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Dame Angela Lansbury and Deidre Angela Shaw | Source: Getty Images
Dame Angela Lansbury and Deidre Angela Shaw | Source: Getty Images

Angela Lansbury Saved Her Daughter Deidre Shaw from Charles Manson's Cult in 1960s

Jana Stevens
Nov 28, 2022
09:45 A.M.

After Dame Angela Lansbury had her children, Deidre Angela Shaw and Anthony Pullen Shaw, she dropped the baby weight and stepped right back into her successful career on the silver screen and stage.

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While Angela Lansbury was away from her Malibu-based family for weeks, her daughter made a very dangerous friend, Charles Manson, and both she and her brother became addicted to hard drugs. The actress and her husband then made the bold decision to move their family to Ireland.

The actress was drawn to her mother's birth country and hoped it would be a place where her children could thrive away from the bad influences of Malibu. Throughout her life, the actress has persevered through adversity, starting with the early passing of her dad.

Angela Lansbury and daughter Deirdre Angela Shaw attend 43rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California on August 25, 1991. | Source: Getty Images

Angela Lansbury and daughter Deirdre Angela Shaw attend 43rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California on August 25, 1991. | Source: Getty Images

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Angela Lansbury Saved Her Daughter from Charles Manson

In hindsight, Angela believed her decision to keep up her busy work schedule after having children "was a big mistake." During the '60s, her children, Deidre and Anthony, started experimenting with cannabis and, later, heroin. The actress revealed:

"It pains me to say it, but at one stage, Deidre was in with a crowd led by Charles Manson. She was one of many youngsters who knew him - and they were fascinated."

Manson was the cult leader of the Manson Family, which attracted many vulnerable people in the late '60s. Under their leader's influence, cult members were responsible for nine murders, including a highly pregnant Sharon Tate.

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Actress Angela Lansbury, husband Peter Shaw and son Anthony Shaw attend Ruby Awards on December 16, 1979 at New York New York Disco in New York City. | Source:  Getty Images

Actress Angela Lansbury, husband Peter Shaw and son Anthony Shaw attend Ruby Awards on December 16, 1979 at New York New York Disco in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

In an attempt to protect their children, Angela and her husband relocated their family to County Cork in Ireland. The "Murder, She Wrote" star took a year off from acting and learned to cook for her family while they were healing from Elizabeth David cookbooks.

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The couple had no drug experience, and few resources were available in the '60s. They got in touch with an Irish doctor who helped their children to ease their withdrawal. Moving to her mother's homeland was the best decision for the family, she explained:

“Certainly, I have no doubt we would have lost one or both of our two if they hadn't been removed to a completely different milieu, the simplicity of life in Ireland.”

Angela Lansbury is kissed by her children, Deidre, 16, and Anthony, 17, following her opening night performance in the musical "Dear World" at the Mark Hellinger in January on January 16, 1969. | Source: Getty Images

Angela Lansbury is kissed by her children, Deidre, 16, and Anthony, 17, following her opening night performance in the musical "Dear World" at the Mark Hellinger in January on January 16, 1969. | Source: Getty Images

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Angela Lansbury's Children Beat Their Addictions

Their son Anthony, "pulled right out of his bad habits quite quickly," according to the Dame, and eventually, their daughter broke free from her troubled past. Anthony followed in his parent's footsteps and pursued an acting-and-directing career in the entertainment industry.

He is best known for his roles in "A Bridge Too Far," "James Bond 007: The Spy Who Loved Me," both released in 1977, and "North Sea Hijack" from 1980. Anthony worked alongside his mother in "Murder, She Wrote," where he directed 68 episodes.

He married Lee Speer Webster in 1980 and had three children, Peter John Shaw, Katherine Beeson Shaw, and Ian Lansbury Shaw. Deidre wed the Italian Chef Enzo Battarra and moved to LA. They opened an Italian restaurant, Enzo and Angela, which sadly closed in 2019.

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British actress Angela Lansbury at 21. | Source: Getty Images

British actress Angela Lansbury at 21. | Source: Getty Images

Angela Lansbury's Early Life in WWII England

George Lansbury, Angela's grandfather, was a well-known figure in the 1930s and a leader of the Labor Party in England. In her own words, George was the man who "tried to stop World War II."

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George was not her only family member involved with politics and activism. Her paternal grandmother, Bessie, was a Suffragette, while her dad, Edgar Lansbury, was a noted Communist politician and one-time mayor in Poplar, East London.

Despite her family's effort to end the war, the Lansburys had to leave England in 1940. They escaped London the day Liverpool was bombed. In 2017, the Hollywood legend revealed that she and her family did not understand how important that journey was.

