By Marcina Zaccaria
Angela Lansbury spoke at Lincoln Center’s Library for the Performing Arts, as part of the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Oral History Project.
The hour long talk began with an introduction by Ludovica Villar-Hauser. Then, Charlotte Moore, Artistic Director of Irish Repertory Theatre, continued a spirited discussion with the Stage, Film, and Television Actress.
The 94 year-old sang out the phrase, “You can do it,” as she inspired an audience of LPTW Members, journalists, dancers, singers, actors, and, of course, fans. She recounted her early years at MGM, including her film role, Gaslight, at only 17 years old. Everyone who was anyone seemed to cross paths with her; Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Welles, Ingrid Bergman, and Richard Burton all held a presence within their studio system.
With perfect posture and an elegant speaking tone, Lansbury also spoke of the theater greats that she has worked with, including Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince. She mentioned that Stephen Sondheim was able to “spin an extraordinary yarn” with Anyone Can Whistle. She also told stories about what it was like to work with him later in Sweeney Todd.
Ms. Lansbury discussed her journey to the United States in 1939-40. Her father was a politician in the Military Parliament, who used to speak on the corner of Hyde Park in London. Her mother, Moyna Macgill, a woman from Belfast, Ireland was an actress on the London Stage. Lansbury also chose a career as a character actress.
When asked to describe her process of script analysis and movement, Lansbury revealed, “You leave yourself at home, and you bring with you the accoutrements of the character.” This great advice served her in such films as The Portrait of Dorian Gray, National Velvet, State of the Union, and The Court Jester. In The Manchurian Candidate, she got the chance to finally play someone evil.
Lansbury, who often reprises roles, found recurring success in classics like Blithe Spirit and Gypsy. She is doing a reading of The Importance of Being Earnest. If she was going to re-do any role again, she said she would like to be in Sweeney Todd. She said it gave the opportunity to “do some ridiculous things…if you have a comedic impulse in your body, it was great to let it out.”
Ms. Lansbury is a winner of 5 Tony Awards, 18 Emmy Awards, 3 Oscars, an Olivier Award, and 6 Golden Globes. Additional awards include an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, and a Silver Mask for Lifetime Achievement from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. She was named Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
Charlotte Moore ended the conversation by accepting some thoughts and a few questions from the audience. The conversation series was held on Thursday, November 14 at 6:00pm at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, located at 111 Amsterdam Avenue in NYC.
Photos: Ashley Garrett