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Beloved star of stage and screen, Angela Lansbury, has died at 96

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Now we remember a beloved star of stage and screen, Angela Lansbury. Her family announced her death yesterday. She was 96.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Lansbury's career spanned over seven decades. Moviegoers first saw her in 1944's "Gaslight," when Lansbury was just a teenager.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GASLIGHT")

CHARLES BOYER: (As Gregory Anton) And whom are you going to the music hall with?

ANGELA LANSBURY: (As Nancy Oliver) Gentleman friend, sir.

BOYER: (As Gregory Anton) Oh. Now, you know, Nancy, don't you, that gentleman friends are sometimes inclined to take liberties with young ladies?

LANSBURY: (As Nancy Oliver) Oh, no, sir - not with me. I can take care of myself when I want to.

MARTINEZ: She got her first of three Oscar nominations for that role.

FADEL: Now, Lansbury was often cast as women much older than she actually was. She reflected on this with Fresh Air's Terry Gross in 2000.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LANSBURY: I hated it. I mean, I didn't enjoy it. And I fought it, and I tried hard. I would go to the studio heads and say, look, don't make me play this part. But they would sort of say, well, if you will play that part this week, we'll let you do such and so next week kind of attitude. So I would end up doing it. And it all added to my training, really.

MARTINEZ: That training served her well, from her celebrated role as a Communist spy in 1962's "The Manchurian Candidate" to her Broadway work, which included playing the cold-blooded Mrs. Lovett in "Sweeney Todd."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WORST PIES IN LONDON")

LANSBURY: (As Mrs. Lovett, singing) Wait. What's your rush? What's your hurry? You gave me such a fright, I thought you was a ghost.

FADEL: Her most iconic role began in the 1980s in a CBS mystery drama, "Murder, She Wrote."

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN ADDISON'S "MURDER, SHE WROTE")

FADEL: The series ran for 12 seasons and made Lansbury a household name. She told Terry Gross that playing Jessica Fletcher, the mystery novelist who solved a murder every week, embodied all she wanted in a female role.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LANSBURY: She was valiant and liberal and athletic and all kinds of good stuff that women are of a certain age and are not given credit for.

MARTINEZ: And now Angela Lansbury's credits speak for themselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID AMRAM'S "THEME FROM THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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