On October 11th, we lost the great Angela Lansbury.
Now, I know that her illustrious career spanned far, far wider than children's animated films...but today I want to tell you about what Angela Lansbury meant to me.
Anyone who has known me for more than five minutes will inevitably discover how important the story of Beauty and the Beast is to me. As a child who often felt on the outside of things, I found it comforting to imagine that there was someone out there who was just as normal as me. But my love of this particular narrative had less to do with the slightly problematic matter of a woman falling in love with her captor, and more to do with the gorgeous music & lyrics by Alan Menken and the late, great Howard Ashman.
We lost Howard Ashman (perhaps my favorite lyricist of all time) to the AIDS epidemic. But before he went, he gave us the lines that would become legend:
Tale as old as time
Tune as old as rhyme
Sing it with me...
Beauty and the Beast....
That iconic song was brought to life by our favorite teapot, Mrs. Potts, played by the incomparable Angela Lansbury. I cannot tell you how many times I have listened to that song—lying on my childhood bed, staring up at the ceiling, marveling how so simple a song could move me to tears every time.
Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong...
The song became both a security blanket and an obsession. Sometimes I would spend hours just watching videos of different people performing it on YouTube. But I always returned to my favorite: the behind the scenes footage of Angela Lansbury recording Beauty and the Beast for the original motion picture soundtrack,
in. one. take.
YOU HEARD ME.
The orchestra gathered, Angela Lansbury was in the booth, and the director said "let's try it once, just to get a feel for it."
And that ABSOLUTE, IMMACULATE LEGEND lay the whole damn thing down in one go. Sweet. Warm. Kind. Absolutely flawless.
In one take, Angela Lansbury changed my life forever. She gave me hope in dark times, and made me feel, even if just for a few minutes, that I was not alone.
I know that, to the rest of the world, Angela Lansbury will always be so many other things. My mom always tells stories about watching Murder, She Wrote with my dad in their first tiny apartment, for instance. But to me, far longer than forever, she will be nothing more and nothing at all less than Mrs. Potts.
Certain as the sun, rising in the east...
Thank you, great lady, for being the best fairy teapot godmother a generation of kids could have asked for. You will sing to our children, and our children's children, and for generations to come.