After Dame Angela Lansbury's death on Tuesday, the story of how she saved her daughter Deidre Shaw from the clutches of murderer Charles Manson went viral. In 2014, the Murder, She Wrote icon revealed that Diedre was among the celebrity children Manson tried to get to join his Family cult. Lansbury and her husband, Peter Shaw, went to extraordinary lengths to save Deidre from falling further into Manson's grasp by moving to Ireland.
In the mid-1960s, Shaw discovered that Deidre and their son, Anthony Shaw, were falling into a crowd of drug users. They began using marijuana but soon moved on to heroin. "There were factions up in the hills above Malibu that were dedicated to deadly pursuits," Lansbury explained in a 2014 interview with The Daily Mail.
"It pains me to say it but, at one stage, Deidre was in with a crowd led by Charles Manson," Lansbury said. "She was one of many youngsters who knew him – and they were fascinated. He was an extraordinary character, charismatic in many ways, no question about it."
Lansbury decided the best thing to do would be to leave the U.S. She put her Hollywood career on hold and moved her family to a home in County Cork, Ireland. Lansbury was drawn to Ireland because that is where her mother was born and was "somewhere my children wouldn't be exposed to any more bad influences." Lansbury refused to work for a year and kept her family mostly in the house. "I bought Elizabeth David's books and learned how to cook properly. It was a wonderful time in my life," she said.
The effect on Anthony and Diedre was almost immediate. "Anthony pulled right out of his bad habits quite quickly," Lansbury said. "It took Deidre... a little longer but she finally got married and she and her husband now live in Los Angeles, where they [ran] their own Italian restaurant."
Lansbury and Shaw were married from 1949 until his death in 2003. They had two children together, Anthony, 70, and Diedre, 69. Shaw also had a son from a previous marriage, David Shaw. Anthony became a television director and directed 68 Murder, She Wrote episodes.
Lansbury was convinced if she and Shaw did not do something drastic, Deidre and Anthony could have been "lost" to Manson. "Certainly, I have no doubt we would have lost one or both of our two if they hadn't been removed to a completely different milieu, the simplicity of life in Ireland," she said in 2014. "In the end, we found a doctor who prescribed methadone, a heroin substitute, which helped with the withdrawal symptoms as Anthony and Deidre were weaned off hard drugs. We were so very, very lucky we spotted what was happening just in time."
Lansbury died on Tuesday at 96. She was one of the last surviving stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, having earned her first Oscar nomination in 1945 for Gaslight. She was also nominated for The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Manchurian Candidate before receiving an honorary Oscar in 2014. She also voiced Mrs. Potts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast and earned 12 Emmy nominations for Murder, She Wrote. Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame in 2014.