Coral Lansbury

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Carol Lansbury
Born Carol Magnolia Lansbury
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Died 3 April 1991 (aged 62)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Known for Mother of Malcolm Turnbull and distant cousin of Angela Lansbury
Religion Unknown
Spouse(s) Bruce Turnbull (separated)

Coral Magnolia Lansbury (1929 – 3 April 1991) was an Australian-born writer and academic.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Coral Magnolia Lansbury was born in Melbourne, Australia to British parents.[2][3]

Lansbury graduated from North Sydney Girls High School and entered the University of Sydney at age 15, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts.[2]

At 19, she started work at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.[4] Lansbury's father worked in the early radio industry in Australia with the Australian Broadcasting Commission as it was then known. He got her a part in a radio drama.[2]

Her first marriage was to radio producer George Edwards[5] in February 1953. Six months later George Edwards died.[6] In 1954, she gave birth to her son Malcolm Turnbull, by Bruce Turnbull. She worked for the ABC into the 1960s but as television supplanted radio drama she turned more to academic interests.[2]

Her son, Malcolm, was raised by his father after she left the family home when he was 10 years old.[7] She then moved to New Zealand after the separation.[8] She gained her doctorate at the University of Auckland before moving to Philadelphia in the United States in 1969 where she lived until her death.[5]


In Australia[edit]

Lansbury worked as both a scriptwriter and actor in radio during its heyday. The National Film and Sound Archive holds a collection of many radio programs. They feature many of the great actors from the time, many of whom also became famous in Australia, and some overseas, for theatre, film and television work. The NSA list of the productions with which she is associated includes:[9]


Becket: Re-enactment of the relationship between Henry II and Thomas Becket. 104 x 15 min episodes

Empty Arms: Drama serial about adoption and the effect on the mother. 104 x 15 min episodes

Fallen Angel: Angel, a successful model whose husband dies leaving her with a newborn child. 146 x 15 min episodes (1955)

Judith: Based on the biblical story of Judith, played by actress Judi Farr. 104 x 15 min episodes.

The Reverend Matthew: A story about a country minister. 1105 x 15 min episodes (1956–59)

Stairway to Fame: Cast included Sheila Sewell, Ray Barrett, Dinah Shearing, Lyndall Barbour, John Meillon, Max Orbiston, Margo Lee, Neva Carr Glyn, Ruth Cracknell, Queenie Ashton. 208 episodes (c. 1954)

Thirty Minutes To Go: Mystery drama. 30 minutes.

This Was Sylvia: Dramatic story of a beautiful and insatiably ambitious woman. 208 x 15 min episodes. 1956

True Dog Stories: Stories about different breeds of dogs. 26 x 15 min episodes (1960s)

In the United States[edit]

After leaving Australia, Lansbury worked as an academic in the United States. Her major interest was Victorian literature. Between 1975 and 1984 she wrote four books on Anthony Trollope and other Victorian literary figures. She served as president of the Victorian Studies Association and of the Victorian executive committee of the Modern Language Association.[2]

She was the Professor of English at Rutgers University and first dean of the Graduate School at the Camden Campus of Rutgers University. [10][11]

Lansbury wrote five works of fiction: Ringarra (1985), Sweet Alice (1986), Felicity (1987), The Grotto (1989) and, published posthumously, Opium!

Lansbury's works include:

One reviewer of one of her books, The Reasonable Man: Trollope's Legal Fiction was her son, Malcolm Turnbull. He wrote in his regular column in The Bulletin magazine in 1981: "It is refreshing, if not surprising, to find someone who maintains that that most pellucid of novelists, Anthony Trollope, owed his literary style to the law....The book provides a fresh insight into the novels of Trollope and to an explanation for his style."[12]


Lansbury died of cancer on 3 April 1991, aged 61, at her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was dean of the Graduate School of English at Rutgers University.[2]


  1. ^ "Coral Lansbury". AustLit. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f New York Times obituary
  3. ^ "Will privilege drown his message?". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 September 2008. 
  4. ^ "Steamy Kind The Dean Writes Novels". 29 April 1986. 
  5. ^ a b Lansbury, Coral Magnolia (1929–1991)
  6. ^ "Book Launch at the ANU of "The ADB's Story"". 
  7. ^ "I'm no silvertail, says new leader Malcolm Turnbull". The Australian. 17 September 2008. 
  8. ^ "The number of political leaders raised in single-parent families is quite a long list". The Courier Mail. 14 July 2013. 
  9. ^ National Film and Sound Archive Australian Radio Series 1930s to 1970s
  10. ^ Lee, Sandra (3 December 2006). "A leader in waiting?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  11. ^ "The Phoenix" (PDF). Rutgers University. 2006. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  12. ^ "A sureness that weakens Turnbull's case". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 October 2003.