The Truth About Angela Lansbury's Friendship With Bea Arthur

Hollywood is well-known for its artificiality. Movies are crammed full of special effects that are designed to make audiences believe things like all of us are living in a simulation and are at the mercy of machines. Actors pretend to fall in love with each other on the screen, but they don't hide their disgust for each other right after the director yells, "Cut!" They also maintain false friendships and relationships off the set.

Some of those relationships or friendships are purely marketing ploys for upcoming movies or television shows. There is a reason why celebrity marriages tend not to last, with long-lasting ones being seen as an anomaly rather than something to strive for.

Amid all this fakery, there are, however, actors who forge lifelong, genuine bonds. Zach Braff and Donald Faison went from portraying best friends J.D. Dorian and Christopher Turk on "Scrubs" to being real-life friends, per Page Six. The same could be said of Bea Arthur and Angela Lansbury. Some might think it ironic that a woman who portrayed someone who solved murders would be such close friends with a woman whose characters tended to be able to kill with just a glance in their direction, but it was a true friendship that lasted for decades.

Angela Lansbury met Bea Arthur in 1965

According to Angela Lansbury, it all began when she met Bea Arthur on the set of "Mame" back in 1965, via PBS. The two became fast friends through the decades. Lansbury became a superstar when she played the intrepid Jessica B. Fletcher in "Murder, She Wrote." Supposedly, the "B" stood for Beatrice in honor of Arthur. The gruff Arthur paved her own path on shows like "Maude," and then she wowed audiences with her portrayal of Dorothy Zbornak on "The Golden Girls," per IMDb.

Lansbury even called her "my bosom buddy." The "Murder, She Wrote" actress always held her friend's acting skills in high regard. Theirs was a relative rarity in the world of Hollywood — two legends who never let their egos and acclaim interfere with their admiration of each other. Arthur was not above needling Lansbury, though. She told the Independent once that Lansbury had "a mouth like a longshoreman."

Their friendship endured to the end. Arthur died in 2009, and Lansbury was the one who hosted the memorial service, which was held at Broadway's Majestic Theater.

Angela Lansbury was also quite the comic

As tends to be the case with the most enduring friendships, Lansbury and Arthur embraced every aspect of each others' personalities. Though the former was clearly not above cursing in presumably offensive and inventive ways, she was a consummate professional when she needed to be. In her interview with the Independent in 2003, Arthur also discussed how much she admired her compatriot's work ethic.

"She was a class act and a real joy to work with. When I first met her I thought I was meeting this patrician, classically trained actor," Arthur said, before explaining that Lansbury was also a riot of fun too. Indeed, Arthur, who had been discussing her one-woman show Broadway debut at the time, stated that one number from it, "What Can You Get A Nudist For Her Birthday," was a hilarious number Lansbury had introduced her to. What are friends for, after all?

The song, per Genius, is a brilliantly silly little piece that tries to tackle the titular question. "I'd send a check, but dash it, how could she go out and cash it? What can you get a nudist when her birthday comes along?"

It may not be the most sophisticated composition, but in a way, it perfectly encapsulates the friendship between the two iconic women. They acknowledged each others' stardom and reputation, but also saw beneath, to the multi-faceted person beyond the superstar reputation. 

Fast friends forever

Like the bosom buddies they were, the two women were present at some of the most significant moments in each others' careers. In December 2008, per YouTube, Bea Arthur was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. Angela Lansbury presented the award to her, after a long, gushing speech about her famous friend.

Among many other things, Lansbury praised (per YouTube) Arthur's "... ability to touch the funny bone of generations of audiences, releasing the angst and the tension of our modern world." If "What Can You Get A Nudist For Her Birthday" is any indication, Lansbury had just such a sense of humor, and this was surely a source of great joy between the pair.

As The New York Times reports, Lansbury herself died on October 11, 2022. One thing is for absolutely certain: Neither her great talent, that of Arthur, nor their enduring friendship will ever be forgotten.