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"You mean those nasty little beach boys?"

Do you remember Angela Lansbury saying those words? Of course, she didn't say them as Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote, but those words were uttered in a movie role the legend wasn't particularly proud of. According to the book Angela Lansbury: A Life on Stage and Screen by Rob Edelman and Audrey E. Kupferberg, 1950 to 1960 was the toughest decade of her career.

While under contract with MGM, Lansbury yearned to portray a glamorous leading lady; however, she was considered a "character performer." In many films during that decade, she was typecast as the "less appealing" friend who either wanted love so badly that she'd jump at the opportunity to be a rebound or played much older characters. While the roles seemed to improve in the Sixties, the quality of the films did not, with a few exceptions.

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After finishing a film in Vienna, the actress found herself playing the mother of Chadwick "Chad" Gates in Blue Hawaii, played by a then 26-year-old Elvis Presley.

The book says, "Next came what must be, in retrospect, one of Angela's most bizarre screen roles: the wealthy, possessive mother of a desexed Elvis Presley in 'Blue Hawaii', released in 1961...'Blue Hawaii' is a piece of Elvis Presley fluff in which Angela does all she can with her narrow role, making Sarah Lee Gates a campy Southern caricature and a refugee from a Tennessee Williams play."

If you've watched a scene of Lansbury in the film, you might cringe at the painfully imitated Southern accent. It's not a role she wanted to take, but she had to.

"That was the lowest, darling," she said, commenting on the movie. "Elvis was twenty-six. It's a jolt, I can tell you, for a woman of thirty-five to be asked to play his mother. But I did it! I was desperate! Elvis was unfailingly polite. I remember he was into karate at the time. Between breaks, he would break bricks with his hand."

Fortunately for Lansbury, her talent could never be erased so she kept working hard and found significant success in a role she developed: Jessica Fletcher.

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