British-born Irish-American television producer and screenwriter Bruce Lansbury, with his sister Irish-British actress Angela Lansbury, and twin brother, British-born Irish-American film and television producer Edgar Lansbury, looking through a scrapbook at the family home in London, England, circa 1945. | Source: Getty Images

British-born Irish-American television producer and screenwriter Bruce Lansbury, with his sister Irish-British actress Angela Lansbury, and twin brother, British-born Irish-American film and television producer Edgar Lansbury, looking through a scrapbook at the family home in London, England, circa 1945. | Source: Getty Images

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They escaped on a ship called the Duchess of Atholl. Shortly after taking Angela and her family safely to the US, the ship was sunk by a German U-boat in the South Atlantic and killed four staff members.

Her father, Edgar Lansbury, died at 48 in 1934 from cancer. His death profoundly impacted the eight-year-old Angela's life, and she lost interest in school, though she concedes that she was never that academic. She explained how her grief indirectly led her to the entertainment industry:

"I became something of a dreamer, lost in my grief. In time, I became much more interested in acting, following the example of my mother."

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British actress Angela Lansbury, who is returning to the screen after an absence of three years in a Columbia Pictures Western 'A Lawless Street'. Angela is the granddaughter of the famous politician George Lansbury. She might have gone into politics herself, but her mother was a stage star and the theatre was the overriding influence in her home.| Source:  Getty Images

British actress Angela Lansbury, who is returning to the screen after an absence of three years in a Columbia Pictures Western 'A Lawless Street'. Angela is the granddaughter of the famous politician George Lansbury. She might have gone into politics herself, but her mother was a stage star and the theatre was the overriding influence in her home.| Source: Getty Images

Moving to America and Starting a New Life

After escaping the war, Angela and her mother were happy to begin a brand new life in the United States. She said it was great to be greeted by the American people with such incredible warmth and friendliness.

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At 19, she married Richard Cromwell, a handsome actor and artist 15 years her senior. In a 2017 interview with the Radio Times, Angela admitted she was searching for a father figure:

“I understand younger women marrying older men. It's a father — she didn't have the father, and now she's looking for it."

British actress Angela Lansbury with Peter Shaw on their arrival at London Airport on 27th July 1949. | Source: Getty Images

British actress Angela Lansbury with Peter Shaw on their arrival at London Airport on 27th July 1949. | Source: Getty Images

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The marriage fell apart within a year, and Cromwell left her a note that read: "Sorry, I can't go on." Confused about what went wrong, she got some clarity from a studio publicist who told her that her first husband was gay.

Angela never knew why he wanted to marry her, but her theory is that he fell in love with her character in "The Picture Of Dorian Gray." She was devastated when he left, but the two remained friends until he passed away in 1960.

The "Nanny McPhee" star remarried in 1949 to Peter Shaw, an agent and manager. The couple stayed together for 53 years until he died from heart failure in 2003. After his death, the actress entered a period of depression. She partially credited her recovery to Emma Thompson, who provided her with the role of the evil Aunt Adelaide in "Nanny McPhee."

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Actress Angela Lansbury with her husband, actor Peter Shaw and their three-month-old son Anthony Peter at their home in Hollywood, California, 1952. | Source: Getty Images

Actress Angela Lansbury with her husband, actor Peter Shaw and their three-month-old son Anthony Peter at their home in Hollywood, California, 1952. | Source: Getty Images

Angela Lansbury's Career in Film

The silver screen actor's career took off in 1944 when she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her first film role as the maid in "Gaslight." She won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Sibyl Vane in "The Picture Of Dorian Gray" the following year.

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She was snubbed every year at the Emmys.

The 1960s was a prominent decade for her career. The English actress landed supporting roles, bringing her another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in the film "The Manchurian Candidate."

Angela Lansbury and her grandson attend the Blithe Spirit Broadway opening night party at Sardi's on March 15, 2009 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Angela Lansbury and her grandson attend the Blithe Spirit Broadway opening night party at Sardi's on March 15, 2009 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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Other appearances in the same decade include "Blue Hawaii" (1961), in which she played Elvis Presley's mother, "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1960), "All Fall Down" (1962), and so on. Angela's most known character is Jessica Fletcher in "Murder, She Wrote."

Jessica Fletcher brought the British actress an Emmy Award nomination yearly, from 1985 to 1996, in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series category. Still, she was snubbed every year at the Emmys.

Actress Angela Lansbury speaks during the PBS segment of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 16, 2018 in Pasadena, California. | Source: Getty Images

Actress Angela Lansbury speaks during the PBS segment of the 2018 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on January 16, 2018 in Pasadena, California. | Source: Getty Images

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Angela Lansbury's name is immortalized twice on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her contribution to motion pictures and television. She garnered three nominations for the Academy Awards, all for supporting roles, and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2014.

She also lent her voice to several animated characters, including Mrs. Potts in "Beauty and the Beast" in 1991, for which she was nominated with her castmates for a Grammy Award, and "Anastasia" in 1997 as the Dowager Empress Marie.

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