The Cereal Commercial You Probably Forgot Angela Lansbury Starred In

Angela Lansbury, who died at the age of 96 (via CNN), was an acclaimed actor well before she took on the part of Jessica Fletcher in "Murder, She Wrote," her best-known role. The Wrap reports that Lansbury's career began when she landed one of her first film roles in 1944's "Gaslight" when she was a teenager. It led to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination when she was just 19, according to The Hollywood Reporter. More supporting movie roles and recognition followed, including two more Oscar nominations for "The Picture of Dorian Gray" and "The Manchurian Candidate." Lansbury received an honorary Oscar in 2013 for her body of work.

It was, however, the TV series "Murder, She Wrote" that made Lansbury a household name. The long-running series, which aired from 1984 to 1996, was about an amateur sleuth who not only solves mysteries but crafts her own as a mystery writer (via VisionTV). She finds herself solving crimes in the small town of Cabot Cove, Maine. She received an Emmy nomination each year for the 12 seasons the show aired, surprisingly never winning. Those who followed her career closely over the years may also recognize "Murder, She Wrote" as a kind of clue about an ad for a popular breakfast cereal.

Angela Lansbury's 1987 cereal commercial

According to Novel Suspects, "Murder, She Wrote" pulled in 40 million viewers at the height of its popularity. It was a surprise hit for CBS since it was up against the Steven Spielberg series ”Amazing Stories," which was expected to win the Sunday night ratings (via New York Times). But it was Lansbury's portrayal of the Agatha Christie-inspired character that won the hearts of TV viewers, keeping them captivated for well over a decade.

According to the website Murder, She Watched, Lansbury, as Jessica Fletcher, was on the cover of TV Guide in January 1987. This was apparently the same year that she appeared in a Total cereal commercial (via YouTube). Lansbury, in a nod to her "Murder, She Wrote" character, talked about solving "the case of the missing calcium." She checked the nutrition labels of competing breakfast cereals and didn't find the sought-for calcium. When she picked up Total, however, the mystery was solved. She told viewers that the cereal was "the only one that's a major source of calcium."

This was arguably a savvy move by General Mills. Consumers are more likely to pay attention to commercials using trusted celebrities, according to Forbes. In 1988, around the time of the Total ad, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Lansbury's Q rating – or, TVQ Performer Rating, which measures an actor's likeability – was solid, making her a spokesperson the public might trust.