The family was prominent too. Her grandfather, George Lansbury, led the Labor Party from 1931 to 1935. Her father, Edgar Lansbury, a timber merchant, died when she was 9, and the loneliness after his death only served to stimulate her imagination.
In 1940, to escape the London Blitz, the family, including her younger twin brothers, Edgar and Bruce, emigrated to America. "In fact, it was that year, 1940, that he (grandfather) really died of a broken heart. All his desperate efforts to seek the peace--he really made them: He went to see Hitler personally; he came to America to see Eleanor Roosevelt. He was a great follower of Gandhi. . . . "
In America, Lansbury studied drama at the American Theatre Wing, sang at the Blue Angel and Roseland until her mother beckoned--from Hollywood. (Today, Edgar is a New York stage producer of such works as "The Subject Was Roses" and "Godspell," and Bruce is a television producer whose credits include "Mission: Impossible.")
Christmas of 1942 she worked alongside her mother at Bullock's. In 1943, George Cukor spotted Lansbury in a screen test and she joined MGM. In 1944 she acted in "Gaslight," playing a Cockney maid, and in "National Velvet," playing Elizabeth Taylor's older sister. Under MGM's aegis, she made a dozen more pictures including "Dorian Gray," "The Harvey Girls" and "State of the Union."