of character than the fringe benefits (and pratfalls) of stardom. As such, her impressive collection of roles are both distinctive and diverse. Not only did she debut in one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time, Gaslight, but director George Cukor was so taken with her cockney, bad girl that he declared she reacted better to the camera than anyone he had ever witnessed. Her innocent girl fallen in The Picture of Dorian Gray showed audiences that she could portray both sides of the coin, and not only that, but every side to every coin ever minted: ambition (State of the Union), romanticism (Samson and Delilah), and outright, diabolical, divine evil (The Manchurian Candidate). Whatever it took, this slugger didn't hold back, and when Television took over, she took "to the mattresses" and came out an even bigger champion than before in the iconic series "Murder She Wrote."
Her graceful ability to hold a scene, her physicalized insight into her characters, and the depth of intelligence and emotion behind her large, dreamy eyes have kept this lady working for seventy years. If that's not impressive... I don't know what is.