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It Only Took 92 Years, But Angela Lansbury Has Finally Worked With a Female Director


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Whenever we hear of “firsts” being made in areas of representation, we’re always filled with a mix of celebration and feelings of “Really? It took this long?” The first woman to give birth while serving in the Senate, the first black writer to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the first Native American Congresswoman. These are things that feel like they should have happened long before 2018. (In fact, that last one hasn’t even happened yet, but hopefully will in November.)

That’s how I felt when I read that 92-year-old Dame Angela Lansbury, who’s been acting since she was a preteen, just worked with her first female director on PBS’ Little Women limited series adaptation.

In an upcoming episode of the Masterpiece Studio podcast (via EW), she said working with director Vanessa Caswill, “was an interesting experience for me, and a first, and I’m so glad I had it. It was a very intimate relationship with a director which I had never really encountered before.”

“She was quite wonderful in her ability to come to us actors,” she said, “not in a loud way, from a distance she would come and whisper in our ears. And in that way, she was able to impart very subtle things that otherwise perhaps as a woman she might not have wanted to, for everybody to hear. But for the actor to hear it was delightful and I loved working that way with her.”

The idea that women are too quiet (or else risk being too shrill, bossy, or bitchy) to be successful directors is a pervasive stereotype. It’s nice to hear Lansbury talk about a director who might fit that mold, but by way of discussing all the positive aspects of that type of demeanor. And Lansbury says those are positives. “I’ve worked with some of the loudest, shouty directors believe me,” she added.

I’m still amazed that in her nearly eight-decade career in film, television, and stage, she’d never worked with a woman in that position. Obviously, it speaks to the systemic obstacles that keep so many female directors from fully thriving in this industry. But at the same time, I can’t help but be disappointed by Lansbury, who, with her level of clout within her industry, over nearly eight decades, never chose to work with a female director. 110 IMDB credits without a female director. TWELVE SEASONS of Murder, She Wrote—a show designed to appeal to a female demographic±and no women behind the camera. That in itself is so depressing. If only it were more surprising.

(image: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.