She played a teapot, a double agent and a crime-solving novelist, but Angela Lansbury’s private life rivaled even her most audacious screen roles. In the wake of her recent passing, news outlets have been reporting on the more fascinating episodes from the iconic actress’s waltz through history, including her doomed connection with Charles Manson.
“He was an extraordinary character, charismatic in many ways, no question about it,” she once told The Independent. Lansbury’s daughter, Diedre, had fallen under Manson’s sinister spell and it horrified the legendary performer.
“She was one of many youngsters who knew him – and they were fascinated.”
Angela decided to move to Ireland as a way of saving her family. She characterized her departure in elegant terms that only Ms. Lansbury could achieve.
“There were factions up in the hills above Malibu that were dedicated to deadly pursuit.”
But there were much happier, lighter – dare we say gayer – passages from her past. Case in point: Lansbury’s first husband.
“I had no idea that I was marrying a gay man,” she revealed to the Radio Times in 2017.
“It was a shock to me when it ended, I wasn’t prepared for that. It was just a terrible error I made as a very young woman. But I don’t regret it.”
Unfortunately, regret was in full bloom during the mid 1940s, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. While the Gaslight star was being her altruistic, progressive self, her ex-husband had to brew up a rationale for why their marriage failed.
Richard Cromwell quipped, “All over the house, tea bags. In the middle of the night she’d get up and start drinking tea. It nearly drove me crazy.”
Hmm, perhaps Angela was conducting research for her role as Mrs. Potts that would dazzle audiences 50 years in the future?
Eternally choosing the high road, Lansbury spoke glowingly about Cromwell.
“I found him such an attractive individual, a very glamorous person – he knew everybody, he was a friend of Joan Crawford’s, these people who I was fascinated by as a young actress. And he wanted to marry, he was fascinated with me, but only because of what he had seen on the screen, really.”
Punctuating her point, Lansbury concluded, “It didn’t injure or damage me in any way.”
She refused to play the victim. She was an ally decades ahead of the gay rights movement. And she collaborated with everyone from Howard Ashman to Stephen Sondheim. Angela Lansbury even made the worst pies in London into the best that entertainment could serve. Bon appétit, Mrs. Lovett.
Last modified: October 21, 2022