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Fact Check: Did Angela Lansbury Hire Golden Age Actors for Union Points?

Following the passing of stage and screen legend Angela Lansbury, tributes and stories celebrating the actress have been widely shared online.

One of the stories circulating online that remembered the star in a glowing light suggested she was particularly keen on hiring other actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age for her popular TV show. The Murder She Wrote.

Lansbury died on Tuesday, October 11 at the age of 96. She has won numerous awards throughout her career as well as an Academy Honorary Award in 2013 after being nominated three times between the 1940s and 1960s.

As people mourn the loss, it’s worth investigating the veracity of Lansbury’s statement of selflessness towards his veteran actors.

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Among many stories about Lansbury’s life and career, one tweet caught the attention of over a hundred thousand people.

twitter user @sharpegirl wrote a post to her followers that gained traction online.

She said that on the hit show The Murder She Wrotewhich ran for 12 seasons, Lansbury “made a habit of hiring Golden Age guest actors who had aged out of acting because it would earn them the union points they needed for insurance, pensions, etc.”

Sharpe’s tweet was well received, with over a hundred thousand people liking, retweeting and commenting on it. Author Marianne Williamson called it “magnificent”, while filmmaker April Wolfe and activist Nicky Clarke also commented on their approval.

This claim has been repeated on social media. The Lansbury Fan Account @_AngelaLansbury made a similar claim, including photos of older actors appearing on The Murder She Wrote with Lansbury.

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Although there are several reports suggesting that Lansbury would hire older actors for the sake of their union points, Pleasemynews could not find sufficient evidence that she herself admitted it.

That said, a look back at the show’s various guest stars indirectly suggests that there might be some truth to the rumor.

The Murder She Wrote ran from 1984 to 1996 and during that time hundreds of guest actors appeared in the 264 episodes. The likes of Bradford Dillman, Rosanna Huffman, Barbara Babcock and Steve Forrest were all veteran actors, over 50 when they appeared on Lansbury’s show.

Lansbury also appeared in The Murder She Wrote with co-stars from previous film and television projects. Len Cariou and George Hearn both starred with Lansbury in the Broadway adaptation of Sweeney Todd, while movie co-stars included Gene Barry, Barbara Baxley, Cyd Charisse and Hurd Hatfield among many others. Each of the aforementioned actors was born between the 1910s and the 1930s.

A 2003 Los Angeles Times Actress Madlyn Rhue’s obituary revealed how Lansbury helped her through an illness. The article states that Lansbury allegedly heard that Rhue was at risk of losing her Screen Actors Guild medical coverage because she did not meet the annual earnings requirement.

“So she created this character for her and brought her in every three or four episodes,” Mayo said, according to the Los Angeles Time. “People who had worked with Madlyn and loved her kept giving her the opportunity to work.”

While the claim, if true, would present an example of the generosity involved in the viral tweet, it does not necessarily prove that this approach on Lansbury’s part was systemic.

Pleasemynews has contacted Lansbury representatives for comment.

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