Lansbury received an Oscar nomination for her first film, Gaslight, in 1944, and has been winning acting awards and audience favor ever since. Born in London to a family that included both politicians and performers, Lansbury came to the U.S. during World War II. She made notable early film appearances as the snooty sister in National Velvet (1944); the pathetic singer in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), which garnered her another Academy nomination; and the madam-with-a-heart-of-gold saloon singer in The Harvey Girls (1946). She turned evil as the manipulative publisher in State of the Union (1948), but was just as convincing as the good queen in The Three Musketeers (1948) and the petulant daughter in The Court Jester (1956). She received another Oscar nomination for her chilling performance as Laurence Harvey's scheming mother in The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and appeared as the addled witch in Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), among other later films.
On Broadway, she won Tony awards for the musicals Mame (1966), Dear World (1969), the revival of Gypsy (1975), Sweeney Todd (1979) and, at age 82, for the play Blithe Spirit (2009). (Lansbury currently shares the record for the most performance Tony Awards with Julie Harris and Audra McDonald.)
Despite a season in the '50s on the game show Pantomime Quiz, she came to series television late, starring in 1984-1996 as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote; she took over as producer of the show in the '90s.
Lansbury returned to the Disney studios to record the voice of Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast (1991) and to sing the title song and later reprised the role in the direct-to-video sequel, The Enchanted Christmas (1997).
The actress has also engaged in philanthropic work, such as her support for arts-related philanthropies including Actors Fund of America, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and Career Transitions for Dancers.
Having already been awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire), Lansbury has now received her damehood (DBE) "for services to drama and to charitable work and philanthropy."