A Galaxy of Stars

Angela Lansbury and Rex Smith in the 1982 production of Pirates of Penzance

Angela Lansbury and Rex Smith on the set of Pirates of Penzance , Shepperton, D Stage, 1981. This still is from my own collection, and would have been snapped by Bob Penn, the unit stillsman.

Angela Lansbury

Star of the Silver Screen Angela Lansbury needs no particular extra plaudits from me - her career has spanned decades and she is very much a part of my lifetime TV and film experience. I remember her most clearly from The Court Jester which I loved upon first sight (there's a lot to love about it, and the 'Pellet with the poison' gag I recently reworked into The Constant Rabbit , along with many other references). Miss Lansbury was brought in to play Rex Smith's Nursemaid Ruth in the production, one of the few principals who weren't in the Broadway production.

For some reason (it's not usual at all) she dropped up to see us in the Production Office. Actually, thinking about it, she was doubtless up there to speak to Timothy Burrill or Ed Pressman, the producers. I was instructed to get her a cup of coffee which I did, as well as one for Peter Shaw, her husband who was accompanying her.

There was chit-chat amongst the grown-ups, and they left, but Miss Lansbury did have the very good grace to pop her head around the door of my office (actually the hovel where the Gestetner machine and coffee were kept, along with reams and reams of paper) and thank me for the coffee which she said 'was excellent'. Peter Shaw, also to his great credit, handed me their empty coffee cups - a life lesson to everyone everywhere: It's always appreciated when you take your used crocks back to the kitchen.

She was my first celebrity coffee, and it was doubtless pretty awful, but she was being gracious, of course - she always was, and I expect still is. Everyone loved her on the movie, and whenever I had to bring paperwork to her on the set, she remembered my name - a small courtesy that speaks volumes when you were, like me, at the bottom of the heap.

On a side note, her husband Peter used to get bored of being on set and wander up to the production office to have a chat. I can't recall what it was about, but he was always hugely amenable - and even wanted to be helpful, so used to volunteer to go and wash up the coffee cups and make more coffee.

What a couple.

Recalled 8th June 2020

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