DAME ANGELA LANSBURY, DIED AGED 96
By Elsa Maishman
Dame Angela Lansbury, who won international acclaim as the star of the US TV crime series Murder, She Wrote, has died aged 96.
The three-time Oscar nominee had a career spanning eight decades, across film, theatre and television.
Born in 1925, she was one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.
Dame Angela died in her sleep just five days before her 97th birthday, her family said in a statement.
"The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles," the family said.
Obituary: Angela Lansbury
Born in London, Dame Angela later moved to New York and attended the Feagin School of Dramatic Art.
She was noticed by a Hollywood executive at a party in 1942, and given her first role as a maid in the 1944 film Gaslight, based on the 1938 play of the same name. Her portrayal earned her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress the following year.
The term "gaslighting" originated from Patrick Hamilton's play, which was about a young woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing she is going crazy.
The British star went on to land two more Oscar nominations as Sibyl in The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1945 and Laurence Harvey's manipulative mother in The Manchurian Candidate - opposite Frank Sinatra - in 1962.
After a move on to Broadway in the 1960s she won several Tony Awards, including one for her turn as Nellie Lovett in Sweeney Todd in 1970.
A year later she appeared in the Disney hit Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and later featured in other children's films, providing the voice for Mrs Potts in the animated Beauty and the Beast; and more recently Mary Poppins Returns.
But it was her portrayal of sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the television series Murder, She Wrote which gained her millions of fans across the world.
She took up the role in 1984, and continued for 12 years and nine seasons.
The show made her one of the wealthiest women in the US at the time, with a fortune estimated at $100m.
"I worked much harder on a character in the theatre than I do playing Jessica," Lansbury said in a TV interview in 1985.
"Jessica's much closer to home for me. She's an easy-going woman.
"It's just that I can relate to her," she added.
Her later accolades included an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in 2013 at the age of 88.
During the ceremony, fellow actor Geoffrey Rush praised her as the "living definition of range".
It followed a lifetime achievement award from Bafta in 2002, as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She was made a Dame in 2014 for services to drama, charitable work and philanthropy.
Tributes following her death lauded a "legend" of Hollywood.
Actor Josh Gad wrote on Twitter: "It is rare that one person can touch multiple generations, creating a breadth of work that defines decade after decade. Angela Lansbury was that artist."
Fellow actor Harvey Fierstein added that Dame Angela was "everything".
Actress Mia Farrow, who starred in the 1978 film Death on the Nile alongside Dame Angela, wrote that it was "an honour" to have worked with her.
Oscar-winner Viola Davis wrote that she thought the late star "would live forever". "What an absolutely beautiful legacy you've left," she posted. "You have influenced generations of actors to aspire to excellence."
Seinfeld actor Jason Alexander tweeted that "one of the most versatile, talented, graceful, kind, witty, wise, classy ladies I've ever met has left us", adding: "Her huge contribution to the arts and the world remains always."
Comedian and actress Kathy Griffin wrote: "I cannot tell you how many ladies and gays are crushed, moved and feeling nostalgic about something in the past with the news of the passing of the fabulous Dame Angela Lansbury."
Many tributes mentioned Dame Angela's work to raise awareness and money for Aids in the 1980s and 90s, fronting a TV information campaign and headlining fundraising events.
Dame Angela was married twice, briefly to the actor Richard Cromwell when she was 19, and later to the British actor and producer Peter Shaw.
They remained together for more than 50 years, until his death in 2003.
She is survived by three children and her brother, producer Edgar Lansbury, as well as several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.