Long before Angela Lansbury solved murders on TV, she had a vibrant movie career.
That started 40 years before “Murder, She Wrote,” when the teen-aged Lansbury drew an Academy Award nomination for “Gasligh.” (show here, behind Oscar-winner Ingrid Bergman. She would get another nomination the next year (for “The Picture of Dorian Gray”) and another 17 years later, for her chilling maternity in “The Manchurian Candidate.”
Now all three films are part of a 24-hour tribute to Lansbury that Turner Classic Movies has set for Nov. 21. She died Tuesday, five days shy of her 97th birthday; see separate commetary here.
The marathon – mostly filled with supporting roles — starts with the girlhood innocence of “National Velvet” and ends with the non-innocence of “Sweeney Todd,” where she used slain guys to make meat pies.
The latterwas a 1982 TV film, a rare chance for Lansbury – the star of Broadway musicals – to sing onscreen. Two years later, “Murder, She Wrote” would take over her career.
Here’s the TCM line-up; all times are ET and are three hours earlier PT:
— “National Velvet” (1944), a family classic, 6:15 a.m. Lansbury, then 19, played the older sister of the star, Elizabeth Taylor, 12.
— “The Three Musketeers” (1948), a lush action film, 8:30.
— “Tenth Avenue Angel” (1948), a fairly short heart-warmer, 10:45. Lansbury plays the aunt of the young star (Margaret O’Brien).
— “If Winter Comes” (1947), noon. Lansbury is the cold-hearted wife of a man who eventually takes in a pregnant girl.
— “All Fall Down” (1962), 2 p.m. Sh’es the possessive mom who endangers Warren Beatty’s romance.
— “Dear Heart” (1964), 4 p.m. In a slender drama (with some humor), she’s the woman a traveling salesman is going to settle for … until he meets someone livelier and quirkier.
— “The Harvey Girls” (1946), 6 p.m. a musical about women in the emerging Southwest. Lansbury – who later won four Tony awards in musicals – had two solos … both with someone dubbing her voice.
— “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962), 8 p.m. Here is a brilliant film that ranges form sub-conscious brainwashing to political schemes. John Frankenheimer, who also did “All Fall Down,” directed it, again casting Lansbury as a bad mom. She was only three years older than her movie son (Laurence Harvey), but gave a convincing, Oscar-nominated performance.
— “Gaslight” (1944), 10:15 p.m. Here’s the root of the modern expression of “gaslighting” someone. Lansbury, 19, played the maid of a woman (Ingrid Bergman) who was slowly being convinced she was mad. Bergman won an Oscar; Lansbury was nominated.
— “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945), 12:15 a.m. Lansbury shows up early, as a tavern-singer. Gray breaks off their engagement, starting his skid through life.
— “Kind Lady” (1951), 2:15 a.m. Arriving as a maid, she’s in an evil scheme to pillage valuables.
— “Sweeney Todd” (1982), 3:45 p.m. By now, Lansbury was a Broadway star. She repeated her Tony-winning role in this TV film … then started solving murders on CBS.