Wednesday, November 14, 2007

An Evening with Angela Lansbury at the Paley

It was so good to see Angela on a stage again, even (or maybe especially since) if it was as herself and it was an interview stage. She looks rested and ready! When she took her seat, she promptly took out her cell phone and turned it off! Denise and I sat 3rd row center, just behind Biff Liff, Brian Murray and Marian Seldes. It was almost as entertaining to watch Marian watching Angela - she was completely mesmerised by her friend. Within the interview, clips of Angela's television appearances were shown intermittently, beginning with the live programs in the 1950s (String of Beads, The Ming Lama, _____) continuing on to clips from Murder, She Wrote, clips from various television movies (The Shell Seekers, The Green Journey, The Blackwater Lightship, Law & Order) and finally delighting the audience more than any of the aforementioned with clips from musical appearances (1968 Oscar performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Worst Pies in London from Sweeney Todd and Bosom Buddies from the Tony Awards). Angela had a monitor in front of her so she could watch the clips, which she giggled through the entire time. She talked about her versatile career in all the mediums, although the focus tonight was on television. About one of the early television clips, the moderator commented that she was sexy. Angela said, "It was acting." She got a huge laugh with this one. She talked about Jessica Fletcher quite a bit and takes pride in helping to mold and evolve her from the initial character traits to the independent, smart woman that everyone could relate to. She said that when she wanted to walk away from it, she would get "talked to" by her family. She related that the crew became family as well. She said she loved being executive producer, but she just didn't have the time to devote to it because the shooting schedule itself was too grueling. She talked about all of the wonderful actors who guest starred on Murder, She Wrote and she gave a shout out to Marian. The moderator asked if Marian was ever on more than episode and Marian replied, "One murder was enough!" Angela said about working with Betty Davis in Little Gloria, Happy at Last, "She played my mother! She used to say to me, 'We're the only professionals here'" (This one just about threw Marian over the edge!). She said that about the 1968 Oscar performance of Thoroughly Modern Millie that she had just returned to LA to do Mame and was asked to perform. She said she rehearsed the dancing for about 6 weeks and never even knew she could do the splits before that! (This got very loud hoots from Brian Murray.) Every chance she had, she reiterated how lucky she's been to have so many opportunities to work for the best, with the best and with some of the best material. She also said many times that BROADWAY was what she wanted, what she worked hardest for and at. She said with almost a growl, "I wanted to come to BROADWAY!" She sang two tiny bars from Gypsy- the Farm Boys' "Broadway, Broadway", which earned huge laughs and applause. I must add! She was full of imitations all evening, saying that she had the ear of a parrot. She imitated an Irish lady about learning the news of the offer of Sweeney Todd. She spoke in an hysterical Irish accent. She said that about 11:00 pm in Ireland she got a call from the lady at the phone company (?) telling her there was a wire from Hal Prince in New York. She asked the lady to read it to her because obviously it was too late to deliver it - something like "Please come to New York to be Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street." She said she wired back, "Who's Mrs. Lovett?" Then she made the funniest face and shrugged, "Well, it's not Sweeney Todd," as she let us in on the joke that she's the star not Sweeny Todd. She would not deny that she wants another great movie role and that's she not finished working. She would also not say that she would not return to the Broadway boards, although she said it would not likely be a musical. It was a delightful evening with my favorite and I'm so happy we were there.

P.S. Marian kissed my hand. She is job hunting if anybody is ready to cast her. I said, "I guess off-Broadway now?" She replied, "Anywhere!" She is doing >Pygmalian at Project Shaw in December. Everybody send checks to me and I'll produce her in something. Anything!


Anonymous said...

Wonderful report, Sarah! I do so wish I could have been there!


Denise said...

I really think you summed up the evening beautifully, Sarah. The only show you missed was the clip from The Eleventh Hour (don't know how I recalled that one, I couldn't recall even half of the ones you wrote down--lol).

The one thing that struck me, which we discussed briefly as we were leaving, was how Angela worked to find the humanity in each role she took, so that people could relate to her character. On a related note, she said that in choosing a character, she had to feel in her heart that it was right for her.

It was truly a memorable night, and the photos came out great.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I'm envious, Sarah. Sounds like a great night. And any opportunity to be in the presence of Marian Seldes let alone talk with her, well, that's just heaven.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful night it must have been! I'm envious. Glad you had such a great time.


bluetopazocean said...
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