Many of those showcased in Turner Classic Movies’ annual “Summer Under the Stars” festival are talents from the past, but one of this year’s remains quite active.
Dame Angela Lansbury has completed filming her role in next year’s Disney movie sequel “Mary Poppins Returns,” she recently performed in a New York reading of “The Chalk Garden,” and she’s been cast in a forthcoming PBS/BBC co-production of “Little Women.” TCM celebrates the stage and screen icon with 24 hours of her films starting Saturday, Aug. 19, and she’s pleased about it.
“It’s very comforting to know that there are people who still watch and enjoy those bits and pieces,’ ” Lansbury reflects. “Well, some of them are bigger than ‘bits and pieces.’ It’s interesting, because my career has been in sections. When I left Hollywood in the 1960s, I left behind a whole pile of films and went back into theater, which I originally had trained to do. I got sidetracked into movies, and most – except for one or two – were not important at all. That’s one of the reasons I got out of touch with them.”
Still, Lansbury’s “Summer” day encompasses a number of true classics. Saturday-afternoon host Tiffany Vazquez will introduce the comedy “State of the Union” (also starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn) and the musical “The Harvey Girls” (with Judy Garland). Then on that night’s “The Essentials,” Alec Baldwin and guest co-host William Friedkin will present the celebrated political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate,” to be followed by Lansbury’s screen debut in the melodrama “Gaslight.”
Through her “Summer Under the Stars” inclusion, Lansbury pays tribute to late TCM host Robert Osborne, to whom she gave a memorable “Private Screenings” interview for the channel. “I’m going to miss Robert a lot,” she says, “as many, many of his viewers will. It’s very sad that we no longer have him. If it hadn’t been for him, a whole generation would have no idea what my career was before I did (the long-running television series) ‘Murder, She Wrote.’ They just wouldn’t have a clue.’ ”
Soon to receive the European Broadcasting Union’s Rose d’Or for lifetime achievement – which she’ll add to her honorary Oscar, six Golden Globes, five Tonys and many other awards – Lansbury concludes that she’s been “very fortunate. I’ve gotten to mix-and-match (entertainment avenues) along the way, and it’s always kept me very interested in what I was doing.”