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Lansbury returns to London stage

Murder, She Wrote star Angela Lansbury is returning to the London stage for the first time in almost 40 years at the theatre where her mother made her stage debut in 1918

The 88-year-old, who was made a dame in the New Year Honours, said it was an "extraordinary experience" to be at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue where her mother, actress Moyna MacGill, performed.

She will play clairvoyant Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit - a role which won her a Tony award on Broadway.

The actress said her lengthy career was down to a mixture of strong tea, vitamins and an "amazing constitution" she inherited from her grandfather, Labour Party leader George Lansbury.

Lansbury, who was born in Poplar, east London, but moved to the US during the Second World War, is known to millions as the sleuth Jessica Fletcher and has appeared in countless films including Bedknobs And Broomsticks and The Manchurian Candidate.

The star said her home in California was "a real English household".

She said: "I love everything English, I still have the cans of sardines."

Asked about the secret of her lengthy career, she said: "I think it's my constitution. You know my grandfather George Lansbury came from the East End and he was an iron man, he walked everywhere, he walked all over London.

"He had an amazing constitution and I think I inherited it from him. I have great admiration for his ability to keep going."

The actress, whose last London stage performance was in Hamlet at the National Theatre in 1975, said she hoped the new show would be "a smash hit".

She said: " If we can't pull this off then I don't belong in this business."

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