Saturday, April 21, 2012

Angela Lansbury and the Tony Awards

The idea for today's post came up during a conversation I had over dinner with film blogger Scott Feinberg.  We were talking about the upcoming awards season and how some people seem to crop up again and again whether they deserve to or not, while, at other times, some deserving people couldn't catch a break if they tried.  In particular, Angela Lansbury came up as a prime example.  On screen, she has given some of Hollywood's most beloved performances, in such classic films as National Velvet, Gaslight, The Manchurian Candidate, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris.  She also spent 12 seasons on television playing Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, and made guest appearances on a number of big time TV shows like Law and Order: SVU.

Ms. Lansbury received a total of 18 Emmy nominations and 3 Oscar nominations over the course of her career, but has never won either of those awards in her career.  In fact, she set a record for the most consecutive Emmy losses for the same show, having been nominated and lost 12 consecutive Best Actress nominations for Murder, She Wrote -- receiving and losing the Emmy every year for the entire run of the show.  At the same time, when she appears on Broadway, she seems to get nominated for a Tony for everything she does.  Angela made her Broadway debut in 1957, and played smaller roles in her first three or four shows, but then got Tony nominations for the next four shows in which she appeared (the exception being 1977's The King and I in which Lansbury was a replacement and, thus, not eligible for a Tony).  Not only that, of the four nominations she received for these shows between 1966 and 1980, she won every time.

After Sweeney Todd, Ms. Lansbury took time away from Broadway to focus on other things and did not return to the Broadway stage until 2007's Deuce, followed by supporting turns in Blithe Spirit, A Little Night Music (both opening in 2009), and the current production of The Best Man.  For her efforts in those shows, she (again) has received Tony nominations for all of the first three, winning for Blithe Spirit, and she is likely to receive a supporting actress nomination for The Best Man come May 1st.

Now, for some of these performances, there is no doubt that Ms. Lansbury deserved some of these nominations and wins for her work.  She is clearly among the finest actresses of her or any generation.  But I have begun to wonder if she really deserved ALL the Tony nominations she has received over her career, or whether some of them might have been given to her because of her fame and her cherished position as a theatrical icon.  Another question that came up in the conversation that sparked the idea for this post is whether Ms. Lansbury would have received any of her post-2007 nominations had she not semi-retired from Broadway for 25 years.  Personally, I think she would still have been nominated for Deuce, and probably for Blithe Spirit, but I doubt she would have won for Blithe Spirit had it not been for a reason like what I describe above.  In addition to everything else, I also think that the fact that her Blithe Spirit win made her a record holder (only the second person to have won 5 Tony Awards for acting) was a big factor in both her win for that show and her nominations for every show in which she has appeared since 2007.

With all that in mind, I'd like to hear from you, my readers (and from Ms. Lansbury herself if she happens to be reading!).  What do you think about this subject, both in relation to Ms. Lansbury and  to anyone else in the industry as a whole?

1 comment:

  1. With due all respect I don't see the point of Ms. Lansbury's being the subject of this post.

    Angela Lansbury is arguably the greatest actress of her time (at least in the English speaking world) and deserves everything that comes her way. What’s so surprising about the fact the most celebrated musical performer in the Broadway history won 5 Tonys out of 7 nominations considering that she has appeared in over 14 Broadway productions?
    Can you honestly imagine somebody else winning over Lansbury’s Mame, Countess Aurelia, Mama Rose, Mrs. Lovett, or Madame Armfeldt? I haven’t seen Deuce, so can’t comment whether her nomination was deserved or it was a welcome back nod, but she was on fire in Blithe Spirit and I can’t think of a more deserving winner that year. Although I don’t mind Katie Finneran’s win for Promises, Promises since she was everything one can hope for, Ms. Lansbury would’ve also made a worthy winner for her scene stealing turn in A Little Night Music.

    What is really worth discussing is how on earth did she failed to win at least one Emmy out of her 18 nominations and lost her final nomination to date to Amanda Plummer (who was already a 2-time Emmy winner at that point and it became her 3rd Emmy win), which made Lansbury the biggest Emmy loser ever amount performers (Bill Maher lost 27 times, but most of his nominations came for writing).

    Or how she failed to win an Oscar for The Manchurian Candidate even though after rave reviews and the Golden Globes and the NBR wins she was considered a shoo-in for the win?

    Or will Lasbury ever receive an Honorary Oscar for her 70 year film career or better yet why can’t she get at least one film role the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave are constantly getting so she could finally win a competitive Oscar?