The Real Reason Angela Lansbury Left Film And Theater For Murder, She Wrote

Once upon a time, there was quite a stigma attached to film and theater actors who decided to head to the small screen. The thought was that TV was a lesser medium, and that such stars should be above the siren call of a weekly viewing audience. But, Murder, She Wrote legend Angela Lansbury took a long break from film and theater to do just that, and now we know what led her to that decision.

I did it for the money. There comes a time in a theatrical life when you say to yourself, 'Well I can't make any money in the theatre', so television was a very specific decision I made.

I know! Some of you are probably shocked to find out that sweet, determined, murder-solving Jessica...I mean, Angela Lansbury, was in it for the dough, but I have to admit, this does my heart good. You go, Angela! Get that paper, girl! While the famed actress certainly made a better living in theater than someone stuck in the chorus, I doubt she made several hundred thousand dollars on a weekly basis, as she reportedly did during the height of Murder, She Wrote. What can I say? We shouldn't blame a lady for wanting to live well doing what she loves. Her reveal to the Mirror shouldn't be too much of a shock.

Angela Lansbury's decision to work on Murder, She Wrote came as she was already several, very accomplished, decades into her film and theater work. Her first film role was at 17, in the classic Gaslight, which was released in 1944. That first film garnered her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. That nomination was later joined by two additional Oscar nods for the same award in 1946 and 1963, for The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Manchurian Candidate, respectively. In 2014 she took home an Honorary Oscar for her contributions to film. Lansbury has been nominated for over 50 awards, won over 20 and had over 100 film and TV roles.

Of course, even with her obvious accomplishments, Angela Lansbury was never a leading lady movie star, and it's likely that many people wouldn't know her today had it not been for Murder, She Wrote. The CBS series was a phenomenon. For 12 seasons, which lasted from 1984 through 1996, Lansbury played widowed, retired teacher Jessica Fletcher, who had become a successful mystery novelist since her husband's death. Soon, Jessica begins to investigate and solve real murders in and around her (fictional) small town of Cabot Cove, Maine. As you can probably guess, even though most detectives and police officials want her nowhere near their crime scenes and cases, she always manages to find a way in and to be way more perceptive than the officers investigating the cases. Jessica Fletcher always got her man...or woman...or dog. It was a long time ago, OK? I don't remember who was killing all those people in Cabot Cove anymore.

The show was popular not just with audiences, but critics as well. And, the series managed to rack up many awards and nominations, while Angela Lansbury herself still holds the record for the most Emmy nominations for Lead Actress in a Drama with 12; that's one nomination for each season of Murder, She Wrote. The series is a worldwide hit, too; it's been syndicated in over 50 countries, including Pakistan, South Korea, Ukraine and Mexico.

Well, no one can say that Angela Lansbury made a bad decision when she signed up for Murder, She Wrote. The woman turned herself into a legendary TV star, to go along with her previous reputation as a hard-working, well-respected film and theater actress. Plus, she got those bills. Not bad, Angela. Not bad at all.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.